In the summer months, they crowd the waiting area where I get my hair trimmed. They are filled with laughter and secrets and a great deal of joy.
When I see them, I know immediately that they are either bachelorettes out for a day of primping and camaraderie or they’re getting ready for a wedding that’s about to happen.
Either way, they’re always a delightful group of women, riding the edge of newly realized dreams and celebration. I never fail to ask: “Wedding?” Like schoolgirls, they giggle and grin as they answer. And then I want to know, “Who’s the bride?” More giggles as one of them proudly announces, “Me!”
Last week, as I let myself be swept up in the excitement of one such group, one of the women remarked that she had accidently filled out a new client form with the birth date of 1981, which evidently added ten years to her life. “What year were you born?” I asked her.
“1991,” she said proudly.
“I was born in 1952,” I said.
“Really? You could tell people you were born in 1971 and get away with it,” she replied.
They all had their eyes on me, trying to do the math. “Why would I want to lie about my age?” I asked her. “I’m proud of my age.”
“Well, you don’t look that old,” the young woman said. And that’s when I launched. Not at her. Not in some irritated tone, but in an absolutely, sincere diatribe that surprised me.
“Look, here is what I want young women like you to know,” I started. “I want you to know that age is just a number – it’s how many years you lived, period. It’s not a number that measures your worth or your significance in life. It’s not a number to compare to beauty. Beauty changes.
“Always be proud of who you are and don’t get hung up on the age thing. Live life fully. Love as much as you can. Keep engaging with life so that you find gratitude and joy to fill your heart. That’s what it means to grow old.” And in perfect timing, I stood up because my stylist had come to get me.
“That’s probably why you look so young,” I heard the bride say as I walked away.
“Have a good life and a happy marriage,” I told her.
As I settled into the next few minutes, I asked myself if what I’d said had been for them – or for me. Maybe it was some combination of both. What is it about age, this number that marks how long is our journey? Are we embarrassed that we’re the 66-year-old interacting with youth?
I had this flash that I should write the incident down and ask my Sixty and Me community how they feel about their age. Is it just a number? Are you proud of your age? Do you ever feel like you want to lie about your age? Does your age embarrass you?
It’s funny that in my youth, I remember lying about my age, only I made sure the number was going up not down. At 15, I’d tell boys that I was 17. When 18, I’d tell boys I was 20. Go figure.
But something about being 66 makes me feel like I earned every single year, and the wrinkles and grey hair that came with it.
As much as I’ve seen women come in the march toward equality and self-empowerment, I still found myself in a group of young women who thought that it was a pretty good idea for me to tell people that I was younger than I was, as if age were some kind of embarrassment.
Now those young women meant absolutely no harm. They were kind and sweet and had intended to pay me a compliment. But I just had to speak up and let them know that age really is just a number and how you engage with life, well, that’s everything.
And it seems that some part of me needed to be reminded of that too.
What do you think, ladies? Are you proud of your age? What would you have said to the young women that I met at the salon? Please share your precious thoughts with our community in the comment section.
Tags Getting Older