Looking like an old lady

For about the fourth time in my first two weeks at my new job, a lovely colleague of mine squinted at the paper I’d just handed her and said, “I can’t read this, I don’t have my readers with me.”

In exasperation I said, “Oh for heaven’s sake, you need to get one of these necklaces,” as I reached down and waved at her the pretty beaded chain that keeps my reading glasses attached to me.

To my shock and amusement, she blurted out, “No! I don’t want to look like an old lady!”

We are both 51.

I was shocked because I hardly think I look like an “old lady,” but I’m also amused because I know in many ways, I do.

I’ve decided to enjoy the paradox of it and when I’m talking nice to myself, I call myself a “vibrant old lady.” And there are plenty of things I now do in my vibrant-old-lady style that fortunately amuse me, but it requires me to be mindful of how I talk to myself about them, keeping the focus on their positive aspects.

For example, in a popular yoga class at the Blaisdell YMCA I am frequently one of the oldest people in the class and often, about 35–40 minutes into the session, my body can’t keep up with the pace of the class, so I scooch to the front of my mat and sit cross-legged with my eyes closed — while the beautiful younger people continue to twist and bend and stretch— until I’m ready to rejoin the rhythm of the class.

At 51, having to “sit out” because I can’t “keep up” doesn’t bother or embarrass me as it might have in my younger years. My vibrant-old-lady voice says, “Well, at least you showed up, and this yoga is good for your body.”

I also, in the spirit of reducing my carbon footprint, try to ride my bike more for local coffee dates and errands in fair weather. Yes, of course, I have a garage sale three-speed bike with a basket and because I have always been a cautious bike rider, I often ride on the sidewalk if no one else is on it. I have seriously considered taking one of those fluorescent vests and embroidering “Caution: Granny Biker” on back of it.

With my physical appearance, I do wear reader glass necklaces (I never want to not be able to see the fine print); I do wear sensible, comfortable shoes (I express my fashion style in other ways); and I no longer color my graying hair (I fortunately have pretty silver hair).

When would any woman decide that she wants to “look like an old lady,” or for that matter, become an old lady? In my book, there’s no mandatory age or obvious hallmark but it’s silly not to recognize the obvious changes that come with aging, good and not so great, and to embrace them with good humor. In the spirit of a generous self-loving state of mind, you can name it anything you like. For me, “vibrant-old-lady” works and it keeps me smiling … reading glasses and all.

Terre Thomas is a self-proclaimed fairy godmother. She and her family live in the Lyndale neighborhood. She can be reached at YFGodmother@aol.com.