I have three looks: gussied up, not gussied up and OMG. My friend Catharine says that I should include ‘Gone to the dogs’ but I argue that that’s just a subset of OMG. I used to have many looks: most of them pleasing. . . . But now I have only the three.
My brother Peter once exclaimed at how my mother and I could go from plain to pretty in a matter of minutes with a little judicious hair and makeup. For years the women in my now nearly thirty-year old book club were able to “come up well” . . . until we couldn’t. We had a group photo done of us in those glory days. We have not repeated the exercise. Before and after. You don’t want to go there.
An old family friend used to say of women wearing housecoats and curlers in public, “It’s all right to look like that, but do you have to come out of the house?” Every night I don a denim bag I brought used off of eBay, put my hair in pink foam rollers and my feet in Wellies and take the dogs out for their last pee, praying that we don’t run into anymore. If I do not curl my hair, I look like a woman who kidnaps children from shopping malls. No, really. And blow drying isn’t an option. I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror long enough to successfully pull it off.
Last year at the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Political Action Day in Ottawa I opened up a new publication outlining CREA’s lobbying successes over the years. There was a candid black and white photo of me taken twenty two years ago. I went around the conference showing everybody the photo and saying, “See! This was me!” To my alarm and distress, most people looked incredulous and asked, “Really?” or, “Wow! You’re kidding!” Needless to say, a downward spiral quickly ensued. I knew it was pathetic to persist in my quest to find somebody, anybody who would respond to my showing them the ancient photo by saying, “You haven’t changed a bit,” but, alas, I could not help myself.
Right now I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and watching Ken Burns’ Civil War for the third time, trying to wrap my mind around what tore my native country asunder during that conflict. This is my idea of a good time. I am a history nerd, a political junkie and a tree hugging, left leaning radical Obamist. Documentaries are my guilty pleasure, a pleasure in which I indulge perhaps to excess. I subscribe to serious podcasts and listen to them religiously. I sit on the Steering Committee for the London Homeless Coalition, for Pete’s sake. From all of which you might deduce that I am a fairly serious person, but you would be wrong. You would be wrong because, at the age of 61, I’m still expending blood and treasure – that is to say, my dwindling stock of time – on pretty.
Once, while visiting my then ninety-five year old grandfather, I gestured to a photo of my grandmother taken in her early twenties; she had predeceased him by a dozen years. “Grandmother was awfully pretty,” I said to spark a lagging conversation. To which Granddaddy replied, “She was OK, but she didn’t last.”
I guess none of us do.
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. And then they didn’t.