'I don't believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun."
- Virginia Woolf
I went to a book reading last night at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland. Lidia Yuknavitch was reading from her new book The Small Backs of Children and was nothing short of entrancing. I know people who would roll their eyes at the airy-fairy way in which she held and conducted herself under the sweat-inducing lights on her little stack of books stage, but I was captivated. Fifty-one and boldly telling her story. I'm a little in love. Though that's not what I want to talk about.
Instead, I'd rather relay the fact that I was invited to coffee by a 73-year-old man in harem pants and half-moon glasses. My heart melted as he told me he was meeting his friend the following morning in Fred Myers for chats over coffee at 8am and I should pop along. But 8 o'clock rolled round and I rolled over in bed, failing to meet my "date." A little regret rises but it somehow felt a little off. I'm sure I'll bump into him in the soup aisle another time.
I'm reasonable enough to acknowledge that 33 isn't old. That I have yet to hit my stride really, but when you are playing pool (poorly) in a dive bar at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night with a 22-year-old who looks aghast when you answer how old you are and shriekingly replies "I hope my skin looks as good when I'm your age", it's a little hard to know whether to laugh or frown. I chose the former and promptly got in another round of $2 PBRs.
Later that night as I removed all traces of make-up (paramount for maintaining that dewy complexion!) paying a little more attention than usual, I recalled a happy conversation with Granny years ago in her homely little Letterkenny flat. Overhearing her comment on how beautiful my step-granny's, who we called by her real name Mary-Ann, skin was, I vowed that I would find out her secret and let her in on it.
That following Monday after school I paid my usual evening visit to Mary-Ann who lived just down the road from us in a house with a green roof and promptly asked her how her skin was so beautiful. Proudly, she showed me the secret -- a pink, watery lotion with Olay written in stark black lettering on the front of a plastic square-shaped plastic bottle. Granny, I thought, would be delighted to know as I stored the name preciously in my mind to reveal to her on our next visit that coming Saturday when we would do our big weekly grocery shopping. The spilled secret wasn't, however, met with any great fanfare, quite the opposite. Granny merely laughed and said "Oh, I think it's a little late for that." I never really understood this, being all of maybe nine years old, but now as the years dole themselves out generously, I've always remembered Mary-Ann letting me in on her creamy-skin secret weapon. I steer clear of the pink, watery fluid, I am a committed Olay user to this day.
The bigger question at play here however is not the state of my skin or the preventive measures taken to avoid under-eye puffiness and dark circles, but rather where I find myself at this peachy age of 33. New York has always been my ultimate so finding myself residing in Portland, Oregon for the summer comes as big a surprise to me as to those who listened to all my previous Manhattan/Brooklyn harpings. To have waited and worked for the majority of my life to get to New York only to book a Greyhound out, voluntarily, screams nonsense in my head. And yet, that's exactly how this story is playing out. The irony of course is that I left NYC partially to avoid the sickening heat of steaming sidewalks and frizz-inducing humidity only to be met with an obscene heatwave in an otherwise green and rainy Portland. Make-up is pointless as it trickles down the side of your face in an ever-growing sweat bead and the joy of Peet's/Stumptown house brews are impossible since I've yet to embrace the American appreciation of Iced-coffee.
So here I find myself a million miles from the high glamour of New York, in a pool of my own body-oozing sweat, back in the job-search market and sharing a basement cluttered with decades old Christmas decorations and stacks of empty mason jars with a 19-year old misfit. Getting through this bucket-list I've constructed for myself is tough going and not for the weak of heart or mind. But to wake up each morning without that pressing weight of anxiety and questioning of what I am doing with my life is all I can ever hope to attain. And by this wanderlust I'm slowly eliminating what I don't want in my life, so really there is a method to my madness. That and my $10 bottle of Olay that will surely work its magic on stalling time from telling on my face and thus excuse my lack of a "real job" when asked what I do. So while I may not get so much as a second glance from the pretty nerd, no doubt a year or two my junior, tapping away on his laptop next to me over his iced latte, I'll just hold out until I bump into my 73-year old booky friend carefully contemplating the Campbell soup selection in Fred's. My guess is he opts for the Cream of Tomato.