Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pining for the Young Me


Yesterday was my 19th wedding anniversary - and 24 years together.

We met in law school when I was 24 (yes, yes, honey, you are still a year younger).

He was way different than the guys I was dating and, in truth, I can't tell you what first attracted me to him. I mean, clearly he is cute, but I tended to date older, more sophisticated, more ambitious and self-assured guys.

But, something about him called to me (which is funny, because he was really a bit of a mess back then). He was smart, and funny sure, but something else: he was genuine. In truth, I was head over heels with him. There was tons and tons of chemistry.

We went through a few big bumps before we got married (including several break ups) and a few big bumps afterwards. Did I mention big?

And, yet, here we are.

Marriage isn't easy. And it isn't always exactly what I want. I imagine he feels the same.

But I still love the guy. I still admire him. I still want more than anything for him to be happy.

But here's the thing: I don't know where the fuck those 24 years went. And I'm pissed about it. And i want them back.

And, while you're at it, I want that waist and neck back.

I want that perfect, smooth skin, and my future stretched out ahead of me . . . even though, I am actually the happiest I've ever been at this particular point in my life. I want my future stretched out FROM HERE.

If only we could keep those lovely superficial externals as we gain the wisdom and contentedness that comes with middle age.

But we don't, and we can't, and I see this photo and pine for that external youth so badly it physically hurts.

I look in the mirror and see only the sags and the lines and find myself calculating the costs and risks of Botox and eye lifts and such.

I'm about to turn 48.

If I don't get a grip, what will I do ten years from now?

Twenty- five?


I should be so lucky, I KNOW.

Norah, you will be missed.
The talented, funny and beautiful Nora Ephron died this week. In her book, I Feel Badly About my Neck, she wrote:

"At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.
This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts."

I bet you're all thinking how, faced with death, she probably didn't worry about such things.

But I bet you she did. And, I bet you I would.

Even after surgeries and during illnesses, women want to look good. We may feel too sick to try, there may be a level where we say, "fuck it," but it doesn't leave our mind.

It's not vanity. It's what we know. So much of our identity -- of feeling loved and wanted -- is tied to being attractive and young.

I want to be bigger than this. I want not to pine for that old waist and smooth neck, but I do.

I want to toss out the white shirts instead of fretting that my back fat will show.

But, I'm not there yet. I'm not there.

Add caption
Even though my internal life is as happy as it can be.

Even though, aches and pains aside, I am stronger physically now, than I've ever been.

Even though I feel lucky and blessed.

Maybe, instead of botox and tucks,

I just need to have faith that the internal truth of this shines through, bigger than the wrinkles and folds.

Or better yet, really figure out how not to care.

- gae


  1. Well, I never had the dancer's neck (although my dancing daughter does), but I also married at a tender age, after a year of law school. We started dating in college when I was 17. I married a man who looked quite a bit like your groom.

    I think the flip side to never having found oneself particularly attractive (although my husband was the farthest thing from superficial, I still wondered what he saw in me when he was objectively The World's Handsomest Man) is at least that one does not yearn for how one looked as a young adult.

    It happens that today is the anniversary of my husband's diagnosis. Among my muddled sleepless musings to him during his last days, I felt I hadn't been a good enough wife for him in any way--and told him that besides, he could have married a six-foot, even-tempered blonde instead of a fiery not-statuesque person. He said, "I chose you."

    You chose each other, bumps and all, and it seems to have had some splendid results.

    I don't want all those years back; they were glorious and periodically not-so-glorious in their own way and time. What I do yearn for is my husband, every minute of every day since he died, so young. I suppose I also yearn for the the hope of those moments when starting out as a couple, and the hope that lasting forever meant living together for decades longer than my husband had. I yearn for his health, his voice, his wisdom. I would even gladly take the snoring and tripping over the size 13 shoes.

    Before we married, we jokingly exchanged what proved to be an O. Henryesque promise: he would never lose his gorgeous head of hair, and I would not grow morbidly obese. He did not, not even after high-test chemo, and as he died I held his face and stroked that wavy silver-shimmered dark hair. My weight dwindled away even further in grief. Sometimes a few wrinkles--especially laugh lines--and a little fat is a blessing.

    Treasure, treasure, treasure each other and the family you've created.

  2. By the way, you're still (quite objectively) gorgeous!

  3. Stephanie, you made me weep. But then most of what you write does. Not just the subject matter, but the lovely, intense, remarkable way you express the feelings beneath the words.

    Btw, I NEVER liked the way I looked as a teen or young adult. I never felt pretty. I never liked my body. I always admired others' beauty and found it in the more atypical places. What I mean is I found and truly saw the beauty in others where I could never see it in myself. . . It's the youth over the beauty I miss. It's the youth. xox

  4. I'm entering this stage in my life too. Wistful for the energy I used to have.. the ability to just jump into something quickly... the memory.

    I, too, am happy in my life. Just celebrated 19 years of marriage myself. But youth is wasted on the young. Not that I'd want to be 18 again - no thank you - but I wouldn't mind some of that 18 year old energy back. Oh, and to subtract a few sags and wrinkles :)

  5. today, I'd just like my old back back. Er, my young back back. Off to find water which will help.

    glad you get it, maria. xo

  6. Just today I had conversations with two wise men about how neither I nor others see themselves the way others see them. And you are a beauty. . .a young one (why count in base ten? a math professor friend asked when I turned forty. I've gone hexidecimal). And thank you for coming by the blog. Happy Anniversary, xoxo

  7. Aw, such a beauty!! You know, I think my own wedding dress is almost identical to yours! You ARE that young, radiant and beautiful creature you long for, it's just we see it more than you do. It feels like a Freudian slip that your last image has "add caption" at the bottom. Like we're all still works in progress. What we want/bemoan one day might not be what we want/bemoan the next. Here's to a great day for all of us!