Even this late it happens . . .
The most common error made in matters of appearance is the belief that one should disdain the superficial and let the true beauty of one's soul shine through. If there are places on your body where this is a possibility, you are not attractive—you are leaking.
- Charles Lamb
At the beginning of the year, I renewed my subscription to People magazine, to InStyle, and to Glamour magazines. I’d let it lapse last year, choosing instead, a high-brow selection of literary magazines—Poets&Writers magazine, The Malahat Review and the New York Times journal. All of twelve months I dutifully perused through the black and white pages of The Malahat Review. I learned of phrases like ‘miscegenation’ and ‘epistolary’ —hitherto never heard or read before. I drank copious cups of coffee to aid my reading of prose that was serious, ponderous and supposedly thought-provoking.
Late last year, I eschewed my cerebral efforts and realized I missed the glossy pages full of well-dressed celebrities—beautiful people, with flawless skin and perfect hour-glass figures parading their style and fashion at red carpet events and splashy parties. It may be superficial, it may be facile—indeed, some may call it low-class. It may garner a shudder of distaste from my friends who work in IT and high-tech, who meet the likes of Gloria Steinem and Elon Musk at conferences geared towards shaping the New World Order.
This year I made peace with my shallow self. I may have raised two kids who are young adults now, I may be on the cusp of retirement and the golden years–the bruising pain in my knees after an Orange Theory workout may remind me of my decrepit body, but even this late, I crave physical beauty and fashion and mundane entertainment in my life.
I watch carefully my 74-year-old mother who forgets things, her brain a maze of tangled synapses. She sits, perched on a stool in front of the gilded mirror over the Chippendale mahogany dressing table and delicately applies burgundy-fuchsia lipstick to her thin, shriveled lips.
“How do I look darling?” she asks my 83-year-old Dad who walks with a limp and is hard of hearing. Seated in a wing chair, he is dressed in a three-piece bespoke charcoal grey suit, a subtle red-and-grey paisley tie, and a red silk pocket handkerchief observing my mom get dressed to go for their weekly bridge game at Gymkhana Club.
My mom turns from the mirror and faces my Dad.
“Oh, wonderful, sweetie,” he says warmly to his bride of 58 years, taking her hand and off they go into the sunset.
There are people who say that a certain age, looks or outward appearances don’t matter. What I want to know is: What age is that? Some things seem impossible to live without—as Fran Lebowitz famously said, “you’re only as good as your last haircut”—what’s the alternative, I say?
When you’re on your funeral pyre, reaching towards heaven, orange flames licking your dead limbs, consuming everything, yes, maybe then!