originally posted 4/27/14
I was vain, it is true. And my vanity caused many others to suffer. I was vain about things I had no right to claim as my own – my looks, my status (which was inherited, and then enhanced by marriage.)
In my 20’s, I was known as a great beauty. I was invited to all the right parties. Men desired me.
As I got older, I took care of myself as best I could, to maintain the illusion of youth as long as possible. After a certain number of years, however, age simply catches up. A woman loses her sexual power over men. If this is all she has, if she’s put all her eggs in this particular basket, she ends up with nothing.
I had four husbands and excellent lawyers, but even money doesn’t fill that void, though I worked hard to prove that statement incorrect. Still, it was better to have money than to be poor.
At 79, I was still elegant; still invited to all the right parties. My last companion was 53. It was obvious to everyone except me that he was playing me. I wanted to believe that I still had enough wit, charm, and charisma to attract such a witty, charming, charismatic man.
When I died, he and my children (with whom I was never particularly close), got into a protracted legal fight over my estate. From where I was, I didn’t care who won. I could see how utterly pointless their battle was. The loser, in the end, was the real winner, although it took a while for that understanding to sink in.
note: Today I was out for a walk and ran into two women I haven’t really spoken to in over a year. The first woman is a neighbor, and though we usually have a quick hello when we see each other on the street, today we ended up chatting for an hour. Mostly, she talked about her mother, who had passed the previous year. There was nothing unusual in that. It made perfect sense in the context of the conversation we were having, although it was the longest conversation we’ve had, probably in two or three years.
From there, I went to the supermarket. Right in front of me in line, was someone who’d worked for me very briefly over a year ago. We have not been in touch. I asked her how she was doing, making light conversation. She told me her mother had just passed away. While waiting to check out, she started telling me all about her mom, her personal history, her days as a political organizer.
I didn’t think anything odd about either of these encounters at the time. Later, however, I wondered if this wasn’t something more than mere coincidence. They hadn’t simply mentioned their mother’s recent deaths. That would have been the normal kind of news one might share in such circumstances. But thinking about it, it seemed unusual that they both spontaneously told me their mother’s story, in far more detail than what was warranted by our casual relationships, as if it were important for me to know.