A Simpler Life

There has been very little work for me during the Pandemic but life is getting busier again.  Last week I worked an evening event in downtown. I had a couple of hours to myself so went to the restaurant next door, found a quiet place in the bar and sat down.  Then I people watched.  It was as though my life was flashing before me.

Like most of us, I haven’t been out to an event or party for a long time.  This was a midweek night but the joint was jumping.  A very loud party was on the patio close to the bar.  They looked as though they were at some type of conference; certainly they were work colleagues with briefcases or whatever you call them now…  As I gazed at them over the top of my glasses with a slight frown, I pondered how old I was and how much I looked like my auntie in Ireland!  The booze was flowing and I recognized myself in past decades.  How much fun it was to meet colleagues or even better friends after a long absence!  Everyone was talking over each other and screeching with delight.

Then another party started arriving – equally fascinating to stare at.  They were all Latino and they could have been attending a Quinceneara but I didn’t notice a teenager in a vividly colored prom dress.  I then surmised it was something like an engagement party.  They were all dressed beautifully with glamorous gold lame and shimmery high heels (not the men).  The ladies make up looked like it was professionally applied.  It was a fancy schmancy restaurant and some of these guests looked a little ill at ease but at least they were following the dress code.

A young white couple came in; she was wearing a lovely summer dress but he had shorts and a baseball cap on.  The host asked him twice to remove it – I wanted to swipe it off his head and give him a lesson in etiquette which again proves how ancient I am.  I was wearing a uniform of sorts so looked business casual but I had comfy shoes on.  You reached the restaurant by precariously climbing wooden stairs (it was a historic building) and I have no idea how the ladies with stilettos did it.  I had to walk sideways and hold onto the stair rail because it was so dimly lit.  The next day my thighs hurt as though I was doing squats.

We moved to Egypt in our 40’s and went to some very glamorous events and restaurants.  After two decades in rural Scotland with rubber boots and anoraks, I took great delight in my new wardrobe full of fluttery dresses and so many shoes!  Egyptian women have wide feet and for the first time I could buy ‘Burberry’ slides, kitten heels in embossed leather with a matching bag in every color.  It was even better in Texas and I still remember my glittery pink cowboy boots.  At the time I was prepared to suffer the discomfort of uncomfortable shoes just to look pretty – not any more.

Teddy and I used to indulge ourselves with very frequent meals out and enjoyed the buzzy atmosphere of a busy bar or restaurant.  Now we have a no salt/no alcohol/no nothing regimen.  I doubt that I would truly enjoy a restaurant meal again except on a special occasion.  When I was a child, we never went to restaurants.  All we could afford was a coffee at a café or maybe a real Coca Cola with the swirly bottles.  I still love egg sandwiches with a soupçon of sand in them. Such happy memories of Nana, Mum and I taking the train to the beach with a picnic on sunny days (the sand came afterwards).

Bit by bit, the customers started to leave.  Darkness falls early in the sub tropics so I sat there longing to be in my bed watching ‘The Gilded Age’ or somesuch. In the past I would have taken the opportunity to chat to the hostess or if I wasn’t working, I would happily engage someone in conversation at the bar.  Now I just want to sit in silence.  Finally, there were three people left at the other work event on the patio.  The noise level had decreased but the drunkenness had increased exponentially.  I watched with great amusement as a handsome young Irish man tried to wrangle his two female colleagues out of the restaurant and safely into Ubers.  It was a struggle not to laugh as the following scene played out in front of me. 

Woman staggering as Irish Man tries to hold her up, “I hate it when I drink and everything is fine and then suddenly, I am so drunk!  Why does this happen to me?”  Irish Man, “You’re alright love.  I understand.  Let me help you down these stairs and into an Uber.” “No, no! I don’t know what’s happening!!”  Meanwhile his other drunk colleague is barely managing the narrow indoor stairs that lead up to the restrooms and heading in the wrong direction.  He was herding cats and it was hilarious!  No judgment from me, however, as it took me many years to figure out exactly how much I could drink.  Two glasses of wine are my limit and even that is pushing it.

