At least in my failing eyes.
My high school friend, whom I haven’t seen in close to 20 years, spent 24 hours with me this past Sunday and Monday. She was dropping her daughter off at an exclusive ballet program in Boston and realized it was an opportunity to check in with me.
It can be nerve-wracking wondering if after the pleasantries and quick catch-up talk, you are going to have something to say to somebody you haven’t seen or spoken with in such a long time, even if she was a close friend back then. I figured it would be fine. We’d had a few private messaging conversations on Facebook and we “like” each other’s Facebook pictures. But I had to face the facts: Facebook interactions are a long way from being in the same place with a person. And we hadn’t spent any solid time together since the Spring of 1983.
Because my husband and I had attended an un-wedding reception (don’t ask; it was fun) in the city Saturday evening and it was our anniversary (21 years!), we stayed overnight, which made it very easy to pick up my friend at her hotel the next morning. We pulled up at the assigned time and saw her immediately. And guess what? She looked exactly the same. We hugged, did the pleasantries thing, and got back in the car for the 30 minute ride home
Over her brief visit, we drove around and talked, we walked and talked, and we ate and talked. We took a harbor cruise on our motor boat and talked some more. Dinner out; more talk. With my husband and kids, we talked. With the dog, we talked, directing much of our conversation to the dog in that funny voice that everybody who has a dog knows how to use. By the time we left for the airport on Monday, we hadn’t run out of things to say.
But we had admitted to each other that although our faces closely resembled our faces in high school, our skin may not be quite as firm and our bodies may not be quite as perky, due to childbirth and sadly, inattention. We didn’t talk about hair color but I can assure you that mine has changed some. She may be one of the lucky ones who hasn’t turned to the bottle yet (hair color bottle, folks); that we didn’t discuss, as far as I recall. So, yes, we looked exactly the same. But not really.
My husband tells the story of how, at our college reunion, he and a few other men were standing around commenting about how amazing it was that almost everybody looked exactly the way they did in college (20 some years earlier). Everybody was pleased with themselves and the conversation until one man reached into his bag and pulled out our face book from 1983, the one that was sent to each Freshman student before we arrived for orientation. He opened the book and pointed out the pictures of each of the men standing around the circle, including himself. Well, one of them said, I guess we don’t look EXACTLY the same. At that moment, I’m guessing that my husband, who, in 1983, had more thick blond hair than one might believe possible, probably unconsciously ran his hand over his almost-bald head.
Before my friend left, we had lunch with another close friend, whom neither of us had seen in a while (although I’d seen him more recently probably since we’ve been living in the same state since the late 1980s.) As soon as he saw us, we exchanged pleasantries (we’re so well-trained) and sat down to eat. The conversation was fun, moving from present to past to present with all sorts of memories rising to the surface and a lot of rehashing of the funny stories that one of us did not know about the other two. At one point, friend #2 said how much friend #1 looked like she did in high school. I didn’t think twice about his not mentioning my looking the same because she was the guest to our city and I had seen him 10 or 15 years ago.
But later, after everybody had left, I thought about it. Why didn’t he make the same comment about me, saying I looked exactly the same as I did in 1983? I didn’t have my high school yearbook to compare the then and now, but I did have my college face book, which had my picture from my senior year in high school. I looked at that photo and then in the mirror and back at the photo again.
Even with almost 50-year old eyes, I could see it clear as day. I don’t look much like I did in 1983. I have the same facial features, the same general shape, but that’s where the similarities end.
Does aging bother you? Knowing that you used to look like a younger, fresher you? Or, are you proud of who you’ve become and don’t care that you look like an older person now, are maybe even proud of your battle scars?
I kinda like me better now. Even better knowing that I can reconnect so easily with old friends. I just have to remember how glad I am to be who I am. Especially when I look in the mirror.