I Want to Wear a Tunic (and other thoughts on aging)
I want to wear a tunic. A big, soft, flowing linen tunic. I want to wear it over soft linen pants with an elastic waist band. I want to push the boundaries of pajamas-as-clothes as far as they will go. I want to wear this all of the time. In the winter, I will trade linen pajamas for leggings and a massive, cuddly sweater. That's what I want to wear. I can't really explain this per se. It is a deep-seated urge that is steadily growing within me. Although I have put on a few pounds post-40, my body is roughly the same size and shape as when I desired to wear jeans. But now I require extensive negotiation with myself to maintain any sort of relationship with denim.
The last time I wanted to wear massive clothes was in my early 20's. Because at 5'9" and 135 lbs, I thought I was obese. Starting from my teenage years, I desperately tried to acquire an eating disorder, but I just didn't have the discipline or blood sugar stability for anorexia nor the gag reflex for bulimia. And that's the truth, I am not making light of eating disorders. I had one on the inside, and it wasn't funny at all. I hid beneath ugly clothing that was several sizes too big, hoping not to be noticed and to be noticed all at the same time.
Now it's totally different. I still don't love my body, this is true, but I'm getting sick and tired of not loving it. And I'm getting sick and tired of dealing with its outfitting. I am weary of shoving it into skinny jeans and high heels and anything that feels scratchy, skimpy, or squeezy. I still do, mind you, I'm not quite waving the white flag yet. I have a husband I still hope to impress anyway. But I want very badly to wear a tunic and call it a fashion day. I am growing bored and fatigued of trying to fulfill the loudly unspoken female calling of beautifying the world. Grow some flowers, world. I will be over in the corner draped in linen.
I have become obsessed with chin hair. I have tweezers stashed everywhere. I am constantly searching for something to pluck, carefully scrutinizing my face in any mirror I encounter and running my finger tips over my skin the rest of the time (which by the way breeds acne, with which I am also obsessed and which has nothing to do with aging). I confess to having a bizarre fascination with facial hair, the way it seemingly appears overnight like young, female pop stars who sing like nauseous cats in their efforts to be alluring. I go to bed fresh faced as a choir boy only to wake up with with a 2-inch-long thick, black hair growing in the middle of my cheek like some sort of anomalous robot character in a Civil War drama. I am horrified but also thrilled by the magic of it. And there's something so gratifying about plucking it, seeing another good half-inch slide out of the recesses of my face. I imagine what else is under there--chocolate bars? orphan socks? the remains of a fetal twin? It's terribly compelling.
I want to adopt all the young adults in my life. They are already raised, for one thing, and they are all so shiny and confident compared to how I was as a young adult. I was roadkill compared to their leaping gazelles. My youth was indeed completely wasted on me, while I wallowed in grief and faux eating disorders and imagined obesity and stupid decisions, and it's good to see so many of my young friends already thriving. I can't be them, so I'll just make them all my grown children. And the ones that aren't thriving, I want to mother even more. I know what it is to be lost and wandering in the dark of self-hatred. I want to tell them they are precious. And that they should eat that cookie while it won't reappear as a chin hair or butt bulge in 24 hours.
Despite my best efforts, my back goes out annually, like some kind of lumbar birthday celebration. I find myself telling anyone who will listen about my degenerated discs and how they slightly herniate on occasion, impinging upon my sciatic nerve and various other painful things. I do this even though I know they can't possibly care. I have no idea why I tell them. It is a compulsion, just like the plucking and the tunics.
I strategize sometimes about what kind of old lady I will be. I don't think I can pull off the Sweet Old Lady type. I find myself growing increasingly blunt and sarcastic. So I imagine going with the Edgy Artist type with spiked hair and large turquoise jewelry and loud opinions. But then I realize I have rarely sustained the energy to routinely accessorize and highly doubt I will suddenly want to change my earrings every day when I turn 65. Beyond tunics, I can't say exactly what my future holds. I'm thinking something akin to Betty White. She's my senior citizen spirit animal.
But I'm looking forward to it, in a way. I'm at the age now where I am very much aware that my time is short. 40 or 50 years doesn't sound like a long time when the last 10 have zoomed by like a binge-watched Netflix show. I feel more at peace about the prospect of death now than when I was younger (and, ironically, much more religiously certain). But I am sad that my life is essentially half-over because I feel like I've just now figured some things out. I'm looking forward to figuring more things out and living in the joyful knowledge of those things.
And as a woman, while part of me is desperately, frantically afraid to see my beauty (such as it is) fade, part of me is relieved at the prospect of lowered expectations and greater invisibility. Perhaps the plentiful number of heinous men out there will no longer accost me in the grocery store or otherwise burden me with their need for gratification. The thought of sliding through life unseen has its appeal. I just hope my lover still sees me when I'm old and finds me beautiful in some way. The thought of losing his gaze or that it might be disappointed when it finds me is one of the most shattering things I can imagine. I think of the Emma Thompson character in Love Actually, whose husband loves her but is captivated by his young co-worker. Kevin is a big reason--really THE big reason--I still want so badly to be beautiful.
Right now, I'm still in that transitional space, where societal expectations and stretch-denim still lurk in my closet even while wrinkles and cellulite spread on my body. There is some anxiety. But I know the Tunic Days are coming, and I'm betting they will be good.