Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray



“I got these lines in my face tryin’ to straighten out the wrinkles in my life."
--Ramblin' Jack Elliott
**

Sifting through stuff in preparation for the upcoming move out of the house on Tennessee Avenue, I came across this picture of me, taken when I was in my late 20's. I was sitting with my sister Deborah and her family on her front porch in Kansas City. I look so relaxed and happy, mostly because I was caught unawares by my brother-in-law, who was a great photographer. When I pose for pictures, I just look weird; frozen and goofy.

Just for fun, and because I'm feeling all alive and happy right now in life, I put up this image as my profile pic in Facebook.

Almost immediately the comments started pouring in, how beautiful I was, how lovely, like a movie star, sensuous and etc etc etc. I was of course flattered by the reaction, but initially quite puzzled. I look at that picture, then I look at myself in the mirror. Honestly I don't see so much of a difference - OK I'm old, have gray hair, weigh more, wear glasses. But can it be true that I have actually aged? WHAT??

Just as it is for so many others, I find the process of aging is so bizarre. I don't feel that different, but apparently I really LOOK different from the outside. I guess that's why people get facelifts and color their hair, go for tummy tucks and get liposuction (sounds so GROSS to me - YUCK). Though I respect everyone's right to make these choices, the truth is, after plastic surgery, most folks just look weird. Turning back the clock is not an option, people. The best we can do is try to move gracefully into old age, yes? I say yes.

Of course I was not graceful about the big reaction to that picture. I almost immediately took it down, replaced it with an image that features my hair. I added a diffuse glow to the pic, I suppose to mask, at least to some degree, the physical evidence of my 57 years. Even I, the campaigner for how great it is to grow older, She Who Admonishes Those Who Denigrate Old Age, yeah, even I, the spokesperson for the wonders of middle age, get self-conscious about it sometimes. Hey. I didn't do anything wrong by aging, I just haven't died yet. Why the self-consciousness, why?? For heaven's sake!

**Thanks, Rick, for this great mantra. Oh yeah!!

How funny that the link didn't work. I fixed it.


Took this on my way to see the Sufi acupuncturist this week. The angels are everywhere. Sweet.

23 comments:

Pauline said...

I think we are always conscious of self - and that's not a bad thing unless it becomes self-absorption. Enjoy your beauty. My mother used to say, "Pretty is as pretty does," when I complained of not being beautiful... so, keep doing pretty, Reya.

Reya Mellicker said...

Oh god, YES, Pauline. Self absorption. That's worse than liposuction. Thanks for the reality check.

jinksy said...

Blogger is telling me your picture link doesn't exist! Sorry not to have been able to see the young you!

ellen abbott said...

I'm totally OK with aging. Like you say, I don't feel any different. I still feel like the same me I was all those years ago. It is a little freaky though to see glimpses in the mirror of my grandmother, my mother but mostly my aunt. Still, trying to retain that lost youth through surgery is weirder still. You cannot turn back the hands of time. You cannot achieve self acceptance through surgery.

Rick said...

You are beautiful, ...then and now.

Tom said...

just watched 'love in the time of cholera' last week, always love the way that movies show people age...your blog has been a picture record of your transformation, too.

Whitney Lee said...

I can only hope I am willing to age gracefully. I am just entering the stage where I am able to count the smiles around my eyes. The more atrocious plastic surgery jobs I see the more willing I am to grow wrinkly with only minor complaint.

Kathleen said...

Wonderful post, Reya. I couldn't get the link to work. Bummer. It freaks me out a little how commonplace face work is becoming. Mostly, the speculative fiction writer in starts projecting the scenario out and imagining the consequence of so much "masking" but also b/c of what it says about such a widespread lack of self-love. I guess because I believe we need to practice self-love to make our way as a species to peace. I see desire to change our outward appearance as step backwards. I'm also someone who has stopped hiding the gray but is wearing fake nails (to keep myself from messing with my nails and cuticles) but still! It's all so puzzling.

California Girl said...

about ten years ago, I was visiting my girlfriend in Key Biscayne. She lived in a high rise on the beach and across the hall were her good friends, an older, very wealthy couple from Uruguay. They came over while Patsy and I were perusing her wedding album. I had been a bridesmaid and we were talking about the dresses and Mario, the gentleman from Uruguay, asked to see the photos. His first remark to me was,

"You were really beautiful."

