Aging alone

Back when I was teaching, we took a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were these cool machines with cameras that would age a photo depending on life choices. Are you a smoker? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? And so on went the questions.

One of my junior highers got me to pose for the camera. My mistake was not taking over the controls afterwards. Having already gone through the process once, he knew all of the answers to age my photo as much as possible. He ignored my protests as the screen spun out an image of a worn out old lady who eerily resembled me.

Thanks, kid.

I remember that photo sometimes when I find a new gray hair or a neck wrinkle or an age spot I never noticed before. The realization that one is aging is hard for many people; however, as a single, I wonder if aging alone is different. Not harder, but different.

As a single, there is no togetherness in disintegration. It’s just a party of one who watches the body in the mirror stoop and droop a little more each year. A party of one who gets pitied as she grays because there go her chances to snag a husband and, if she doesn’t have children, she can’t even attribute the grays to the honorable occupation of child-rearing.

His eyelids sag and he gets an extra roll of fat at his waistline.

There is no together giggling at age creeping over two bodies become one. It is just her facing irreversible doom as she watches those creeping spider veins.

There is no one to notice that mole on his back slowly changing colors. No one to miss that tooth except him.

Those freckles that once were becoming are overcome by age spots and they’ve scattered farther than she ever imagined. Her body is no longer what it used to be. And sometimes she’s glad she doesn’t have to share it.

I read through 1 Peter recently, about beauty being internal rather than external. Because remember, these bodies were not made to last forever. Whether one is aging together or aging alone, that truth is comforting.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear other perspectives. What has it been like for you to age alone, man or woman, single or widowed? Or what has it been like for you to age beside someone else? Maybe you’ve had both experiences. What are some things you’ve learned over the years?

The Hunchback of Mytown

I’ve always had bad posture. For the first decade and a half of my life, it probably had to do with the fact that my peers came up to my belly-button. A severe introvert can pack themselves full of shame and self-loathing when they are literally forced to stand out from the crowd. Think giraffe in a world full of adorable penguins.

Ironically, now that I am living in the stubbiest part of Spain where I tower head and shoulders over most Andalusians, I am no longer ashamed of my height. I know people look at me in awe or call me “the long one” when they talk about me or add me to their marriageable women list simply because I’m hard not to notice. But, I’ve grown used to it, and like I said, it doesn’t bother me (well, except for the last point).

So, where does today’s bad posture come from? The curvature of my spine is still not curvaturing the right way. I lower my aching back into bed at night with a feeble, geriatric groan, “Whyyyyy?”

Why indeed? 

You can try to blame my back pain on FHP (Forward Head Posture) and count the hours I spend on my laptop. You can put a book on my head and tell me to walk across the room. Or you can tell me it’s an attitude problem and blather about the advantages of reaching that top shelf. But, folks, my legs are taller than my kitchen counters. Yep. I can almost sit on my counters without even getting up on tiptoes. So talk about reaching shelves all you want, but how often do I reach for the extra spices on that top shelf and how often do I wash my dishes? 

The real culprit to most tall people’s back pain is that the world was not made for tall people.

I’ve been known to pull up a chair to wash the dishes. Sometimes as I work in the kitchen, I spread my legs apart so my cupboards and I can work together comfortably. Tables are too low for us long-necked diners who dribble most of our soup before it reaches our mouths. Clothing is too short in one place or another. Beds with footboards are nightmare-inducing. When we bend, we have to bend further than normal people. When we fall, we’re more likely to be injured since the ground is farther away. And please don’t recline your airplane seat on a tall person’s knees. 

What is a tall person’s response to this? At least for some of us, it’s bad posture that becomes a habit. It’s sort of a peace treaty in a war that has too many battles. 

The next time you see a hunched tall person, have a little sympathy. Their posture probably has less to do with shame and more to do with acceptance of a world not made tall enough for them.

For the record, I enjoy being tall. But I do sometimes wish I could prop my counters up on concrete blocks.

Are you short? Tell me what it’s like to be short, because I honestly have no idea. 😉

For another perspective on “tall” (and some fabulously creative illustrations) visit: What Is It Like to Be a Tall Girl?

Photo by Nicole Smith on Unsplash