Let’s Talk About Age

I’m nineteen. I working at Edie Adam’s Cut ‘n Curl. I’ve had my hairdressing license one year and already I hate it. I’m about to leave for a trip to Scotland. Me, naive, a girl who has never even traveled to Seattle by herself (an hour away). Still living at home, kind of envious of friends getting apartments of their own. But not so envious I’m brave enough to do the same. Seeing friends fall in love and marry, but no envy there because I know better. A girl with frizzy hair and freckles and glasses.

Lisa 7th grade 1972

Writing secretly. Because I’m not good enough.

I’m twenty-one. Taking Scottish dance classes and for my big birthday, that milestone of age, they give me a giant cardboard key because girls get the key to the house when they turn twenty-one. Still doing hair and still hating it. Still living at home. About to leave for my third trip to Scotland. A little braver now, about traveling. A friend of my parents comes to the house one night when they are gone, when he knew they were gone. Because, after all, looking at me, it’s obvious I must be desperate, right? Luckily nothing happened because a dog foiled him.

19th birthday 1979

Still writing secretly. Still not good enough.

I’m twenty-eight and have found my home in the woods. The parents have retired and we made a deal where I would live with them and pay their bills and eventually inherit. I’ve made my plans. It’s obvious to everyone, including me, and I’m looking forward to that future of being a spinster in the woods. I have it all planned out. I’ll be the eccentric aunt the nieces and nephews will love to visit. I’ll have all the dogs I want. I’ll write whenever I want and it won’t be secretly. I’m looking forward to that future.

Lisa with white Bear & chickens

I’m thirty-four and I’ve been talked into joining a fire department – so far out of my realm, so far out of my vision of my future. And a guy joins the fire department, with a dog that likes to go for walks. I don’t see what’s happening until he takes my hand one night. I don’t understand because, obviously, thirty-four years of never attracting male attention. Remember, frizzy hair, freckles, glasses.

wedding 1

I’m forty-eight and diagnosed with lymphoma and getting radiation and a wife and a mother of a twelve-year-old boy, and both males in my life think I’m a writer and they love me and they see me. Even when I don’t.

Art and Arthur Vegas

I’m sixty and have books with my name on them. I am a wife and he’s the most perfect person (honestly, he is) and there’s a twenty-four year old male in my life that used to be a fat baby. I go to the doctor for an annual test and find out I no longer have to have them because I’m sixty. I guess at that arbitrary benchmark you are no longer at risk for female cancers so you can just quit worrying about those annual tests.

But wait. Sixty? Really? Have I spent sixty years not seeing myself? Sixty years self-conscious? Sixty years being less-than, never-will-be, not good enough for those who love me? Sixty years not looking in mirrors?

Fuck that. I’m done with that woman.

I don’t know what that means.

But it means something.

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19 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Age

  1. It definitely means something. It’s obvious that the two people who mean the most in your life, your perfect and loving husband and the 24 year old formerly fat baby have known all along who you were and who they loved. They also say fuck that to the “old you”that felt unloved, self conscious, and generally not worthy. They knew all along who they loved and why they loved you, and that’s all that needs to matter. Congratulations on your 60th, and welcome to the new you. May you have 60 more …

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  2. And then you have these people coming into your life along the way who might not even know you that long or not know your past and they just see you as this strong, kick ass woman who they wish they were. This woman who despite health scares and losing loved ones goes on with life, helping, supporting, budgeting, and foraging with and for the people she loves like she has nothing else to do. This woman, who inspires people along the way all the time without even knowing it. I wish the mirror could show you how we see you 💜

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  3. I’ve been turning your post over in my mind since I read it yesterday (Happy Birthday, by the way!), and felt I needed to say something, but wasn’t sure quite how to put it together. Your story resonates with me, and I suspect it does with many women. We have hugged tight to shame for that which makes us unique and special and beautiful as if it was a security blanket. Letting it go makes us vulnerable to those same things (people, society, customs …) that created it in the first place. But, each act of letting even pieces of it go is a victory. Congratulations on releasing each thing that held you back from celebrating who you are. Each instance is truly a Birthday! (By the way, you were a very pretty 19-year-old — freckles & glasses included!)

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    • Now that’s an interesting thought – that we hug tight in shame the things that make us unique. I wonder why that is? Just the society around us that starts when we are young discouraging anything that doesn’t fit the norm? I think there’s a blog post in there, Susan!

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      • You just wrote one! Children often get singled out for what makes them different, and children really want to fit in. It’s important to us all through our teens. And we often get teased about it (or ridiculed), even if it’s something we love. The shame of being different becomes part of our identity and that’s very hard to turn around.

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  4. Lisa, I follow your blog because, I realize, just now, that you have resonated with my heart all this time. Though being a male, and not much a naive male, almost from birth, most of my “not naive” was just blustering to “fit in” to the society/community/peer system into which I was born. “I’ll write whenever I want, and I look forward to that future” bites me deep. I turned 60 eight years ago, and still can only write secretly. Since reading this post (too many times to to count or remember) I feel compelled and empowered to really step out and write. Without secret. Thanks. Happy birthday, with love.

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    • Such a huge step! Giving ourselves permission to freely do what feeds our souls without fear or guilt. Though I still have tons of guilt if I sit down to write when there are chores. What I did, what works for me (most of the time), is I changed my schedule at my job. I went to four 10-hour days to free up one day that is just for writing. It doesn’t always work that way, especially when I’m struggling to write something because then I look for reasons to fill the day. But I find having a specific time helps. However, what pulled me out of the closet as far as writing in secret, was having support of those who understood. I hope you take that step to write, I hope you have the support you need, and I hope you’ll keep me posted on how that goes. I’m excited for you! If you go to my website, http://www.lisastowe.com, there’s a link on the editor page to contact me, if you want. Then you can tell me how writing goes in a less public forum.

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