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Old Ladies In Bathing Suits, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:01am

Indian summer this week. Temperatures in the 90s. So yesterday we decided to go to Napa for a few days. Sit by a swimming pool, on a hillside. We leave tomorrow. I’m packing this morning, very happily.

It’s not a cold climate, here by the San Francisco Bay. But it does get wet come winter. Ever since I turned 35 – perhaps 40, I don’t remember – I’ve had the sense that summer serves to dry out our bones. Gets in there and bakes the marrow empty. This is a climate where you are well-served to take your cues from the seasons. We do without air conditioning for good reason.

When your bones are dry you can rest easy. When you exhale, with dry bones, anything difficult leaves with your breath. I know this is imaginary, but we are allowed a little bit of magical realism.

These days, if I think about it, my only unsolvable difficulty is aging. The minute we reach peace with ourselves, forgive old mistakes and get comfortable with our emotional makeup, the universe pulls out a new trick.

I turn 54 on Thursday. I’m not yet sure of my philosophy and approach to older age. What to fight and what to embrace? Do I still follow my instincts? The pull of the seasons becomes stronger. Are they more dangerous now? I mean this not at all in a morbid fashion, but I understand more old people die in winter.

I need a strong summer now. More sun to dry my bones. This is not a bad thing. If you’re my age, maybe you feel the same way.

If you’re young, I imagine you wish I wouldn’t talk about this. When I was young I wanted to hear no talk of aging or death. I figured I’d never die, and that old age would be scary. But sitting here, now, an open suitcase on my floor, a bathing suit at the ready, it’s really not so bad.

I’ve been watching old ladies in bathing suits all my life. The summer we lived in Santa Monica, I remember an old lady tanned dark brown, shameless in her maillot. My next door neighbor mowed her lawn in a bikini top. She must have been 60 at the time. I forgive them all now and I wag my finger at my younger self who disapproved. I didn’t know it wasn’t about their skin, or their flesh, anymore. It’s bones. And I didn’t know how good they felt in the sunshine.

Feel no more pity or shame for old ladies in their bathing suits. They are, perhaps, evolved. Seasonal, if you will.

48 Responses

  1. I'm 64, a time of my life that is wonderful beyond belief. The reason is my husband of 40 years who has retired and wants to travel, finally! So there's so much to look forward to…that's the key. To know there's much to plan and enjoy ahead. In fact, if you've finally reached true maturity, it's all positives and very few negatives. So enjoy your birthday…the first of many more in this new phase of life.

  2. Thank god summer has finally arrived here in LA. Tomorrow I plan to be an old lady in her bikini as lounge by the pool with a good book….plastic surgeon and dermatologist be damned!

  3. We are leaving? We? : )
    Oh Lisa, you are so lucky to live in a country with warm weather all year. My bones, muscles and joints are hurting all the time during winter. As aging, winters are really difficult. Come summer, and I can throw my painkillers away.
    Do enjoy your days in Napa!

  4. Yes, go bask in the sun in Napa, it has turned cool autumn here overnight so back to Vitamin D in bottle form. Great post and gave me a few laughs. Enjoy. XO

  5. I'm in the Mayacama's just east of the Napa Valley at the monent and the weather is woderful. Maybe this old lady had better get her suit on and get out in it.


  6. "magical realism" I need to apply more of that into my life. Happy Birthday early. My husband just turned 56 and was less than thrilled about it. I wonder if men, in general, are more vain than women, or if I just got the vainest of his ilk.

  7. The last sentence of your post reminded me a conversation I had with my favorite aunt 10 years ago. We were at a family wedding, and we saw the the sister of the bride's grandmother (who was around 75 years old at the time), who had glitter in her hair. My aunt turned to me and said: "That is why I can't wait to be old: impunity!" ;)
    I always admired old ladies (I'm talking over 70, you are by no means an old lady!) who wear bathing suits, spaghetti straps, or whatever they like to wear. I do believe they are evolved, or at least they evolved past caring too much about what other people think about them and that sounds liberating!
    As for the death issue, I am 34 at the time and I do think about it. My mum says it is very common when one has very young children (my twins just turned 2) because of fear of living them alone…I don't know…in any case, it is nice as always to read you reflect on the subject.
    I hope you'll have a lovely birthday and that your 54s will be full of fulfilled dreams and wonderful surprises.

  8. First of all, Happy Birthday in advance!
    This post resonates on several levels. First, I just got back in from a long run, and my iPod shuffled me through Toots and the Maytals declaring repetitively that they were "never growin' old." Wonder what they think of that, some 40 years since it was first recorded. . .

