Recently I went to the mall, which is only remarkable in that it's a big bi-seasonal event in my household, on par with visiting the dentist. Personally I'd rather take my kids down to the lake or walk with my dogs. The real shock didn't come as I entered the mall, however -- it came in the Macy's dressing room when I slid on a pair of Alfani size six pants and could not, for the life of me, button the button.
I know. The world is full of sorrow and stress, people are starving and homeless, and world leaders can't even get to the table, much less gather round it.
But still. I have a closet full of sixes. I'd gone from a size four to a size six, and I just could not do it. I opted for spandex.
So this summer instead of dressing in perky capris in lively colors, I've shifted to spandex skirts, below the knee. It's a different look. "Elegant, dignified" I reassure myself as I look in the mirror. Winter is coming - the promise of bulky sweaters and calf concealing boots.
Top this off with the fact that my hair is greying. And the wayward strands are not elegant and tame, laying flat, capturing light and adding to my dignified appeal. No. My greys are kinked and unruly. The type a witch would hope for.
With my newly found obsession for baking pies, planning kid-centric activities, and perusing cooking magazines, I've become undeniably middle age. So the question of the summer becomes: Where to turn for a good role model?
Hollywood is no help, unless it's to warn off the promise of disfiguring Botox, plastic surgery, and venous skin treatments. New age magazines don't offer much beyond momentary hope, or spiteful schadenfreude -- your choice. You can buy ones that tout anti-aging formulas or another that reveal Hollywood stars in workout clothes without make up. Either shouts personal humility, advertising remedies requiring financial output, facial concealers or worse.
Is it ever just okay to be aging? I longed for an alternative.
And then it hit me. Literally. Sitting on the couch watching Oprah in all her majestic splendor, trying not to revisit the nasty-looking image of her pasted on the cover of the Enquirer, I was sidelined by the tail of one of my most trusted companions. My 12-year-old dog Whoopsie Daisy.
A word about Whoopsie. She started life black as bat, and as energetic as a freight train. Her hobbies included oceanic swims, Frisbee and playing soccer, serving as the goalie few could out kick. As a dog trainer, she'd accompany me to lessons to serve as a distraction dog, and to group class where she would instinctively coddle the puppies who refused to venture out of the corner. A certified therapy dog, she required no leash in the nursing home or the schools we visited as she would innately senses where she was most needed.
But Whoopsie is older now... speckled with grey, battling the bulge, incontinent, and arthritic. Flashing her images of the currently popular meme of dogs dressed in underwear, I whispered that our day would come where undergarments were a necessity. "Some day," I call out to my kids as I sop up her piddles and point to the true meaning of love, "you'll be doing this for me!"
Peppered white, sagging, and sore, there is one part of Whoopsie that's never changed, and has become my symbol, my amulet, and my meditative image for aging. It is her wagging tail. It flags me calmly in the morning when I lay next to her on the chaise, routinely knocking over coffee cups, skittering Legos and pummeling remotes to the floor as it flags a cheerful hello to family, friends and visitors alike. Its joyous spiral propels her forward even when it seems that her body bemoans her every step. Though she hasn't the words to express it, her enthusiasm for connectedness and communal living communicates a message stronger than any I've heard of or read.
The body is but a house for the soul; both its beauty and its imperfection.
It seems whether you're a dog, a human, a flower or a tree, aging shows little mercy to those along its path. You sag, you ache, you droop and dribble. But as long as you can keep your tail up and wagging, you'll be surrounded by enough love to propel you forward.
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