Gran and I loved to partake of a cup of tea. This was one of my favorite rituals, to visit my mother’s mother in her beautiful apartment, share our stories and news, and delight in each other’s company. My grandmother made a couple of startling comments during our visits. On one occasion I was making some observation or other about life, and she looked at me in surprise. “You know that already at your age?” Apparently I had imparted some wisdom beyond my years. That is, at least from Gran’s point of view. Somewhere from deep inside of me, I had retrieved a golden nugget.
On another visit, she told me that a TV repair man had visited that week. He came dashing out from her sitting room exclaiming, “Who is that beautiful girl in the picture?” My recent wedding portrait adorned her wall. Gran apparently told him, “She’s my granddaughter, Susan. And she’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.”
Now admittedly, my grandmother may have been just a tad biased! (You think?) But nonetheless, I felt she perceived a depth in me that others perhaps missed.
“Pretty is as pretty does.”
It’s just one of those sayings that is so commonplace it has become cliche. And yet, our grandmothers’ wise words are the deep truths that stand the test of time and help to light our way. So why is it then, that the wisdom of wrinkled “old” women has been pushed aside? Why DOES our society pray at the alter of youth and a definition of beauty that is impossible for most of us? I know the power of marketing to females. It plays on our insecurities, the result of deep programming that we are not enough unless we meet a certain physical standard. From a young age I saw through it and resisted it. Or, so I thought.
Flash forward to my 50’s. My conversations with other women reveal that we all deal with the various decades of aging differently. Some are easier than others, and each by her own measuring stick. But, many are in agreement that a woman’s 50’s can be tough. Visible signs of aging on our faces and bodies accelerate, and the fact that our youthful looks are fading is undeniable. I thought that I was taking it all in good stride, until in my mid-fifties my world was shattered. My partner unexpectedly and suddenly left the relationship, for a time. This was like a sledge hammer brought down on my head.
I came up against a brick wall, and that wall was me. The opinion of someone I loved deeply seemed to be that I was old and disposable. Of course, there were various reasons for the separation. There always are. But at the age I was, this is the lens through which I chose to process it. I felt deeply rejected and hurt. I questioned the value of me, from inside out and all around, until I could start to make sense of it. That is, in an objective and healthy way. Because truth be told, I was not as immune to society’s message that youth and beauty are “it” as I believed. Some of those insidious and manipulative programs had wormed their way into my psyche.
My saving grace turned out to be the murmurings of a 90-year-old woman. I am aware of her in the future. And she is me. She knows! I am not at the bottom of my game. Oh no, baby. I’m in a new game now, a new and exciting one. She cheers me on, “Come on woman, we’ve got a lot to do. Pick yourself up, shake off the dust and let’s get to it.” Now all the wisdom, learning and experience of a lifetime will be poured into new projects and goals, my writing, and continued travel and adventures. And who knows what else?
In view of all that, do wrinkles really matter? No they do not. For I am coming into the full realization of the beauty of ME. Inside and out. Compared to the rich life I lead, they become meaningless. I envision always creating, forever trying new things. I do believe this is the magical elixir we all seek; the fountain of youth. Be adventurous, stay productive, and never stop learning.
“Pretty is as pretty does.” If this is indeed a truth, then I have a very beautiful road ahead of me.
Thank you Gran, for seeing and acknowledging my inner landscape so long ago. And to that 90-year-old wise woman, the grandmother in me, I say this: I shall be seeing you down the road some day, probably faster than I would like. We shall partake of a cup of tea. And,… won’t our stories be just glorious!
“Pretty Is as Pretty Does” © Susan L Hart. All rights reserved.
Originally published in Seven Degrees of Wisdom: Welcome to our Circle.