She remembers the homecoming game of her senior year vividly. It was a perfect fall evening—crisp but not cold, the leaves still flaming. She wore a tweed suit, pantyhose, stacked heels and a huge Mum. Douglas Birch was her date. He wasn’t the love of her life, not by a long shot, but he had clear skin, broad shoulders, and his own car. It was the perfect evening.
This morning, when she looked in the mirror, there were at least five new wrinkles wreathing her eyes, she swore. All that expensive retinol cream was a scam—her face didn’t look one bit younger than it did when she was using plain old Olay. Her skin wasn’t holding its own. Her muscles weren’t, either. Slacker than ever, despite all those yoga poses she did every other day.
How could this be? Ivy felt as vibrant as a doe inside, as if she could take the stairs two at a time, even today. Delusion. But how could a person feel so young inside and look so old in the mirror? Ivy felt cheated, somehow. It shouldn’t be this way. If you are turning into an old lady, you should feel old inside. Your emotions should creak and get stiff like your knees. It isn’t fair to look like a crone but feel like a teenager!
Ivy dreams of young men. They go to rock concerts—she still knows all the words to Here Comes the Sun, and she sings them loudly, standing on her chair, waving her arms, hoping George Harrison will smile at her. She awakens feeling thrilled and terribly excited, but then she notices the walls of her bedroom—with that awful striped wallpaper that she picked out twenty years ago. Her body sinks into the mattress, once again aware of her situation. Every single morning, it happens. I am almost seventy.
She gets up. Dresses. Appropriately. No psychedelic bell bottoms. No see-through blouses. Just a plain, jersey turtleneck, maybe the red one today. The gray sweatpants that allow her to move around easily and kneel in the garden—at least until her knees protest. But first, the daily regimen.
Here she stands, studying her face in the bathroom mirror. Damn those crow’s feet. Damn the turkey neck. Damn the retinol, eye cream, and the mascara! Damn the young girl inside her, who remembers what it is like to eschew any sort of makeup!
As she dots the concealer under her eyes, Ivy takes a deep breath, unhunches her shoulders, and smiles at herself. The young girl smiles back. This is what it is like to age gracefully.
Molly Campbell, author of the upcoming Keep the Ends Loose, loves to create characters. We’ll be frequently sharing her stories here, but you can always stay up-to-date on her creations and other posts at her website.