At a training conference I watched a video in which the keynote speaker was twenty-five years younger. In it, her hair was a shiny, black bob that bounced when she spoke. She wore a t-shirt and jeans. Her cheeks were like candy apples. I looked over my shoulder at the woman who stood before me now – cardigan draped at the shoulders, coarse, blunt hair, pale skin – and a passage by Czeslaw Milosz sprang to mind.
In his poem, Old People, Milosz writes: …They were betrayed by their bodies, once beautiful and ready to dance. Yet in every one a lamp of consciousness is burning, hence their wonder, “Is it me? But it can’t be so!”
Fifty will one day seem younger than I thought possible. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live long, healthy lives face the aging process. I used to fantasize I’d grow to love my curves, that I’d go grey with grace and dignity, no shame. But now I realize there’s nothing graceful at all about these greys. They’re as coarse as horse hair. Gravity is coming for me. These thoughts lead me to something I’ve been wondering about for years: What happens to the vagina after vaginal birth? Why haven’t I heard? It can’t be good. I’m not talking about when you’re young and springy. I mean when you’re past you’re teens and twenties, after pushing a watermellon out, I imagine certain parts of the vagina are left looking a little like ribbon candy. I’ve seen four births, but post-delivery V is a sight that’s escaped me and since nobody volunteers to talk about this I have only my imagination to rely upon. Maybe I’m wrong about the visual. In the end, it’s not that I wouldn’t be thankful for grandchildren, wrinkles and ribbon candy (especially considering the date), but wouldn’t it be nice to hold onto a smidge of elasticity?