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I’m going to be fifty

I’m going to be fifty.

Not just yet. But some day, not in the too distant future, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing I can do about it. Although I have considered moving to another city, since living in a university town is probably the worst place to be if you are trying to avoid thinking about getting older.

This thought occurred to me as I sat at a table outside Mishka’s Cafe, while my (even older) husband was inside ordering our drinks. There would have been no avoiding this revelation even had I waited indoors with him, since each and every table was occupied by students, reading, writing, chatting, their youth glowing in the electric light of their laptop screens.

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But outside, gaggles of girls paraded past me, their feet encased in shoes with heels that caused my ankles to ache just looking at them as they traipsed by. It seemed like I had been them not too long ago, willing to suffer in shapely shoes that rendered me nearly immobile by the end of a day. These young UC Davis students were sleeveless in the slight breeze which made me clasp my sweater a bit closer. There had been a time when I too ignored the weatherman’s advice in the name of fashion, but I now realize that comfort is by far more important than any statement my choice of clothing might make.

And speaking of clothing, unless you can afford the wondrous creations found in a store such as The Wardrobe, there are few choices left for our shopping needs in this town, especially if you are well on your way to fifty and aren’t quite ready to admit it. I swore up and down that I would not darken the door of Forever 21 when it first opened. Yet my daughter came home astounded by its size as well as by the biblical reference on the bottom of its bright yellow bags (John 3:16 if you’re curious), and I gave into temptation.

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As I walked through the store which appeared to have taken over an entire city block, I was wondering where religion fit in as I pulled out hanger after hanger of clothing so sheer and slits so high that nothing was left to the imagination. I would have had to purchase extra layers just to fill in the gaps left gaping open. It was as if the designer had been suddenly distracted and stopped abruptly midriff on every single shirt. When I finally did find an item that wouldn’t cause heads to turn for all the wrong reasons, I made my way to the dressing rooms (coed by the way). There I was shown to a stall by a slim young thing who said something I couldn’t hear as my ears were assaulted by some form of music piped in for our listening pleasure. Perhaps they hoped that the decibels would delude customers into believing they really did look good in the scanty clothing as hips involuntarily gyrated to the wild beat, and the pounding drowned out the sensible voice advising against the purchase. All it did for me was cause heart palpitations and a desire to hurry it up and hightail it to the quiet of my car. In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing that no one could hear me as I attempted to wiggle into the garment that had looked so promising on the rack where I should have left it. If you are a woman who needs to breathe freely, and one who indulges in an occasional meal, do yourself a favor: stay away from this store. Not to mention those of us who have had children and now own hips. Don’t do it unless you plan on giving up any of those (not the children, of course).
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After much swearing and a whole lot of wriggling I managed to extricate myself from the item deceptively marked “Large.” I even smiled weakly at the slim young thing who wanted to know how it had worked out for me as I handed her the wretched torture device passing as clothing. She must not have heard my muffled cries for help while still ensconced in what someone had called a dress. I am not a large woman but I left the store with my hair a mess from doing battle, and a far worse image of myself than when I had foolishly walked in, despite the large sign with the unmistakable number atop the building, and the noise which spilled out the doors and could be heard in the parking lot. “Forever” must have more than one definition.

And speaking of noise – there are nights when I sincerely wish I could lift the cozy home we’ve built and place it elsewhere, perhaps atop a remote mountain range, to avoid the party music emanating from the rentals into which so many students have moved. “It’s not getting louder, you’re getting older,” my lovely husband will say when I complain. Okay. So twenty minutes of sweeping leaves in our garden winds me, and I’m not getting into our pool until it’s a toasty seventy-eight degrees. But that’s not age, that’s being spoiled, and you should see the size of our Oak tree and the mounds of foliage it’s capable of producing.

This recent discovery that parts of me were slowing down while my surroundings were not, caused me to rethink my scheduled visit to our local library to check their incredible selection of used books for sale. I stood in front of the still locked doors with seven minutes to go, the crowd of young mothers and toddlers growing thick around me, excitement and anticipation in the air. Great adventures were to be found just beyond that door, and toddlers were being distracted in various ways as they impatiently put up with the interminable wait. One mother explained the magic of the automatic book return, her little girl watching in fascination as her bedtime stories vanished into the hole in the wall. Another parent was plying her offspring with snacks she deftly pulled out of a large bag, small mouths upturned in anticipation like so many baby birds. I had once been that mother, my two readers in training barely reaching the check-out counter, their arms laden with books they had proudly selected. As I stood in the center of all this youthful activity, hot tears gathering against my will, I realized that I had managed to schedule my visit to coincide with the library’s story time and those doors couldn’t open fast enough.This town was turning into an emotional mine field and from now on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. were out.

This town was turning into an emotional mine field and from now on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. were out.

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Of course there is nothing that emphasizes the march of time quite as markedly as having children, since one cannot help but notice the progress they make, changing by leaps and bounds under our very eyes, one of them even driving herself to Forever 21 without her shell-shocked mother in tow.

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On the other hand, perhaps being surrounded by youth should be looked at from a different angle, a dip in a fountain that may keep us feeling young at heart and on our toes, as long as the fountain is warm enough and the toes are on the same level as the heels.

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