Maiden Mother Crone
Old Woman Love
by Christine Schultz
“Oh my God, she’s old,” Caroline thought as she noticed a woman in a store. At sixteen, she couldn’t imagine how anyone could have wrinkles like that. “Lines on her lips from smoking, I’ll never have those!” When she looked into the mirror she saw only her smooth skin and pink lips that would be there into infinity. Time was the furthest thing from finite as the endless days proved. Life was primed to happen, to unfold; she was so impatient.
Several years later in Milan, everyone was young and exciting, drinking cappuccinos and smoking. Carolyn was too. They were all so full of that twenty-something angst about getting the next job and wondering about how the last audition went. Life had begun to do what it does. Although just as angsty, she still felt just like she had at sixteen, that perpetual youth was hers, even though she could clearly see the toll certain behaviors were having -- on her pals.
Fast forward to California, age thirty-two, still beautiful, and still smoking. When he said to her, “I don’t mind that you smoke, I just don’t want you to have those lines on your lips.” He held her close, as he looked at her and said, “Oh my god! You’re starting to have lines on your lips!” She tried to play it off. That night she took a close look. Yes, tiny lines were forming. She thought she could reverse it if she stopped smoking and took better care of herself.
Somewhere before forty she did quit. She was now more interested in regaining some of her youth by getting serious about health and lifestyle. It wasn’t as easy as she had anticipated. Over the next years, perimenopause had its way. Her body chemistry changed. She had to get to know herself and her environment all over again. It wasn’t until menopause was completely over when she noticed an old woman in the store.
This woman had deep lines on her face, she was thin and gray but vibrant. She was maybe eighty. Caroline thought, “Oh my God, she’s old! -- those deep lines on her face. She’s lived a lot of life; I would love to know her wonderful stories.” Carolyn imagined what wisdom and knowledge this woman must have. Life is precious, so the value of experiencing it fully, living long, and carrying the memories around like precious badges became apparent as Carolyn took in the remarkableness of this woman.
Carolyn still felt like she was sixteen in many ways, so agism seemed unreal when she expeerienced it. She also was having those, “Kids these days” feelings when youth behaved badly. She wished she could have had the reverence for the wisdom of aging when she was much younger. Is that intrinsically impossible? Or is it a cultural shift we are currently undertaking?