Happily Even After
Aging (Or, I Have Wrinkles and Your Hair Is Thinning)
by Stacey Noem
It seems like over the last few months I have been taking greater and greater note of the ways that Joshua and I are aging. I am abundantly clear on how my face is changing and that the lines I see in the mirror are not tricks of light but real undeniable facts. But I don’t spend a bunch of time staring in the mirror and so my attention gets turned to Joshua…and the way his appearance is aging.
Little disclaimer here: Joshua totally has a baby face and is in fantastic physical shape. So, he basically looks fantastic and youthful and will continue to look fantastic and youthful well into people offering me senior discounts when I am 45.
That being said, his is the face I look at the most in my life – along with the children of course, but they really don’t sit still long enough for me to gaze at them or play with their hair like my beloved does. So I stare at Joshua. And sometimes I play with his face, moving his skin to make lines flatten or bunched up places un-bunch. He really doesn’t pay much attention to me when I am doing this and patiently lets me get bored.
The last couple of times I have cut Joshua’s hair, I was surprised to discover that the crown of his head it a bit thinner than it had been. Kind of noticeable on someone with hair as thick and dark as his. Never one to let an observation pass in favor of tact, I pointed this out to him each of the times I noticed it. He didn’t pay much attention and we just went on with the haircut.
Then, last night, we were joking around about who is taller (he has me beat by half a foot) and I pulled him into the bathroom to take a sight measurement. He won again, but in the process I realized that with the tri-fold mirror in the bathroom, he would be able to see the back of his head. So I had him lean in and showed him where the thinning area is on his crown. He paid a lot of attention. And made a lot of exclamations.
As I was going upstairs – he was still in front of the mirror in the bathroom – I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t have pointed it out. But Joshua’s self esteem is well intact and far from vulnerable to cosmetic vanity. As we were brushing our teeth for bed he said, “Well, it just started happening, right?” I replied, “Yes, in the last few months or so.” He said, “So, I’ve got about 5-7 years to go probably.” To which I nodded and said, “If you’re lucky.” At that we both started laughing so hard, I really thought I was going to choke on toothpaste.
I love growing old with Joshua. He once told me that when we were first married he remembers consciously thinking that I wouldn’t always look the way I did then. I don’t know if that sounds strange or would be offensive to some women. I take it as a real comfort. Even in the “heyday of our youth” Joshua was aware that the physical beauty would pass so he could make a point of appreciating it fully then and not mourn its loss as it slowly slips away.
I find it an incredibly liberating thought and in some ways at the heart of what a lifelong commitment is all about. We are free. Completely free from the constraints of what society and culture tell us is beautiful and perfect. I had a perfectly beautiful time choking on toothpaste with my loving husband.
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