WERE. It hit me like a brick. At the time, I was in my early forties. I mean, hardly over the hill and this guy was probably in his early sixties. Nevertheless, it's my first memory of someone reflecting on what I was.

I know why you took down yur photo.

Angella Lister said...

Reya, I love this post. I didn't appreciate myself when I was in my 20s, and so now realizing from a distance that I was quite lovely then, helps me understand that I am quite lovely now, as I still don't fully appreciate myself. How sad, really. What masterpieces we are. Everything works, even if there are a few creaks in the machinery these days. How dare we not appreciate such gifts. Thank you for the reminder!

Reya Mellicker said...

I fixed the link so the picture shows up now. What a funny Freudian slip moment. I really am in a little bit of a state over the pic. For heaven's sake!

Thanks, Rick. We'll have to face to face some day, then you can judge the "now" part for yourself.

Angella, thanks for the reminder. In 20 years I'll look at pics of myself now and think, "Wow. Look how cute I was!"

Love in the Time of Cholera. What a GREAT book. Thanks for the reminder!

Linda Sue said...

Why do we do this thing? It is such a judgement- "she is aging well.." She is not looking so good- Dang, who the hell cares- I guess youth spoils us and then when we become who we are at the old lady stage we, in this culture, are considered as less than.Check- Betty white- check Lisa Minelli- which face would you rather see smiling at you? Which face would you trust? I am just a bag of old lady here- and sillier every day, I am free to be so and now look the part! You, on the other hand, will have to live with beauty and vitality until the day you quit breathing- that is your cross to bear, Ms. Fabulous!tough job, but somebody has got to be all that---tag, you're IT!

The Bug said...

I don't know - I think you're prettier now. Certainly more interesting with all that fabulous hair.

Memory Echoes said...

Perhaps you'll reread the comment I made. My intention was praise of your beauty, then and now. I actually prefer your look now. Just sayin'.

willow said...

Fabulous image of the young Reya. Aging is a fascinating thing. It happens so subtly over time. I like to think of it as ripening.

Thanks for your sweet comment about my willowy/woolly sock-ish nest! xx

Steve said...

How funny that people reacted that way. I think you look very much like you did then -- aside from the hair color, and your hair color is great on you now.

My favorite thing about the old pic, actually, is that you're wearing a Washington, D.C. t-shirt!!

Susan said...

Experience shows on the face, as the lyrics of the song my guy is currently work on says.
Oscar Wilde had it right - your life is painted on your face - and yours is beautiful, Reya.
I think being enthused about life is the best beauty prescription at any age. And apathy doesn't just make older people less attractive. Lots of dead-looking young people out there, too.
Keep looking around and you'll stay lovely forever.

Reya Mellicker said...

Hey Memory Echoes, I was so defensive about the comments, I didn't really bother to figure out what people were trying to convey. Sorry!!

"she is aging well.." She is not looking so good- Dang, who the hell cares-

Ah Linda Sue, yes yes yes yes and YES.

Ronda Laveen said...

I sometimes think that the reason we still feel the age we are in those old photgraphs is that, some where, in a parallel time line, we still are that person. This older body is just a costume.

Reya Mellicker said...

Steve I love you!

Mrsupole said...

As long as we age gracefully then that is all that matters. It is when you see someone in their 50's or 60's running around with body parts showing that should not be showing unless you are a teenager that makes it seem sad about aging.

I think aging is great because if your are not then you are dead. So I will hopefully try to age with grace and be thankful that I am here to age. But this CRS thing really does suck. I can't remember where I put my glasses and then find them on my face. I can't find my keys and they are in my purse. Well you know things like that. I forget I am cooking something until I smell it burning. Yup, CRS is worse then aging anyday.

God bless.

Karen said...

Just now catching up from a few days away from blog-reading...

I am struck by the strength of those two feelings in myself, roughly akin to an inner narration that occasionally goes like this: Oh, I hope I look good in this, I hope I look attractive; wait a minute, why the hell do I care? Why am I worried about *that*, of all things?!?

Maybe it comes from being a died-in-the-wool feminist whilst also wishing to age gracefully? I don't know. I'm just sort of bewildered at my own contradictions lately.

And: go, angels! We NEED 'em everywhere! :)

Silver Fox said...

What wonderful synchrony!...love the picture :o)