I'm one of those people you see watching other people in public lobbies. Whether it be a doctor's office, the DMV or a hotel lobby, I will be there studying your every move and eavesdropping on everything you say, but only if I find it interesting to me.
While visiting my family for a particularly sad and dreary occasion, my father's funeral, I sat myself down in a generic hotel lobby just to the right of the flip-over waffle maker between the USA Today newspaper stand and the large flat screen TV. I thought I could amuse myself there and take my mind off the dreadful rituals put upon us after a loved one passes on.
It was the weekend of The Boulder-Boulder, a 10k race so popular that this year it had to be held in multiple heats at various times of the day. Anywhere from 50,000-60,000 people participate every year. Boulder, Colorado, or as I refer to it, "The Land of Skinny White People," has long been the destination for many a fitness guru and their followers. This day was no exception. There were families, girl teams, boy teams, men teams, women teams, all assembling their paraphernalia in the lobby. One person stood out, not because she was particularly out of shape or grotesque, but because she was just old, if not ancient.
Feeling a bit of sympathy for her, I decided to strike up a conversation with the little old lady. She told me that she had been doing the Boulder-Boulder since she moved to Colorado decades ago. It was the one thing constant in her life, while everything else in her life was in a state of change: children, divorce, then empty nest.
The subject of high school came up, specifically the year of our graduations.
"We had our 40th Reunion just a couple years ago," she said.
My first reaction was that 40 years seemed like such a long time ago -- until I remembered that I had received an invitation for my 40th Reunion back in 2008, five years ago.
So, there I sat in my naugahyde club chair, directly across from someone not only old, but ironically, younger than me. I immediately took back all my catty observations about her sagging arm wings and her grayed Dorothy Hamill inspired bob. After all, I thought, how can I compare myself to a woman? We don't share the same gender, so to speak. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Yet, my inner narcissistic self continued to nag. Was I really THAT old? I excused myself and went to look in the mirror, an activity I have shunned, except quick looks for annoying cowlicks, since I found myself on the backside of the half-century mark. Several times that day, I caught glimpses of myself in any object that had a reflection. The worst one was the glass pie case at Perkins when I bent down to ogle the blueberry muffins.
Finally, after my evening bath, I took one long look in the horizontal mirror over the Formica counter top. (I made sure it was especially steamed up so I would look out of focus.) "Well, I don't look that bad," I said to myself. I do look older, maybe a little pot-bellied, but I'm working on that. Or, at least, I mean to work on it soon, like the next time the seasons change. And, yes I have come to the conclusion that there are people who really do look older than me, even though we are the same age. Some, just do not age well. But the longer I live, the more introspective I seem to become. Now, when I say, I really fall for someone with a great sense of humor, I actually mean it. I used to say that in my 20s because it sounded mature and thoughtful, not necessarily because I believed it to be true.
I do look old when I see myself in the mirror, and that's OK, because I have learned all the tricks of soft lighting that make me look better. Now, the only thing that I try to avoid are those silly people who sit in public lobbies staring at people all day. As I walk by them, I wonder if they are making hasty judgments about me or criticizing the way I look. It's unnerving!
Really, don't they have better things to do with their time?