I’ve been feeling old lately. I don’t need a Boy Scout to help me cross roads or anything. And I don’t sport giant, black fit-over sunglasses while navigating my town car to Jo-Ann Fabric. In truth, I’m 20+ years from Social Security, and women much older than I am compete in marathons. So, it’s not that I actually am old. It’s just that I’m not young either. I know this to be true because I own a leopard-print caftan, use a pill box, and resent all my tattoos. Take heed, young folks. These are the signs.
Last month I had my husband and the doctor he works with repair my earring holes. By repair, I mean carve with a scalpel and stitch shut.
You could have stuck a pencil in those holes before the repair. Kids these days call them gauged ears, but my contemporaries and I blazed that particular fashion trail. I call them ‘80s ears: stretched-out lobes from wearing giant earrings to complement giant perms. Those holes are ugly, whatever your age, and they look particularly bad on a 41-year-old woman. They had to go.
As if that wasn’t enough, I then tried to have my ankle tattoo lased. I got part one of this tattoo (the flower) while avoiding studying for my final exams in college. I got part two of the tattoo (my signature) during the presidential debate between Clinton and George H.W. Bush. It was inked by an artist who did some of Billy Baldwin’s tattoos. I know this because, while she was giving me the tattoo, I was staring at pics of her with Billy and the tattoos she’d given him. She, on the other hand, was staring at the debate on her portable TV. I think my sloppy tattoo bears evidence of that.
So much for that little enterprise.
And then I realized: This is something old ladies do. Try to fix wee little aesthetic details on parts of their bodies to counteract the giant hoof-print Father Time is leaving over every inch of them. Oh, my ass has dropped five inches and I’m developing a chin wattle. Better get that mole on my arm removed and buy a new pair of earrings! When I was 22 and could walk around wearing wooden stilettos like Bad Sandy from Grease, any given Friday night, I didn’t even notice that mole. For sure nobody was looking at my earring holes.
Last weekend I went to Denver to visit my aunt, a woman who may or may not have giant earring holes. I don’t know, because she’s got giant boobs, and those magically turn everything else into minutiae. While I was there, she and I drove out to SkyVenture Colorado. This is an indoor skydiving facility, and since I’m writing a book about the guy who engineered the thing, I wanted to give it a whirl. I thought it would be scary for me, since I’m afraid of heights. But no heights were involved. In fact, it was deliriously fun. You pretty much step into a column of wind and fly, with the floor not all that far beneath you. You learn how to master the wind with tiny movements of your body and the help of a skydiving guru.
When I stepped out onto the wind column, I felt young. I wanted to yell some happy expletives. Because even though my pastor doesn’t know it, even though my kids don’t know it, I do that. I like to do that. I’m a tattooed girl who used to wear Bad Sandy heels and rock a perm Felix Baumgartner could’ve spotted from his space dive. I felt alive, happy, wild, even sexy. And then I got home and watched the video of my flight:
Yes, that’s me sporting a pink, nylon fat-suit, my arms palsy-shaking like Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. That’s me not looking nearly as vivacious as I felt. I think I even have a mullet.
What’s that thing Forrest Gump says? Stupid is as stupid does? I’m wondering if maybe sexy is as sexy does, too. Youthful is as youthful does. Fun is as fun does. Happy is as happy does. It’s not about the big earring holes or the faded tattoo or the pregnancy stretch-marks. (Did I fail to mention those?) It’s about joy, which has no age. And in a funny way, that means it is about the earring holes, the tattoo, the stretch marks, for all of them are talismans from great times in my life. And reminders of more to come. I’m not sorry I closed up those earring holes. I’m not sorry about the stretch marks. I’ll make new talismans. There’s more to come. Until I’m dead, I’ll keep making them.
Old is as old does.
(But I’m still going to color my roots.)