“The great thing about getting older
is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
I noticed the young man right away. Always attracted to sweet, shy boys, he stood out among all the other men at the party. Men much, much closer to my age who came with their practiced party banter – honed on decades of beer bashes – and their tendency to sit in groups by the fire, rather than stand in the shadows chatting up (or feeling up) their chosen date for the evening. The younger man immediately stood out, and as I looked at him, I felt mentally transported 30 years back in time to the tender age of 21, the age I approximated he was closest to and light years younger my actual age.
Twenty-one. My physical prime. Oh, don’t get all tsk, tsk and throw cliches at me – “You’re even better looking now than you were then” or “Fifty is the new forty” or my personal favorite – “You’re only as young as you feel” – because they’re just lame attempts not to state the obvious: We’re never as beautiful as we are in our early twenties – when a girl could throw on a halter top & some shorts, run a comb through her hair and be ready to go all day (and all night) if need be. In 1978, winking at a boy could make him your instant bed partner and lethal venereal diseases did not exist. Sex was our extreme sport and we were dedicated to our training schedules.
This young man made it all come rushing back and made me feel, if only for an hour or so, like that 21 year old girl again.
I suppose that to him, this cute young man with the boyish smile lighting up his face, I many have looked like a very silly lady that night. Dancing in the crowded garage, my limbs loosened with liquor, I shimmied provocatively with him, my eyes flashing with some distant memory. I looked at him. His young face was open, unlined, optimistic; the face of youthfulness. He had a look of expectancy, the secret wish we all have at age twenty-one, that perhaps great things actually do await us a little further down the road – after we’ve lived the life of youth first, of course. and before we realize, too late, that it doesn’t last forever.
Briefly that night I let myself be that young woman again. The one who existed before the awful marriages and divorces; the one who didn’t have to touch up her gray roots; the one with the too-wide hips whose belly hadn’t softened with childbirth and whose knees didn’t ache in the morning. I was her again, smiling into the face of a boy I was attracted to, who was smiling back at me.
The music stopped and all of us stood in a group laughing at ourselves, sweating in the unseasonably warm November night air, gulping fresh drinks. It was time for the young man and his date to leave – a warm and friendly girl his own age, she seemed slightly amused by the innocent flirtation. Secure in her youth and oblivious to the blank slate of her next 30 years, she almost certainly has no concept of the oceans of tears yet to be shed or the moments of pure exhilaration she will feel. She doesn’t yet know that she will remember each decade of her waning youth with acute clarity. If she’s really lucky, she’ll one day find herself dancing with a handsome young man decades younger than herself, feeling that elusive feeling of youth wash over her once again.
…we don’t lose the other ages we’ve been. Thank goodness for that.