When life smiles at you, smile right back. An essay that celebrates that art of living life Forever Young…
by: Cyndy Muscatel
I read an article recently written by a woman who found herself invisible at the age of fifty-six. No more catcalls for her as she walked up Fifth Avenue. No more flirty looks from handsome men. Not one of them asking if he could buy her a drink as she sat waiting for a friend in a bar. She felt she’d reached that certain age where women no longer held any allure for men. She was invisible.
I do remember that stage of life, but now that my theme song is “76 Trombones,” it’s a different ball game. For some reason I’ve become very visible. I don’t know what it is, but people smile at me all the time. It’s not in a “come hither” type way — the smiles are big and broad, with a nod usually accompanying them.
Around the Fourth of July, I was in the market. A man gave me such a big smile that I thought I must know him, so I hesitantly smiled back. When I walked out of the store, he was there. “You probably wondered why I was smiling at you,” he said.
He didn’t look like a Ted Bundy clone, but I held onto my cart like it was a shield.
“Ahhh, yes,” I said. “Do I know you?”
“No. I just love your sweater. It made me smile.”
I looked down my front. (We elders need memory cues.) The sweater had the American flag shaped in a heart.
“Thanks,” I said and made my escape before I blurted out that the design wasn’t a political statement.
But this man wasn’t the only one smiling at me. At first I thought it was a post-lockdown response — no masks equaled happy smiles. But then time passed. What are they seeing? I wondered.
Getting older, I’ve lost the concept of how I appear to others. The way I’ve handled aging is to be in complete denial of the fact that “baby boomer” no longer signifies a group that is young and vital. We were going to be forever young and why not? Medicine has allowed us to continue to think it’s true. Granny glasses? Who needs them when your cataract surgery includes a trifocal lens that allows you to read the menu as your kids fumble for their glasses? Joint bone on bone? Now a stem cell can regenerate injured tissue so you can be back on the pickleball court in no time. (My left knee, in point of fact.) Sagging jowls? Your friendly cosmetic dermatologist has noninvasive treatments that lift without surgery. And hair color? Personally, I don’t plan on going gray until post-burial.
We went to a party recently with old friends we hadn’t seen for years. A few I only recognized because they looked like their parents had in days gone by. Stories flew around the table with lightning speed. Episodes in our history we’d forgotten were brought up and mulled over. It was great until the conversation turned to the meds we now take.
Being Medicarees, my contemporaries do have a tendency to be self-absorbed. Small ailments we wouldn’t have noticed before make us edgy. Have a headache? Better have an MRI in case it’s a brain tumor. Hands shaking after the fifth cup of coffee? Better have a PET scan in case it’s a neurological disorder. Seriously, there were more stents in that living room than iPhones. That’s when I finally admitted we were getting old. Doctor appointments have also been a bit sobering. While the medical assistant was measuring my height, I tried offering her a bribe. It didn’t work — she still measured a lost inch in height and a five-pound weight gain.
I have developed four theories of why so many people are smiling at me. First, they think I’m someone they know. I do seem to have one of those kinds of faces. Theory two is that I look like someone famous. Before, dear reader, you think I have narcissistic personality disorder, I must explain I live in Montecito, where Megan and Harry can be seated at the next table. Also, before she went gray, someone thought I was Jamie Lee Curtis.
Theory three is that people look at me and see a spry older woman and it makes them happy. Although the other day I was getting a manicure in a small salon when I mentioned my son is fifty-three. The woman next to me said, “No way you have a fifty-three-year-old. I thought you were my age and I’m fifty-two.”
Flattery like that leads me to theory four. It’s a possibility that I’m smiling, and people are just smiling back.
Cyndy Muscatel has written features and humor for The Desert Sun, Desert Magazine, 92260, LQ Magazine, and Healthy Living. She has also written for many other publications including The Seattle Times, The Mercer Island Reporter, The Desert Post Weekly, Palm Canyon Times, and Westlake Magazine. A former high school English teacher, she now teaches memoir writing in Kona, Hawaii, and she writes a monthly column for Lake Sherwood Life magazine. Her blogs, A Corner of My Mind and Writing Do’s and Don’ts, are available at cyndymuscatel.blog. Her short story collection Radio Days is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.