I don't think you have any idea how much I needed that today.
That look. And that slow, well, well, well smile.
You don't know me but my name is Maria and I am not a graceful ager. I am now nearly 57 and for the first 45 years of my life, I pretty much got away with murder because I was one of those really good looking people. Once I hit 45, though, well...overnight, I just sort of aged into my real skin. My 45 year old skin and looks. It's true. I look at photos of myself when I was 44 and I was still a looker and then ones where I am 45 and I suddenly look...welll....about 45 years old.
My hair, always shiny and bouncy, even if it was sort of a mousey brown was suddenly kind of dry and lifeless. My skin, always peaches and cream (my college nickname from friends was the milkmaid because I had this gorgeous skin) was suddenly as dry as rice paper.
My breasts drooped. A lot. And I didn't have much to begin with, they were never my biggest seller...were suddenly like little half filled balloons that would fall into my armpits when I laid down instead of staying nicely puffed.
My hands, which I tended (and still tend to) let fly around when I spoke, were supple and pretty and always colored with a pretty polish. Now, stringy looking veins started to appear and my knuckles looked strangely crinkly.
The hardest for me was losing my eyes. I developed advanced crow's feet seemingly overnight and my eyelashes, once so long that they would occasionally knock against my glasses, were now sparse and had a major loss of curl.
I did not go gently into that good night of the last ten years. I had to be pulled kicking and screaming and I would embarrass myself sometimes by trying to wile myself out of a speeding ticket or get a price reduction on a store product and it wouldn't work!
I began to notice that when I got on a crowded elevator, walked into a room, or a store, I no longer got appreciative glances from (mostly) men. In fact, I was mostly ignored. There is actually a syndrome for this called the middle aged woman syndrome. It basically is that once you reach a certain age, you sort of become invisible.
I didn't like that much. I LIKED being given the once-over. I would never admit that to anyone, but secretly...I DID. Very much. And it just wasn't happening anymore.
So, you see...as I looked through all the wonderful sketch books, trying to find the perfect one for my daughter, who loves sketching, I wasn't aware of anyone watching me. Because no one ever does. I mean it! I could stick four sketch books in the waistband of my skirt and walk brazenly out the door and no one would notice!
Except that I heard a little movement next to me and then looked up into your face and you were smiling at me, an older, very attractive man (in a sort of Brian Williams way) in a suit and tie. I have expected you to say, "May I help you find something, ma'am?" because I have been called ma'am for years now. But, you didn't. Instead, you smiled and we had a little discussion about why I found this sketchbook more attractive than that one.
And you listened, smiling, with YOUR crow's feet crinkling in your warm blue eyes. And then, you asked me how old my daughter was and I said 15 and you said that your daughter was 18 and that you kind of remembered 15 as being a difficult year.
"They leave you for a year or so," you said. "But then, when they are 17, they come back. They know they'll be off to college soon and suddenly they realize that they love you and don't relish leaving you."
I laughed and said that this was nice to know because, that while my daughter and I were close, if given the chance to hang with friends or hang with me, I would be alone.
You nodded wisely. Been there. Done that.
"I'm divorced," you said, out of the blue. "But, my ex wife and I divorced when our daughter was 5, so she really knows us separately. And I have major custody. My ex sees her every other weekend. She is an international banker. Travels a lot. Are you married?"
I said that I was. Held up my left hand.
You sighed and snapped your fingers in a c'est la vie gesture and then tipped your head handsomely and said, "So, I guess you don't want to go next door and get some coffee at Panera?"
I said no, I couldn't. Needed to get home to my family. But, hey...thanks for asking.
You smiled very warmly to show me that there were no hard feelings. And then I picked up the sage green sketch book that we had both said was the prettiest and I tapped it and said I'd better get going.
"Hey," you said, "What's your name?"
"Bye, Maria. Really nice meeting you. That's a lovely suit you have on."
I thanked you and went to the cashier. I tried to sneakily find you as unobtrusively as I could, but you had disappeared up an aisle.
But...to the gentleman at Blick Art store on an early twilight day in late October.
You just made this woman's day.