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Chatterbox: Suddenly, last summer


Life is short and we hear people encouraging us to enjoy.

Especially when dealing with body image, that was never easy for some of us. For others, it was. We were comfortable anywhere, had fewer insecurities than others and wore bikinis no matter what. Others sucked in a gut we didn’t even have and wore our beach towel from the dressing room right down to the shore line.

Many of us may remember the old song about the ‘Itsy, Bitsy-dot, dot, Polka Dot Bikini.” Sadly, yours truly remembers it when it was actually new, but that’s okay because at my age, I’m glad to be anywhere. If I also know where I am, that’s a perk. Anyway, the girl in that song was not the type to say, “Who cares?” and she nearly froze in the ocean for her modesty.

Sure, a healthy dose of modesty is good. It keeps many of us from making fools of ourselves. Most people would hope to never lose that, but vanity is something else. I’ll risk sharing something personal here, and say that, suddenly, last summer, without any real focus and without me even giving myself permission, I lost my vanity. For me, vanity was more about others thinking I was “too much,” as opposed to me thinking that I was “all that.” Many of us grow more inhibited in our middle years, but should we be?

The year 2018 was a fairly difficult one around here. Some health setbacks, a fiercely broken leg for my grandson, his summer on crutches, and several impromptu ambulance rides for various family members made me anxious to get into 2019.

When some unexpected but badly needed vacation time found us, we were ready. It was a modest drive for a quick half-week escape to an old hotel with a very long pool. I heard the water racing past my ears at the very suggestion of it. Then came the realization that my vanity was going to be an impediment. I mean a bathing suit at my age requires me to be surrounded by many friends.

As my hesitance rose in me, I wondered what I would do. I mean, I love my Norma Desmond sunhat, but I am no longer 30. Parts of me have gone so far south they have their own passport. My upper arm batwings are dangerous in a full wind … although, with proper anchorage, they can be used as emergency sails in a shipwreck.

I heard my inner Scarlett O’Hara accent screaming, “… Whatever shall I do?” Suddenly, something happened. My inner senior citizen shouted in my defense: The world should love everyone. My vanity was dead. I had learned to judge myself the way I judge others: Everyone is beautiful. I realized that the beauty most of us see in others is the same beauty we must find in ourselves. How we fill out a swimsuit has nothing to do with it.

We are all so blessed to be here, blessed to be around to help others, to campaign for the meek, to improve whatever we can, whenever and wherever we can. The older we grow, the more we have to offer. Chatterbox has quoted Mark Twain often about that. If we are concerned about how others see us, we should focus on the view of those who see under the skin, who see the experience, the sacrifices, the time-worn knowledge and the caring and love of others that is inside us. None of us should judge our self by a little paunch, grandmotherly arms, or laugh lines. The paunch says we gave life, grandmotherly arms give great hugs to our grandchildren, and laugh lines are a direct route to a beautiful soul.

I brought my revelations to the hotel with me. The pool was far more than it was even touted to be. I’ve swum in several oceans, two lakes, and pools that were indoors, outdoors, large, small, public, and backyard plastics from a catalog. This late summer impromptu risk we took on a funny little hotel had the best pool of them all. It was perfectly maintained and offered nice long laps, but it was my liberation that really buoyed me. With my dead vanity, I swam until the dark erased the adjacent beach and the pool edges disappeared into the night.

I’m beginning to like growing old … um, older, as learning what counts and accepting what is washes over me like I’m doing laps. I heartily invite all others, of any age, to jump in too. The water’s fine.