She was what one call a woman of a certain age in a time in history when it was not at all acceptable to be a woman of a certain age. The connotations engulfed her each and every time she looked at herself in the mirror.
On a good day, she would look into the mirror and see and see a cougar. A woman capable of having any young man she wanted. On those days, she could see her accomplishments. She didn’t regret her choices to ignore her more feminine side. She was proud that she’d studied hard in her youth instead of partying it away with the other girls around her. She was proud too, that when love had knocked quietly on her heart, that she had had the where-with-all to tell it to try again later.
On those days she could look into the mirror and see a woman who had sacrificed herself for the greater good of her society. She could see how all those sacrifices manifested in more than just a big empty house, vacations in Cabo and extravagant gifts send in lieu of her presence around the holidays. It was on one of these days that she had agreed to host a charity auction the following Fall. It was on one of these days that she had completely forgotten what it was like on the other days.
Since that day, she had lived consistently in the other days. Each morning, she looked into the mirror and saw exactly what the majority of society saw when she walked into a room. She saw a woman whose face did not hold laugh lines. She saw a woman whose face showed more and more that her years of having “potential” were behind her. Her eyes did not glimmer with innocence. Instead they sagged with the weight of decisions she didn’t want or need to make, but that she had made.
She saw wrinkles. She saw a shrinking lip line. She saw grey hairs finding their way through what used to be a perfect and natural chestnut color.
She felt betrayed by her beauty products. She’d been rigid in their use. She taken every precaution recommended, yet here she found herself aging.
She had to remind herself that aging did not yet mean old.
But try as she might, the voice inside yelled loud and clear that old was not long after aging. And she knew what that meant. There was no productive place left in her society for the old. They were meant to be locked away where we could not be reminded that our bodies degrade long before the life leaves them. The old, for oh so many unspoken reasons, were the most evil of all dirty secrets.
It was this that had forced her to make the appointment, that forced her to betray everything that she had preached to the young girls she’d mentored over the years. As it turns out, in the face of her own realities, beauty is qualitative and it is dictated by society. And the value of a woman is directly proportionate to how attractive she is. Those who do not have that beauty must work exponentially harder and will not reach the same heights.
She was beginning to understand that no matter what she did, from this point further she would not be able to be happy with herself. The question that would remain right up to the day of her appointment:
Would she be unhappy about how the painstakingly slow decline of her body was rendering her invisible to the world, or would she be unhappy that she had abandoned her belief in the inherent beauty of the natural progression of life so that she could pretend no one was noticing her decline?