Suddenly old age and retirement seemed so appealing.  You should enjoy life to the full when you want to because one day you will be tired – like me!  So, this leads me back to the title, ‘A Simpler Life’.  It seems as though I have come full circle and I am happiest leading a quiet life full of squirrels.  The two pictured at the top were exhausted after another hot day.  One is named ‘Tail’ because hers was fractured at some point and is wonky (medical terminology) – the other is her boyfriend or sibling?  They snooze together and gently play tumbling their wilkies while giving each other wee love bites.  We look at them and just melt.  Who needs fancy nights out when you can look at wildlife all day?

The Seventh Decade

Kerry in her first decade

If you are 29, reading this and worried about your thirties, fear not – it gets much, much worse!  I suppose I should feel grateful that I have reached the 7th decade (60-69 years old).  Did you know that Greenland sharks may live for up to 500 years – isn’t that amazing?  I am not envious of them, however, as they spend most of their time at the bottom of a frozen sea with long periods of hibernation (similar to living in Scotland).  These last two years have allowed all of us to indulge in pointless navel gazing.  I have peered into my indifferent mirror that doesn’t even bother to tell me that “I am not the Fairest in the Land”.

Kerry in her second decade

As I pondered this subject, I thought about which decade I liked the most.  I loved being a teenager, blossoming at high school and then college.  The puppy fat disappeared and a pretty girl appeared.  One boyfriend commented that I looked much better without clothes on – not sure if that was a reference to my lack of style or a back handed compliment.  My body still looks pretty good if you are a myopic, older man in a room with dim candles.  He should also be a tad inebriated…  It’s funny and yet it’s not. 

Some of my older friends used to tell me to enjoy my 50s because it all changes after 60.  Shorts are not my friends anymore.  More exercise would help but that triggers my osteoarthritis.  I run to hug Teddy, all joints creaking, and then pull something because I moved too fast.  He creaks even more than me – it’s as though we have turned into Sequoias.  My skin tone has changed the most.  Why are my pores so large – aren’t deep wrinkles bad enough?  I was helped by a charming young man at Sephora as I was browsing skin care.  He said I really needed retinol…  At least the Israeli guys who try to sell you Dead Sea stuff at the mall, pretend you are gorgeous. 

Kerry in her third decade

Why am I so vain about ageing?  I come from a long line of relatives who look after themselves at all ages.  My aunt made sure she put on self-tanning lotion before her operation for breast cancer in her late 70s.  Recently, I had a revelatory moment about my age.  For almost 20 years I have had a reciprocal fondness for our gardener.  He always undercharges me and then I pay him more.  We have a small yard but we needed our oak trees trimmed.  If you employ an arborist to trim trees, it costs thousands of dollars.  He went up a ladder with a chain saw – good enough for me.

When he arrived, he caught me off-guard and I answered the door in my ratty old dressing gown, hair tousled unattractively with my glasses on. Even he looked embarrassed, so I ran and put some clothes on.  The job should have cost a few hundred dollars but he asked for $40.  It was a pity invoice.  I could almost hear him say “she used to be so attractive”.  Laughingly, I told one of my friends but inside I felt crushed.  Since then, I have dyed my hair blonde again, had it cut in a cute style and started wearing CLOTHES (sometimes they aren’t leggings). 

Kerry in her fourth decade

My twenties were a mixed bag – marriage to Teddy and moving house 6 times in 8 years.  Exciting and stressful.  My thirties were strange because although I finally achieved some professional plaudits for grant writing and project work, I was palpably anxious.  My forties were adventurous – we moved to two different continents in 2 years and landed in Texas.  By then I finally had my weight under control and had decent medication for my mental health.

Kerry in her fifth decade

My fifties were fantastic!!  I looked the best I had in decades, felt healthy, travelled solo to exotic locations and started a completely new career.  Had the pandemic not happened, I might have slipped into my 60s with little or no impact.  Work came to a standstill, as did the airport so I had no raison d’etre.  My husband was deeply unhappy at work and wanted to retire early which he did.  I thought we would hate each other with enforced cohabitation but we settled into a new rhythm with plenty of humor and silliness.

Kerry in her sixth decade

I should be #grateful or #blessed but I just feel annoyed.  I want to be 51 again but that’s not possible.  There are a couple of nice things about ageing.  Most people are very polite to me and younger ladies ask me for Mommy advice.  I no longer have to worry about sexy lingerie but Teddy will testify that I never did!  My one push up bra will last me forever and I need never buy Spanx or Skims.  I would pull a muscle if I tried to put them on – even Lycra stockings are the work of the devil.

