At 80 years old, she got her first tattoo.
“Why the hell not” she said, relaying the story of her adventure under the needle. Her sun-worn skin had the appearance of a dirty potato, age spots freckling her arms. Her hair was thin; her gait a little wobbly, but her eyes shined with a light that seemed to rise from her belly like a candle in a dark room. I had interviewed the woman for a magazine article, and her enthusiasm stayed with me.
I want to be the kind of woman who gets inked at 80, I thought. I want to have what she has.
Since that encounter, I have imagined the kind of woman I’d like to become as I age. I know that time has already been an incredible teacher, pricking me with lessons about love, life and beauty. A painful divorce taught me to nurture myself and to trust my own strength and abilities. When loneliness came like a cold rain, I learned to find shelter in friendships rather than food or self-destructive behaviors. Finally, finding my own brand of beauty amid societal pressures has been a journey. But yoga has helped me fan the flame that flickers within me, beneath layers of insult, shame and self-loathing.
So thanks, life.
Thank you for allowing the blade of a bad husband and decades of painful scenarios to cut me to the core. Those sharp edges have shaped me for the better. But there’s much more to come, of that I am certain. So here’s to another 30, 40 or 50 years of flesh-piercing, soul-shaping situations. If I should be so privileged as to occupy this earth at 80 years old, I hope to possess these qualities:
The ability to laugh through hot, salty, hard-earned tears. I want to bring laughter like shimmering coins to the offering plate of life. When my words are few and my strength is small, may my laughter continue to be hearty, joyful and plentiful.
I’m not talking about food here, although I hope to be the kind of woman who keeps an adequate supply of chocolate at her bedside when I’m 80. What I want more, however, is a spiritual hunger — a near-gluttonous curiosity for life, love and beauty. I want to catch the rain on my tongue, and never lose the capacity to be warmed by the sun or soothed by a cool stroke of wind as the seasons change. I want to wonder about people too, never assuming I have them pegged. I hope I’ll be willing to peel humanity’s layers, with a patient and empathetic hand.
Okay, so this one is not so profound. If I live to be 80, I want to take pride in my appearance. I know that a bit of makeup and a pretty pink blouse makes me feel confident and feminine. When I dress well, I am more sociable and eager to go new places, see new things. Age be damned, I want to love the skin I’m in — no matter how spotted and wrinkled it becomes. Feeling good about how I look is not vanity. It is every woman’s rite of passage. So screw cat sweaters and floral-printed muumuus. I want to be 80 and trendy, sporting tattoos, lipstick and a pair of cute shoes.
And when I leave the party, I want my roaring laughter and infectious energy to linger like a sweet cloud of perfume in the room.