I turned 69 years old yesterday. Ooh that’s hard to type, harder to see in print. Like any boomer who hasn’t quit Facebook yet, (another thing to feel badly about) I got lots and lots of Happy Birthday wishes from friends (177 at last count ) most with just a simple HBD but a few with some words that truly tugged at my heart. One much-younger former colleague called me a legend. Another her personal and professional mentor, friend and ‘family’. Fashionista. Feminist. The words made me feel beautiful. In my heart. Where it counts.

A few months ago when we got a save-the-date for a wedding in December, I held the card up to my heart and cried.  Finally, a chance to dress up again. To get my hair done. To put on more than just a brush of blush and mascara. Life is coming back. And post vaccination with booster, I feel confident and ready to go to more than just a family gathering, to be seated less than six feet apart and to hug old friends whom I haven’t seen in years. I’ve got a new hot-pink jumpsuit, some sparkly shoes and dangly earrings. I’m back baby. Ready to dress up and look beautiful and party.

But still.. but still. It’s hard to feel outwardly beautiful at my age. It’s been hard for a few years if I ever felt beautiful at all. Short girls with pixie haircuts are usually cute, not beautiful. And then I was reminded of an event I attended back in September. A photography exhibit, 50 Over 50 featuring 50 women who had been styled and photographed professionally last year. After several Covid postponements they were finally holding it in an event space a few towns over. I dressed carefully while thinking ‘this is going to be a big waste of time’ yet intrigued that it might not be. And it was not.. it definitely was not.

I walked into a more magical, wonderful celebration of women than I could have ever imagined. Women over 50 were being honored for their magnificence. Their partners and children and friends were there not to support…they did not need support -but rather to share in the glory of the women they love. The women had been shot in all types of styles. Women in jeans and bare feet. Sweeping updos and stilettos. Gowns. Furs. One with feathers. Another with wings. I met Sylvia standing by her portrait resting on its easel. Tall, statuesque but decidedly unglamorous with barely a hint of makeup,  she said she was shy that she’d actually gone through with this. But her face was a mixture of pride and astonishment that yes, indeed this was actually her in that picture. I was surrounded by beauty and of all versions in one way or another of myself. Women who had lived, loved, lost yet were brave enough to share themselves with an audience. I was enthralled. I left the show grateful to have witnessed such greatness. As I walked out I paused to reread the poster that had greeted me on the way in. It was a poem by Derek Wolcott called “Love after Love”.  The last line reads :

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.’

So on December 10 you’ll find me at the State Room in Boston, wearing eye-liner and mascara, hair blown out a bit pouffier, rocking a hot pink pant suit and silver heels. I’ll be the one out there dancing like nobody’s watching and, if they are, who cares?

Liz Kurkjian-Henry
October 11, 2021
(age 69 years + 2 days but who’s counting?)

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