The timbre of this post was intended to be humorous yet poignant.  Many of us feel a bit hopeless in the wake of war and pestilence.  I am certain that we all aged mentally and physically through the pandemic no matter our biological age or infectious status.  As someone who struggles with mental illness, I know that it really is possible to take one day at a time and move forward.  I don’t have as many happy days as I used to but that is improving with increased interaction without masks.  Long may it last.

Kerry in her seventh decade

Evolving

No filter, no makeup, just Kerry

Until I moved to the USA, I had no idea that some people did not believe in the concept of evolution.  Charles Darwin and some brave predecessors deciphered the basic tenets of evolution despite wide dissent.  His book ‘On the Origin of Species’ was a masterpiece although undoubtedly flawed.  As more fossils of every species are uncovered our knowledge changes and develops. The virus Covid-19 is a master of change, evolution and mutation.  The sadness of a pandemic is that we are all affected – two members of my family have died from Covid-19.  One was 22 years old.

With intolerable mass shootings in the States and rising violence throughout the world, one can see that the effects of the Pandemic ripple out.  A tsunami is barely noticeable at sea until it hits the shore with devastating results.  Not everything about ‘now’ is negative.  Most of us have stopped and smelled the flowers.  Our gardens or plant pots are better cared for than they ever were.  Our pets and garden animals are subject to our endless gazes or affection.

Quarantine started at a pivotal time in my life.  Last year I turned 60 years old; officially becoming a senior. My husband is retiring this month and our lives will turn a new corner.  I doubt I would have paid much attention to sexagenarian status without the Pandemic.  In my denial, there would have been endless fashion posts, new makeup and exciting hair colors.  Instead, we all slumped into loungewear and natural skin.  At first that felt great but now it is boring yet comfortable.

I have a mild form of body dysmorphia and rarely see the truth in the mirror.  Curiously, when I was obese, I thought I looked fine and now I always want to be slimmer/younger/prettier.  I am not alone, supermodel Pauline Porizkova recently stated that she was somewhere between Jennifer Lopez and Betty White; referencing the invisibility that older women feel.  What is wrong with ageing?  It should be something we aspire to but modern society is consumed by the idea of eternal youth.

It doesn’t help that this last year has made most of us look a little older; the stress shows in our furrowed brows.  A smile would change our visage but it is masked.  Now we look out for crinkling around the eyes to see that someone is smiling at us.  In this new thoughtful phase of my personal evolution, I am beginning to accept that I am an attractive older woman.  Young men won’t whistle anymore but I get appreciative glances from older men who also feel sad about ageing.  My mother was a beautiful woman who aged gracefully.  A neighbor once made the cruelest comment to me referencing my mother, “Isn’t it sad when beautiful women age?”

My personal evolution is deeper than that.  I mentioned in the previous post, Change is Inevitable, that I didn’t like what I saw behind my eyes.  If you asked a friend to describe me, the words kind and funny might be said.  During self reflection during sequestration the following words seemed more apt.  Impatient, testy, judgmental, insular, anti-social, fussy, undeviating and unkind.  Was I a good manager or am I inflexible?  Am I a good friend or wife?  Not always.  I could blame my mental illness for some negative elements of my personality but that is disingenuous.  In my life, I have met so many mentally ill people who were adorable, the opposite or somewhere betwixt.

Prior to the pandemic, I worked, volunteered and was social.  When we first moved overseas, I made a huge effort to be social and get involved with my community.  This continued with the move to Texas but it is not my natural self.  I struggle with small talk, coffee mornings or girl’s nights out.  WordPress has been a source of comfort for me to meet like-minded people.  Quarantine gave me the perfect excuse to retreat to my nest with my bonded mate and I know how lucky we are.  So, what is the outcome of this reflection?  I am going to try to be a better person to everyone I know.  My base personality will remain the same but I can be thoughtful, gentler, compassionate and sweeter.  My evolution has not finished and wouldn’t life be dull if it did?

This is a Pizzly Bear (courtesy of BBC)

Climate change is affecting all species, in particular the Polar Bear. As the world warms, Grizzly Bears are moving further north and interacting with Polar Bears. In a wonderful turn of events, they are interbreeding and their hybrid cubs are fertile. They are the same species but one is brown and the other white. All of homo sapiens were brown before the diaspora from Africa. Those who went furthest north developed fair skin, over generations, to allow their skin to access essential Vitamin D from the weaker sun’s rays. You could describe this as a mutation or evolution. I identify with the Pizzly Bear, we are both of mixed race, have wrinkles and we are BEAUTIFUL!