    Not sure that you'd remember, but I wrote earlier this year that for the first time in my adult life, I wore a bikini (really, a two-piece, much more coverage than 'bikini' implies) — and while I won't be mowing my lawn in it anytime soon, I loved soaking up the sun poolside in n. Portugal in it.
    Finally, with my mom losing ground to the vicissitudes of age, and with her only being 22 years older than I am, I'm very aware of having a limited span ahead. Old age is the only option and if making the most of it includes wearing a bikini in public in my 60s, 70s, and, if I'm lucky my 80s, I'd be a lucky woman!

    btw, I love how Marcela's comment above echoes your regular theme of "impunity"

  9. There are two schools of thought about old ladies and aging…one can dress and act as she pleases because she's relieved not to care…or one can care more than ever to be elegant, in dress and deed, and show young people that aging is a flattering process.

  10. As a young(ish) meteopath, I am already very seasonal. I don't yet feel it in my bones, but I expect I soon shall.

    Also, your writing allows me to breathe easy. Like sunshine on my skin.

  11. Enjoy the sun on your skin and warming your bones – it will keep them in fine form during the winter and happiest of birthdays in advance too. x

  12. Thanks for another inspiring meditation, and have a wonderful birthday. It really does just get better, as adult children settle and elders do whatever they are going to do.
    I just got back from the south of France where I saw a plethera of of soft, crepey tan skin on well-coiffed older women–most in maillots, me in a 40s style navy blue skirted two piece,(great abs, lousy thighs)–about a third of the older women went topless. I was just deliriously happy to be alive, on the Med, and able to walk and swim. Espresso, and later in the day, rose, brought to our stand of sunshade, chairs and tables didn't hurt either. Enjoy yourself in Napa!

  13. You are grappling with two related matters: the cues your body gives as you age about what you need to feel well, and your attitude toward the evident signs of nearly 54.

    Part of having a full life at that age includes the awareness of its impermanence. Every time I wish my arms were firmer (etc.) I think of the wonderful women friends who are no longer here, who would have loved that beach or pool. Shifts my attitude right quick. Bon voyage, L.!

  14. I'll be the one waving at you from a shady spot underneath a tree, glass of chilled Chardonnay in hand.

    While I enjoy a warm sunny spot on a cool day, I've never been one to enjoy Heat. I also still approach the idea of public wearing of bathing suits with considerable trepidation.

    I loved your bit of magical realism though. Your "dry bones" theory certainly explains why people tend to retire to desert locales. Me, I'm heading to the mountains or a foggy beach town.

  15. I wag my finger at my younger self who disapprove

    I try to not judge older women who are wearing comfortable but very ugly shoes. Some day, I, too, will stop caring about how my feet look and worry only about how they feel.

  16. great post lpc. happy birthday and soak up some of that sun for me. b/c of so many skin pre-cancers and cancers i can no longer bask in the sun. i miss that terribly. i am as white as the driven snow and envy anyone, no matter their age that can lie in the sun and soak up its goodness. cheers to 54!


  17. Paula – I love the idea of a Tepidarium. Life should be a Tepidarium.

    Anon – It is really joyful, hearing a voice from the next decade. Thank you.

    Belle – Yahoo!

    Mette – :).

    A Gift Wrapped Life – Basking is such a perfect word…

    Darla – Oh perfect! An advance scout!

  18. Tabitha – Oh. Thank you.

    Jill – Maybe he just worries about keeping up with you:).

    Marcela – I got scared of flying after I had my kids too. And I think the day my hair is finally all gray I too will spray it with glitter. Silvery, lavender, glitter.

    Mater – Yes, you know, it's not so simple as aging is wonderful, nor so simple as I have a thicker middle. Not even as simple as increased understanding of how short it all is. As you have written here, it's an odd gathering of threads, without anything completely evident being woven.

    agirl – Thank you. I would imagine you have a deep relationship with sunshine. I had never seen the word meteopath before. Thank you for that too:).

    Semi – Thank you very much.

  19. Anonymous #1 – I think I fall somewhere in between. I care, but in different ways and about different things. I wouldn't want to offend anyone, but I myself feel less concern about things that use to send me into a state. ( Sorry I missed you as I came down the page of comments at first)

    Anonymous #2 – I love it. Great abs, lousy thighs, the Med, espresso, rose, shaded chairs and tables. Long may we wave.

    Duchesse – Thank you, for your bon voyage wishes and your perspective.

    Deja – Oh, I'll come over, to sit, and chat. And as the decades pass, up to the mountains too:).

    Class – I was just talking to my mother this morning about her new white walking shoes.

    Janet – I too am usually very careful about sun. I've never been a tanner. They do say now that everyone should get at least 10 minutes a day – without protection – does that no longer apply in your situation? I will try to send some bone drying energies your way:).

  20. Happy birthday. Having turned 60 this year, I run more slowly than I did at 30, but I can honestly say that I am more content than ever. I hope you will be as well.

  21. Have fun in Napa…swim and sunbathe to your heart's content….
    and as metscan observed "We" are going!

    I understand how the sun warms bones…mine ache and the warmth is a welcome tonic.

