Except when I look into my mirror (or yours) I don’t think I’m old. I’ve always been very good at self-deception. Inside I still feel young, not that different from when I was in my teens. When someone asks my age I shudder inside before answering, “sixty-four”.
One way cruel Parent Time (no sexism here) has of mocking your desperate rearguard battle against decrepitude is by making all your peers look old, especially your former girlfriends. I was at my high school reunion just a few years back. Under the influence of cheap Scotch, golden nostalgia, and the mid summer soft twilight, my eye saw all those girls I chased in vain back in 1966 as still looking fine. As the evening, and my drinking, progressed the ladies grew younger and younger. The mistake I made was photographing some of them. The next day my precious photos were, I discovered, mere snapshots of a handful of plump women obviously pushing past sixty and displaying all the natural shocks that flesh is heir to at that age.
Its hard to imagine that my first adult girlfriend Kathy, a skinny brunette with bad skin, big eyes and small breasts, who awkwardly ushered me into manhood late one August night just weeks before I left for my first year of college in 1966, is now sixty-five or so. I haven’t seen her in – wow – forty plus years. She remains twenty in my mind’s eye. Gail, my iconic, intoxicating and near deadly blonde, is sixty-four wherever she is. That smooth, tawny skin is probably wrinkled. I wonder, has her honey blond hair turned gray? My first wife will turn sixty-five this year or next. The women I dated in the eighties have aged by twenty-five years.
Does they dare to eat a peach?
And Janet, my dear Janet… I fell in love with her my first semester at Swarthmore. Tall, she was, with long, straight red hair and pale smooth skin. Her smile was as sweet as her kind, sparkling eyes were inviting. I still recall the instant I first saw her standing with her roommate Beverly (who later married my roommate) in Sharples, the college dining hall. Meeting her that day was the first really positive thing that had happened to me since I had timidly tiptoed onto the campus a week before, a nervous refugee from Tennessee.
Someday (which usually means never) I’m going to write a wistfully sad (but brilliant) short story about the night in December, 1968, when I kept her safely mythical in my mind by declining her unspoken offer to sink into her dangerously real flesh. We remained very close, officially platonic, friends from the time I left Swarthmore in 1967 for almost twenty years.
She’s turns sixty-four in seven days.
I haven’t seen her since 1985 or so (when she was 37). She and her recently acquired second jealous husband traveled down from Philadelphia by car to visit me and my recently acquired second jealous wife.
Things Did Not Go Well…. The initial disaster (I felt like I was in a bad English drawing room farce and didn’t know my lines) was followed by an awkward strangeness between us that endured for several years. One unbelievable, catastrophic coincidence the next year cut the few threads of affection still connecting us. She decided I was a creep, seeing me as plotting to emotionally molest her eighteen year old daughter. I wasn’t, but there was no way to convince her of my innocence.
But that’s another, tiresome and overly long story. In any event all communication between us ceased. We haven’t spoken or written since 1988 or so. This September, like a score or so past Septembers, I think about writing her or at least sending her a birthday card. I won’t do it, of course. I have no idea if she thinks the same each May, before my birthday. We are, perhaps, each other’s slumbering dog.
I have seen a few photos of her taken in her fifties, head shots on the web for a counseling service she started. I have a hope (fantasy, rather) of seeing her again. Of somehow renewing our friendship. I know better, of course, but in my mind the woman who might welcome me back into her life is still an eighteen year old, elegant, fresh faced, auburn-haired beauty I swooned over that Fall afternoon now forty-six years gone. If I do see her she’ll be woman in her mid sixties; but maybe that will be OK, too…
She’s totally gratuitous – just another remix of a sexy lady (photo by Joe Nilsson, original and remix subject to this creative commons license)
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