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Beacon Senior News

The woman I’ll never be

Jul 26, 2021 11:29AM ● By Laverne Bardy
silhouette of woman holding and looking into a mirror, holding long pearls off her neck

My husband Marc spent the afternoon at his buddy’s house. When he returned, he looked at me and said, “Phil’s wife is nothing like you.”

I assumed he was referring to my unparalleled charm, wit, good looks and humor. 

“Really? Give me an example,” I said as I demurely fluttered my mascara-loaded lashes.

“Marilyn greeted me in bare feet, wearing tattered jeans and one of Phil’s shirts,” he said. “Her hair was wet and she had no makeup on. She was on her way out to take nature pictures with her new Pentax K-7 camera and tripod.”

I didn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to pick up on the fact that he was not complimenting me. Marilyn was the woman I wanted to emulate—a woman who lived in the moment and didn’t squander valuable time applying makeup or worrying about how people viewed her. She didn’t waste time covering dark facial spots, curling her hair and spackling her upper lip. After taking a shower her hair was blow-and-go and her face was “this is me.”

Obviously, Marilyn was far more secure than I was. I’d always promised myself I’d do things like her—in my next life. In this life, I didn’t have the courage to subject the public to the real me.

I, too, wanted to learn how to use a good camera the way Marilyn did. One time, Marc attempted to explain how he could use an existing photo and turn it into a landscape photo, and even add a background. I stared into his eyes with what I’m sure he mistook for understanding—maybe even interest—but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to know about cameras; not learn about them.

Somehow, my need to look perfect all the time skipped a generation. My daughter Abby made that evident one day while she was brushing her hair before a mirror. 

“How does it look?” she asked.

“The front looks lovely,” I answered, “but the back could use a little more work.”

“I don’t care about the back,” she snapped. “I can’t see it. That’s other people’s problems.”

I’ve since discovered there are countless women who share Abby’s philosophy. A close friend came over one afternoon. As she stood in my bedroom doorway, she caught sight of herself in my full-length mirror. 

“Holy @#!&%” she blurted out. “How could you let me walk around like this?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen myself in a full-length mirror before. I look like hell!”

I’d wanted to tell her that for a long while but concluded that hell was the look she was trying for. It never occurred to me that she hadn’t already checked herself out before leaving the house.

My mother believed that the inconveniences and pains of womanhood were as natural as engines are to cars, and she never complained about them. Unlike her, when I was growing up, I protested a lot, but my mother had a logical answer for everything.

“I hate wearing a bra,” I’d whine. “It digs into me.”

“You’re a woman. Get over it,” she said.

“I can’t breathe in this panty girdle,” I squirmed. “I feel like a kielbasa.”

“Breathing is highly overrated,” she barked back.

“Spiked heels are ridiculous,” I’d cry.

“You only have to make it from the car to your destination. Then you can sit.”

“I can’t stand wearing all this goop on my face.”

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

“But we’re going to Aunt Bessie’s, and she’s seen me a gazillion times.”

“How you look reflects on me.”

I recently learned that another vain senior lives in my town. I know this because I observed three 20-something girls discussing her as I sat in a local diner. 

“Helen has to be in her late 60s,” one girl said, “and can you believe she still bothers wearing makeup?”

“I know,” the second girl responded, in awe. “She’s amazing. She even gets her hair and nails done every week.”

The third nodded wistfully. “I hope I’m that alert and interested in how I look when I’m that old.”

I just about burst with something to say, but I kept my mouth shut. Imagine, a woman in her 60s who not only cares how she looks, but whose brain hadn’t yet turned to mush. 

She sounded like a sure candidate for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.” 

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