AGING GRACEFULLY WITH AN AGING ISLAND
My Aunt Francis was an elegant woman. She never left the house unless she was perfectly made-up with every hair in place Dressed in designer clothes when she could afford them and in knock-offs when she couldn’t, she always made a fashion statement, and she never revealed her age. Even well into her nineties, she refused to take a senior citizen discount on anything, afraid that if she did, someone might notice that she was no longer forty. Her life was a constant quest to turn back time. In fact, I am quite certain that if cosmetic surgery has been available and affordable when she was aging, she would have rivaled Joan Rivers in face-lifts and Botox injections.
I appreciate how she felt. Shallow as it may be, I hate aging. I hate looking in the mirror and seeing wrinkles. I hate that my breasts are the antithesis of perky. I would love to have a facelift, a tummy tuck, and a breast lift. Really--face it--I would like a total body makeover.
But I will never have any of these procedures—not even if I were to win the lottery and money were no object. I believe that there is a certain elegance in aging naturally, and I want to be comfortable with my face and my body as I grow older.
There was an interview with Diane Von Furstenberg in Vogue a while ago, and I was impressed with her position on this. She is a spectacularly beautiful woman who believes in aging gracefully and naturally. This is what she has to say:
I know that people look at me and wonder why I have not succumbed to the progress of technology.
Why have I not frozen or filled in the lines of my forehead. Why have I not clipped the bits of surplus skin on my eyelids. I am not sure, but probably because I am afraid of freezing time, of not recognizing myself in the mirror, the image I have been so friendly with. My image is who I am, and even if I don’t always love it, I am intrigued by it, and I find the changes interesting. Even staring at the small wrinkles that curl around my lips can be interesting. They just appear, one day at a time.
In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot.
There is a saying that with age, you look on the outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life. My face reflects the wind and sun and rain and dust from the trips I’ve taken. My face carries all my memories. Why should I erase them?
Nantucket is a combination of Diane Von Furstenberg and my Aunt Francis. The Island embraces the stark and rugged beauty that she has earned through years of storms, hard winters, and difficult times. The winter beaches are strewn not only with shells, seaweed, and driftwood, but also with the not so beautiful detritus from the ocean—trash, the occasional dead fish, an animal carcass, an old lobster crate, or an untethered buoy that has washed ashore. Similarly, the forest trails invite us into a much earlier world where nature has claimed her rightful place and little has been done by human intervention to alter it. We tromp through the messy and beautiful bogs and salt marshes that have been on Nantucket for generations.
At the same time, Nantucket is not loath to have an occasional facelift. She remodels and builds and outfits herself uniformly in stylish gray shingles. Her trails, despite their rustic nature, are subtly groomed and improved. Nantucket is a feisty, fun- loving, lusty girl who alternates her gray and gauzy gowns with gilt, glamour, and glimmer. Just look at Main Street at Christmas, dressed in all its finery—a polished jewel of a street. Carefully tended flowers nestle against wild sea grasses. Meticulously groomed gardens compete with wild and rustic landscapes—each lovely in its own way. Nantucket dresses herself carefully for each moment of the year.
SO, my goal for this first year or retirement and beyond is to become more like the beautiful island that I live on. I want to learn to look in the mirror and see the beauty in my wrinkles. I want to love my body and appreciate it for being strong and healthy instead of focusing on its growing imperfections. I want to embrace my age gracefully and celebrate all the ways my face and body have served me well during the past seventy-two years.
But, like Nantucket, I will also use make-up, dress to look my best, and wear my glitter proudly.
This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting. In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”