I wasn't sure I had an answer to this question at first, until I looked deep down inside. I had to dig through a lot of superficial "this is the way I am supposed to behave as a 40-year-old housewife" stuff and expose what I was really feeling. I'm no psychologist, but I can give it a shot.
It goes beyond the pretty dress. (Which, I really have to say, I was so excited to wear for this Christmas party. I didn't really need a new dress, but when I saw lacy, sparkly, and red - in my size!- I couldn't say no. But, moving on.)
It's a need for acceptance. And I am not talking about a need for others to accept me, I am talking about my need to accept the life I live.
Since more than half of the women at the gala were younger than me by at least 10 years, I think I may get some leeway. No one would expect me to go out there and be the Homecoming Queen. (Thank goodness!) But I want to be able to go out and be happy. Since I knew so few people at the party, only one person would even be looking at me anyway.
And it's all about that one. But I will get back to him in a minute.
So it's not really as much about the dress as it is the woman in the dress, of course.
No one looks at a 40-year-old as a young lady anymore, unless they happen to be older. When I leave something behind at a store these days, a clerk will more often than not yell out, "Ma'am" instead of, "Miss." So therefore, 40 must be the beginning of "old." And what does old mean?
1. The best is behind you.
The days of not looking at the food I put into my mouth are long gone. I seriously remember deciding to celebrate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) at college one year by staying in the dining hall for the entire day, with donuts by my side. (Later, I'd go for a 5-mile run and have no regrets.)
So too, are gone the days of being annoyed by a man whistling as I ran by instead of grateful for his kind gesture.
And the days when no one wondered how many children my hips held.
The days of going to bed without trying to remember if I took off all of that wrinkle-causing make up before I hit the wrinkle-causing pillow case.
Keeping in touch with my youth is a part of why I work out so hard. (But of course, the other reasons for that are because I can, and because I don't want to die early. Those other issues require a post all on their own.)
2. The worst could be ahead.
Another reason I work out so hard. If I didn't there would be osteoporosis, heart disease (due to my high cholesterol), and definitely (with the way I eat) obesity. I am sure there's more, but I don't want to go any further. And that's just physical health. Exercise keeps my mind and emotions in a good place as well.
I won't dwell on this topic too much, because I prefer to think of the good possibilities we will see in the future. It's just not likely that any of those will happen in my body at this point.
3. The world no longer revolves around you.
This one kind of hurt to admit, but we all have a part of us that wants to matter. Just as when we were little siblings without a name of our own - for how long was I known as "Custer's sister?" - now we are known much of the time as our child's parent. Even when we go to the pediatrician's office, they don't bother to call us "Mrs. So-and-so," (probably because in this day and age, it could be any name at all!). They just call us Mom. I've always found that a little weird, but it works, doesn't it? Go to the mall and yell, "Mom!" See how many heads turn. Even if we don't recognize the voice, we turn our heads. I don't know why.
There needs to be an acceptance of being this age, whether it be considered "old" on not. There needs to be a turning out - a focus on everything outside of myself. (Really this should happen at every age. It's just now, there's no getting away from it.)
But on Pretty Dress Day, I get one night off. I can try to look a little younger, eat like I did when I was younger, and pretend for a few hours that no one else's existence depends on the choices I make for them. (No one once called out, "Mom!" at the party.) I can accept the rest of my life more readily when I get a break once in a while.
There can be a little (just a little) indulgence in who I am, not as a parent, but as a woman. A woman who likes to dress up and hopefully bring a smile to her husband's lips. And maybe, making myself as pretty as I can might make my husband a little happier too.
Passion Under Grace,