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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

A Certain Age

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I was out shopping today for something to wear to a senior class banquet at the university. I mention the occasion so that you will know I was not shopping in the sweat pants and XXL T-shirt section as I usually am lately. I was looking for something moderately nice. With buttons maybe. And what I heard in the dressing rooms in two different stores was shocking! Shocking! All I heard, every single sentence, had something or the other to do with whoever was speaking complaining about themselves. Most of them were too fat. Some were also too tall, too short, too old, too pale or too out of shape.

These were, presumably, perfectly nice women. They were women who probably notice and compliment a friendís new haircut or sandals. They were women who, if I had stepped out of my stall and asked for advice, would have told me that coral was very nice on me and they liked the cut of the slacks, and then wondered if I had a chunky silver necklace to wear. Nice women.

But they werenít being nice to themselves. They were being horrible to themselves. They wouldnít have talked to a dog the way they were talking about themselves.

And it wasnít just them. I was doing it too, have been doing it all my life. I noticed, and not for the first or thousandth time, that my arms are disproportionately long, that my hips looked capable of having carried to term the entire population of a small Baltic country. One or two little Balts at a time. My belly looks like a big plastic bag of yogurt suspended from my torso. Not yogurt in containers. Just yogurt. Or Jell-O. Something like that. My bust is too small, my arms are forced out from my body at an awkward angle as torso fat and arm fat meet and struggle for dominance. My feet are as wide as they are long and I canít wear skirts because my leg veins look like a Google Map of a medium sized Midwestern farming community. State roads, county roads, city roads, each in a different color.

Would I say these things about anybody else in the world? I would not. I would not even think them. Which brings me to Susan Boyle of "Britainís Got Talent" fame. Have you heard her yet? Have you seen her? She has a voice like mulled wine. Like simmering honey. Like wine with honey in it. In a gold goblet. If you listen to her singing "Cry Me a River" you see in your mind someone voluptuous in a red sequined dress. Someone with glistening lips and smoldering eyes.

But she is not that way. Susan Boyle is us. She has a sturdy body, a ruddy complection and eyebrows entirely innocent of wax or tweezers or thread. She wears sensible shoes. She appears to be, like me, not very adept with blow dryer or curlers. Some of us are just not gifted that way. She looks perfectly pleasant, seems unassuming and absolutely nice. She looks like she might smell like vanilla and Windsong with a little hint of Vickís Vapor Rub floating about.

And instead of denigrating herself in a dressing room, bemoaning the ravages of time and the twenty extra pounds around her middle, she has put herself bravely before a television audience of millions, opened her mouth and shown us all who she is inside. She was brave enough to do that. She was brave enough to stand on the stage watching the audience and the judges roll their eyes and snicker. And then she showed them just exactly what was what. Listen to her sing "I Dreamed a Dream" and donít weep. I double dog dare you.

Forty-three million people have watched and listened to her on Youtube in the last week. Well, forty-two million, nine hundred ninety five thousand. I watched it five thousand times myself. Approximately. She planted her feet firmly on the stage, opened her mouth, and the world fell in love with her.

And that my friends is what I propose we do. All we women "of a certain age." All we mothers of grown up children. All of us who get up every morning and do what we are supposed to do, who make lists of more things to do. All of us who had dreams, who still dream, who still have that in us which might be great, might be worthwhile and wonderful. Which might, if we tried, transcend wonderful and be amazing. If Susan can do it so can you and so can I. But not if we waste all of our energy on self-loathing. Thatís a waste of time and effort. Guess what? Weíre never going to be twenty again. Too bad, so sad. So if weíre not going to be twenty, what are we going to be? What marvelous things are we capable of being and doing? And more to the point, when are we going to get started?

© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" April 25, 2009 Column
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