I published this essay on CuriosityQuills.com a few days ago. For those of you that didn’t read it there, here it is again.
On September 8th I heard a news story about Angela Dorian, 1968’s Playmate of the Year. Following her 60’s splash into the media, Angela continued to get work playing supporting character roles in TV and movies, including “Rosemary’s Baby.” Then she subtly drifted off the radar and no one even noticed.
Now I can tell you that just one year before Angela’s big win as the 1968 queen of sex appeal, her center-fold was stapled to my college dorm room ceiling, along with the fifty-nine other playmates-of-the-month I had raided from my dad’s Playboy collection. You see, I was a dreamer. And as I fell asleep each night fantasizing about those perfect bodies, all I wanted to do was get old enough to attract one of those sizzle chicks and make her swoon in my arms, although “swoon” was not the word I would have used back then. I was still eighteen and Angela was what? Twenty-one? An older woman in my book who I figured was going out with guys at least twenty-six, or twenty-seven, maybe twenty-eight! And those men had money and drove Stingrays or Mustang GT’s and had cool apartments with black leather and chrome sofas and super stereos and views to the ocean. Yep. I couldn’t wait to get old, get out of college, get money and get laid.
I couldn’t wait…until I DID get old.
And now, even with all the cars and all the gals in my past that came and went, I miss those days I wanted so badly to get past. Not because I miss the innocence of youth, but because I miss the young healthy bodies we all had that went with it. I miss the arms, legs and muscles that did anything I wanted, simply by thinking it. I miss the unlimited energy and the ability I had to run on four hours of sleep. And I miss the creaseless faces that lied about my future and told me I would always be young.
I’m not complaining about my years. I wouldn’t subtract a single experience from my life. And I certainly don’t feel old, nor do I act old. But my physical body IS old, or at least older, and the appearance I had at 26 will never come back. I tried letting my locks grow longer a year ago. Dumb idea. So my hair is shorter again and I’m feeling it’s more me, and more honest.
So what am I writing about here? What I’m leading up to, is that all the people I know who are my age and older, are coming to the same conclusion: When the body breaks down, getting old sucks.
Below is a picture what Angela Dorian looks like now. Her real name is Victoria Rathgeb, and she is seated in a Los Angeles courtroom. The girl of my nineteen year-old dreams just got sentenced to nine years for shooting her husband while high on methamphetamine. This happened in a West Hollywood apartment. Not in a Bel Air mansion that I dreamed about in college days. Victoria is not dazzling gorgeous anymore. She certainly is not happy and rich and living happily ever after. But the saddest part is, except for cellmates and correction officers, for the next nine years, Victoria Rathgeb will be growing even older alone.
Beauty is about who we ARE and what we DO. Not what we look like.
At some point, youthful looks will leave us. Our bodies will sag, our bones with hurt, and eventually a thorough bowel movement will be our lunch conversation. And ya know what? That’s all worth it when there’s love in our lives.
When we are loved and loving, and doing lovable acts, the journey into age is all worth it. But we have to remember that. We really do. Every time we look at our mirrored reflection, or pump up in the gym, or pluck those first gray hairs off our face, we have to remember: People will see us as beautiful forever, if we ARE beautiful; thinking “beautiful” thoughts, acting in “beautiful” ways, feeling “beautiful” inside, for the “outside” will surely wither.
I’ve been married for thirty-six years. When I met my wife, T, I looked like my avatar on this post. She was a knock-out with a sexy German accent. Yes, we were “beautiful people.” And now we’re in our sixties looking very much older. But I can honestly tell you that when T laughs, I see her as a care-free little girl. When we tuck ourselves in at night, we are back to our twenties and thirties. When we hold hands, the love still glows. And when we gaze into each other’s eyes, we can’t deny our fear of losing another day…that dying is certainly the place where we’re headed. So we clutch what we have left to stop the growing-old part. It doesn’t work. Every morning there’s another chance of discovering that a body part doesn’t quite work as well as it did the day before. We older people, we try to ignore the growing-old part. Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should not take a single day for granted. Every day is a gift, at least for now.
So I guess that’s what this post is about; not sweating the small stuff, like how we physically look; and remembering that beauty is really kindness and compassion for others, and that we must never forget that.