Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Becoming Miz Lillian

As much as I strive to grow old disgracefully, there's always a pie in the face joke that threatens to take over my life. This morning while I was having coffee I read a sentence that referred to Miz Lillian, the Carter family matriarch who emerged into public view when Jimmy became our president. Miz Lillian was a fine example of the energetic aging process, having just returned from a stint in the Peace Corps in time to attend her son's inauguration, after which she wrote her first book and showed the world that a woman could be wrinkled and proud of it.

I revered Miz Lillian in my late twenties. She was a clearcut illustration that a woman's life didn't end with her first wrinkle, and that being ancient did not preclude being fully alive. She also frightened me in the way that Girl Scout leaders used to when I was small. She looked like the kind of person who would be fond of barking, "Keep a stiff upper lip. Stop sniveling," when I would try to be funny about what I thought were adverse circumstances. Miz Lillian, I knew, was not the kind of woman who worried about her clothes or frequented cosmetic counters in hopes of free samples. She was indisputably old and well above all that.

At that point in her life Miz Lillian was in her sixties.

I will be sixty in a few months. I work with women who are in their early twenties. Last night as I regaled them with indiscreet stories about the past history of the bookstore that employs us all, I realized that I could well be their grandmother. This morning I understood with chilling horror that they could quite possibly see me in the same light that I saw Miz Lillian, an energetic, withering crone who provides a sterling example of facing age without whining about it.

And suddenly I wanted nothing more than an arid martini and a cigarette in a very long holder--maybe a white fur stole as well. By God, if I have to get old, at least I can turn my back on Miz Lillian and become Auntie Mame.

7 comments:

Kim said...

Amen! There's a book in all this ...

Janet Brown said...

I'm beginning to feel like you--I have three on my mind that I may find the discipline to bring the life to that you have to yours! (And just how convoluted can one sentence be?)

Tokyo Ern said...

Hi Janet,
My dad always says you're only as old as you feel and he also always says that he feels 78 years young! And he's still spunky too. My mom is a ball full of energy with no stopping in sight and she just turned 71 a couple of months ago. Hope that makes ya feel like a young little rascal!

Tokyo Ern said...

Ooh, crazy. I just checked out your latest book on the other blog - that's the next book on my reading list that I was going to have my Dad send me. I'm a little more than half-way through "Ant Egg Soup". Love it!

Eugene Latt said...

I am still 27 but feeling too old to eat out with a girlfriend!!

Bangkok Expat said...

When I was young (teens), I decided I was not going to be cowed by all the aging female nonsense.

(off the shelf, dated, shriveled and wasted...)

The more I read, the more I knew that getting older was where the fun started.

And I was not wrong at all.

I'm now 50 and having a blast. In Thailand.

Because my smile is just as broad as theirs!

Butts, well, that's a different matter all together...

Sarah Mackenzie said...

I have just turned 50 and I like it. I have a dream about how my life will be when I am very old - I shift that date forward as I progress towards it - but I want to be able to look back and feel that I have lived it. You certainly are living out your dreams. Your blog is so funny and inspiring. I hope that one day I might meet you. Inshallah :-)