My Wedding Dress

30th Wedding Anniversary

I married in 1982, one year after Princess Diana.  Many of the dresses of that period look dated but my lucky bargain dress stayed stylish and beautiful.  This photo (set) was a gift to Teddy on our 30th wedding anniversary – 6 years ago.  My wedding dress had not been cleaned in all those years and had traveled across continents.  It was in a plastic bag in our attic in Texas and after I lost weight, I decided to try it on.  It looked amazing so I took it my local dry cleaner who made it like new for less than $10.  It is ivory satin with tulle and Belgian cotton lace on the bottom.  I was struggling to find a wedding dress in Scotland because my skin is really more sallow than it looks.  All the bright white dresses washed me out.  Finally, my mum and I went to Fraser’s department store in Glasgow and found this dusty ballgown (not a wedding dress) reduced from 100 to 15 GBP.  Even then that was a steal.

As soon as the photographs were taken, I took the dress to my local thrift store so that some other lucky bride could enjoy it.  I felt somewhat guilty for having ignored it for the previous 30 years… Below is the dress on the original day, 19 July 1982.

Teddy and Bunny, with our Mums at our side in 1982

So this is the original color of my hair and also Teddy’s glorious blonde hair.  My hair is naturally curly and covered in confetti.  My mum had sewn up the low cut neckline for modesty but the stitches burst open as soon as I stepped (elegantly) out of the taxi.  At least Teddy and his grand-dad looked really happy at the view!  I was 21 but looked like a teenager – nervous about marrying a virtual stranger and living in a new country.

The anniversary photographer had a make-up artist so I posed for a variety of shots.  Teddy proudly displays them in his office and delights in visitors saying “Is that your wife??”  Yes, she is. ❤

Teddy’s looking younger!

Teddy and Bunny

Teddy and I took an olde worlde selfie last week with the timer on a camera. My girlfriends in Scotland had met up last weekend and had sent photos of them enjoying themselves. There were a few ‘refreshments’ imbibed… With my recent ill health I had been reluctant to take selfies. My body dysmorphia has been worse of late and when I look in the mirror I see the older version of Charlize Theron in the movie Snow White and the Huntsman.

Teddy is also unable to see what an attractive man he is – who does not look like he has just turned 59 years old (I will be 57 in a few months). We met when I was 21 and I was astonished that he had not dated half of Glasgow. Even his aunt thought he was gay! Had I not predated him, I doubt we would be married for 35 years. I thought he was cool and uninterested but he thought he had met the girl of his dreams. We were engaged within 3 months and married after 11 months leading to family theories of pregnancy. I have still to whelp…🐕🐶🐕

He is definitely looking younger of late however and I have a theory about that. From our mid 50s we have been having a wonderful time, both relaxed at work and travelling the world together. Then the oil slump came and life changed dramatically. We both have new jobs that can be stressful with horrible commutes. We are working in more challenging environments using different skillsets, with new colleagues. As difficult as that has been, the silver lining is that we both look a little younger than our real ages. We try to make life at home as stress free as possible and rarely socialize with other people. Time is too precious to spend with anyone else but each other.

The icing on the cake is that Teddy won an award at the Offshore Technology Conference (Oil) for his part in writing a paper whilst working at the company that laid him off. Isn’t life ironic? More fool them. I get stressed when I am working events but funny moments make it all worthwhile. When waiting for some guests the other day, I was sitting with a lovely young colleague chatting. A Ukrainian limo driver was really staring at me and eventually he said, “I know you”. I responded that he probably knew me from the airport. No, he insisted that I looked really like someone from the old country. He moved the other side but kept staring at ‘those eyes’. I burst out laughing and said, “Would you like a photograph?” Later that day a Lebanese silver fox told me that he and his wife were like sister and brother. Uh oh – time to stop flirting!!

The night the photograph was taken we went out for an ‘early bird supper’ and I was concerned that last year’s dress from Ross was too short. You can see how it rides up in the photograph. We popped into Walgreens on the way back and both of the beauty assistants told me how lovely I looked. It was the perfect end to a lovely evening out with my honey.