Thirty-nine and Counting

We women talk a lot about teaching our daughters to love their bodies, to be comfortable in their own skins, not to worry about impressing anyone because it’s their minds and hearts that matter and blah, blah, blah…

And then they ask how old we are.

“Nineteen.”

“Twenty-nine.”

The less deceitful say with certainty, “Thirty-nine and counting.”

It’s been a long week, so my Let’s-Put-This-Nicely is broken.

Let’s stop lying.

Let’s stop pretending our daughters will learn to love their whole selves when we can’t admit how old we are. Our girls are smart. They can do the math. You can’t turn twenty-nine six years in a row.

Wise and Wonderful tells me she’s proud of her age. Each year is a victory of love, of memories, of life. Not everyone gets to grow old. We should be thankful for, rather than ashamed of our advancing years. Besides, if you look forty, why would you want people to think you’re twenty? Far better to be even average for forty than to be a washed-up, matronly twenty-something.

She’s absolutely right. (Naturally. She almost always is.)

The issue for me is what expectations I will establish for my daughter. How will she view herself as she develops, as she births and nurtures her children, as she watches her body change from child to woman, from young to old? It isn’t enough to tell her her body is strong and beautiful and miraculous. I want her to know each year she lives is glorious not because of the shape of her body or the color of her hair, but because she – beautiful, capable, wondrous SHE – by the grace of God is a survivor.

So, I’m thirty-nine. For real. I have a few silvery white strands of hair. Once, when I pulled one out, the image of my paternal grandmother flashed through my mind. She smiled at me, but my attention was fixed on her stunning snow-white hair. I always thought, if my hair has to lose its color, I hope I go white like Grandma Puls. It only took a moment to realize the woman in my head wasn’t my grandmother. She was me, and she really wanted me to stop pulling her hair. I haven’t plucked a single shimmering hair from my head since, and while I’m in no rush to get to the nursing home, I look forward to seeing that old woman in the mirror someday – hopefully with a full head of vibrant white hair.

I won’t lie to my daughter. I won’t pretend the clock isn’t ticking. I want her to see the raw  and ever-changing beauty of thirty-nine, forty-nine, and hopefully many nines more. I want her to know age doesn’t go before beauty nor beauty before age. They go hand in hand through each passing year. Sure, there’s plenty I wish I could change when I look in the mirror (and let’s be honest, while I’ll never recapture my twenty-year-old figure, if I put my mind to it, I could get a lot closer than I am), but I hope more than anything to show my girl how to accept the natural changes of life, how to grow old with grace, confidence, and love for the woman she was and is and is becoming.

Next year, heaven help me, I’ll answer without hesitation,

“Forty.”

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