Back in early September, my husband and I ate dinner at the Blue Corn Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
My husband ordered an Indian Taco, which turned out to be a beautifully large piece of fry bread piled high with chicken, beans, salsa, lettuce, cheese, and on and on.
I ordered the Portobello Mushroom Fajita, which required no adjustments to be animal free, and tasted smokey, rich, and tangy. Plus, I got the drama of the platter served while still hissing and billowing steam.
Before all of this, however, I’d decided to order a glass of wine. Nothing unusual about that except:
T H E S E R V E R C A R D E D M E ! !
If you don’t know me in person, you might not get why this is so striking. It’s important to know that I became of legal age decades ago, emphasis on the -s in decades, as in, more than one decade.
When the server saw the date of birth on my license, he let out a profound “Oh, wow” and set my license down on the middle of the table reverently, like it was a valuable artifact.
He was probably realizing I’m near his mother’s age, but he looked at me and said, “You look a lot younger.”
My husband joked that it was dark in the restaurant, which is not untrue; however, I like to think of the server’s mistake as a great compliment.
It’s not that I’m trying to look young or would be offended if someone saw me as my actual age or even older. This truth, however, was a few years in the making.
When I approached age 39, I started freaking out about what “40” meant. I had no idea I cared, or that I had such negative assumptions about age — not for anyone else, just for myself.
After a rather arduous few years, I got over it and have learned there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in embracing who you are exactly as you are rather than lamenting all that you are not or will never be. (Read that last sentence three times quickly! It’s a tongue twister but good for your soul.)
Coco Chanel says it well:
“At forty, women used to exchange youth for elegance, poise, and mysterious allure, an evolution that left them undamaged. Now they measure themselves against the very young with defenses that can only be described as ridiculous.”
I found this while reading Karen Karbo’s The Gospel According to Coco Chanel. It illustrates the pain and futility of measuring yourself with the wrong yardstick but also what can be gained when youth is shed.
I, for one, would love to be elegant, poised, and mysterious! I am none of these, but for now, I’ll accept freakishly youthful in properly dim light.
PS: to those of you who read Karen Karbo’s books, you’ll appreciate that I was in Santa Fe, visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe museum, quoting Coco Chanel, while trying to LiveLikeJulia. I’ve not yet read How to Hepburn, so I don’t know if some piece of her kick-ass life played a part in this moment as well. I’ve heard “you are what you eat,” but maybe “you are what you read.”