    I cannot imagine mowing the lawn in a bikini top…but I have seen many women of a certain age actively engaged in activities while wearing swimsuits…some look better than others…I am not in the habit of judging for fear of being judged harshly myself!

    "I wag my finger at my younger self" is such lovely imagry.

    Happy 54th Birthday!

  22. I find that I am much more tolerant of skirted swimsuits than I was in my younger days.

    Happy Birthday! Mine is Monday so we're both Libras.

  23. LPC,
    What is aging about anyway? At some level I think it's about coming to terms with losses. All things are impermanent. Our soul's journey is a series of lessons in losses. I admire old ladies who have their dignity intact… That is just about all that is left. And sometimes that goes too, dependent on medical situations.

    In the decade of my fourties I dyed my hair to cover the beginnings of grey. Now I'm 55, and I wear my grey with pride. It's my wisdom.

    Thank you for another insightful post. Happy Birthday on Thursday.
    The Fourth Canary

  24. Your beautiful words catch my breath. I'm 51 and starting to notice how much I need warmth and sunshine, and rest. Your idea about the sun drying out the bones resonates deeply with me. Thank you. Have a wonderful time in Napa, and a very happy birthday.

  25. A very Happy Birthday to you for Thursday.I feel the same as you.I live in the Med and adore the heat and the sun although I am English by birth I tan . I dont care what others think if I need sun for my bones Im out there.I tell everyone that I am cold from October to the end of May.This morning I had to put on a winter dressing gown its the beging of the end.Liz

  26. Been 54 now for about 4 months and it's fine on this side of 53. My mom has been gone for 20 years now. I think of death as following her into the darkness. She wouldn't lead me anywhere that wasn't OK. I learned loads from the German grandmothers going topless at a beach on the Med. They didn't do it for anyone's pleasure but their own.

  27. Love this post, LPC. So true. Never thought about it either before recently. For me it's all of the joint/bone/muscle pains. When did *that8 start happening. If it helps, you look decades younger!! (really!)

    Delia Lloyd

  28. Happy birthday!

    There's something life affirming about the feeling of dry heat on sun warmed skin. I equate winter with death (and eczema, for me).

  29. I love every bit of wisdom that are in your words here. This post should be shown to women of all ages. Thank you. I hope you are having a marvelous time away. XX

  30. What a beautiful post. Your thoughts resonate with me, as I'm close to 'old age' too. I've already lost friends who are younger than I am now.

    I now think about the number of summers I might have left, and the number doesn't seem like very many. When I was younger I never gave it a thought – 'there's always next summer' was my attitude.

    Soak up the sun while you can.

  31. A- 54 is NOT "old lady"
    B- jealous that you are having swim suit weather
    C- the "old ladies" in their suits at the CC have always fascinated me- also seem to be the ones that lead the richest lives- who doesn't want to be the 78 year old lady who comes and swims 10 laps every day at three in the afternoon?!



  32. :)
    It will look lovely on you.
    The bride's grandmother had copper tone hair (dyed of course) and the glitter was multicolored but subtle. She looked very cute!

  33. lauren – xox

    MJ – Very good to hear. Thank you.

    Class – Thank you!

    Hostess – ;). Thank you…

    RoseAG – Well hello fellow Libra! Happy Birthday to you!

    fourth – "Our soul's journey is a series of lessons in losses." Don't you feel that some losses give something in return?

  34. Pam – Thank you so much.

    Anonymous – You made me laugh:). Thank you very much.

    Carole – Thank you.

    Shelley – "She wouldn't lead me anywhere that wasn't OK." Ah.

    Delia – The joints really do protest. Thank you – but I promise in real life I only look youngish for my age:).

    Caroline – Thank you. Eczema is really insult to injury.

  35. Lori – Thank you. I am really looking forward to the trip.

    Northmoon – "Soak up the sun while you can." Exactly.

    QBS – I know. But older lady. And I'd love to be the one swimming 10 laps. 20 if I could. xox

    Marcela – I can't wait for my glitter moment.

  36. Think 360. This gives one enormous insight & understanding & huge intelligence which makes it possible to decide what you're willing to accept & also what you are not. Brilliant post.

  37. Living in the DFW area for the first two 42 years of my life, I took the summer heat (which lasts from April through October) for granted. I miss those days.

    Today was our first real day of fall here in northeast Ohio. While I look forward to autumn – it's spectacular here – I do NOT look forward to winter. I will never be a winter type of person.

    That being said, I look forward to being your age. For many reasons, but (honestly) mostly to get this damn menopause ordeal over with.

  38. My goal is to don a 2 piece again and I am working hard towards that goal. My friend said, "Will the 2 piece be tasteful?" To which I replied,
    indeed. As we age, we all need goals, warmth and to find content in our own skin.
    Happy Birthday to you.

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