on aging

I’m feeling old these days. Mostly in a good way. But then, sometimes, in not such a good way. Usually when I look at recent photos and I look like a gaunt, eyelash-less man in his late 40s.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a crushing heat wave, we were out at the lake where my in-laws have a cabin. The lad was up very early in the morning, so we went for a stroll down to the water before it became unbearable outside. Sitting at the edge of the playground on the beach were three young women – if I had to guess, I’d say they were heading into their last year of high school, though I am terrible with guessing ages, so they may have been older. They were just gorgeous, flush with lovely skin and suntans and secrets and friendship and – most of all – promise.

They asked me what time it was – it was 6:30, and one of those beautiful, still summer mornings just overflowing with birdsong and dew and fecundity – and I asked whether they’d been up all night. Of course they had. And I smiled at them and realized, with some sadness, that those nights are behind me.  Those nights are over – the ones when I had such freedom, and such fire. When I had so many ideas that I could stay up all night drinking beer and talking philosophy, and so much energy that I’d climb buildings to play hacky sack on the roof, or leave a great party at 3am to go play frisbee on the lawn of the legislature until the sun really came up. Fuelled by music, dancing, wine, the possibility of sex. That was a time in my life, and now it’s gone.

There was another beautiful young woman I saw the other week, walking in front of my car as I waited for the light to change. She had way more beauty than she knew – don’t we all, really? – and there was a sweetness,  a vulnerability to her as she waited on the corner and pulled up her strapless top, though it wasn’t falling down. I watched her go – funky indie style with vintage purse and cute flats and a little skirt – and as she crossed the street she tugged at her top again. She was doing that dance of wanting to be seen and not wanting to be watched. Or maybe it’s the other way around.  She sent me hurtling back 20 years or so, remembering the times when I would have fidgeted the same way – with every breath, squirmingly aware of how I wanted to be perceived. The studied coolness, the calculations doing battle with the fear.

Those days are over, too. It’s a relief. Still, there is sadness, nostalgia. I’m not sure what for, exactly – I suppose just that feeling of wide-open, the promise of a future filled with adventure and joy and discovery, that naivety. That lightness of youth in summertime.


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10 Responses to on aging

  1. This is so beautiful, and it’s as if you’ve been in my head.

  2. Esperanza says:

    What a wonderful post. I really loved it. It’s true what they say, that youth and beauty are wasted on the young. Actually, probably beauty not so much. You need beauty when you’re that age, later you can do without it. At least I can. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her how good she looked. Oh well.

    I have to admit, I don’t really miss the wild crazy up-all nights of that time. I enjoyed it while I was doing it but then I was ready to move on. I’m glad people are still doing that stuff though. That makes me happy.

  3. Jessica says:

    I don’t think I had any nights that I could stay up until dawn: I was born old lol

  4. loribeth says:

    Tell me about it. :p My 25th anniversary with my company (& with the department) was yesterday and my immediate teammates took me out for a lovely lunch. Ever since then, people from all over the department have been coming to my cubicle to congratulate me. However, the demographic of our department has recently shifted and we are crawling with young people in their 20s & early 30s. I’ve had several of them say things to me like, “Wow, I’m 25!” or “I wasn’t even born then!” or “My dad’s been with his company 20 years.” Umm, thanks, but I don’t need to hear that! :p Someday, they too will know what it’s like…

  5. Deathstar says:

    How funny, I can’t help but be drawn to these young girls with long, lean legs who walk the streets in the shortest shorts I have ever seen and I’d be mortified if I had a daughter that age walking down the street in those teeny tiny shorts. These girls are like 11 or 12 or 13 and these are not girls trying to be sexy, it’s just what the girls are wearing these days. They’re wearing flip flops, no makeup and they’re just going to the bus stop. They seem quite unselfconscious about it. And I found myself yearning to be just like them. With time in front of me.

    Lovely post.

  6. coffeegrljp says:

    Oh there are times I yearn for the innocence. Not so much the ability to get away with wearing much more youthful and hip clothes (although I sometimes yearn for that too!), but mostly I yearn for that feeling of absolute safety. That nothing in life is too overwhelming. The feeling that I wouldn’t even really *know* what to worry about. Now it feels like financial worries, worries about the kids, career, etc. are always lurking. I miss that naivete that was part of my youth.

  7. Neeks says:

    Beautiful post. The blush of youth.

  8. Janethohmann says:

    Sometimes someone says what you’re feeling and you didn’t even know it could be put into words. It’s nice to feel normal and understood.

  9. lovely post… and just stopped by to wish you happy holidays. May the lightness of summer find you in the midst of winter as well. Hugs!

  10. JJ says:

    Just stopping by to say hi 🙂

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