I find myself, tonight, envious of youth. Not of being younger but of feeling that way. Of looking that way.
Today at the beach, I watched teens and twenty-somethings stroll up and down the sandy runway in front of me. Their bodies, regardless of size really, are still taut and solid. The vagaries of aging, childbirth, stress and life lived don't yet show themselves atop such fledgling canvasses.
Tan girls with perky breasts and butts peeking from tiny, brightly-colored bikinis walked with confidence as their windswept hair blew around their sunglasses. No stretchmarks criss-cross their lower abdomens. Age-spots and rising veins don't interrupt the smooth expanses of hands and legs. Sag isn't yet a word in their self-descriptive vocabulary.
Equally bronzed guys swaggered with confidence. Their necks slope into shoulders whose defined muscles are newly minted. Their torsos are taut like a drum, lean stretches that draw eyes southward. These bucks can still drink beer daily without the gut that will start to grow in another ten years. They can jump in the air and crash into the ground to catch a ball and be no worse for the wear.
You can sense the vibrant spark of sex and newness all around. The life in young people is palpable. Intoxicating. Lusty. I covet it.
I had the strange sensation of being surrounded by ripe peaches, dripping their sugary juices everywhere but where I sat.
I have never wished to be a teen or twenty-something again. Not once, for I found those years to ask more than they gave in return. I love being 39 and am grateful every day for the growing self-acceptance and assurance I feel, for being settled in so many ways.
But when I see pictures of myself now, I sometimes gasp a bit. When did my skin start to look so...well, old? I like my laugh lines and crow's feet because they symbolize happiness, but when did they become so...well, pronounced?
When did my stomach start to so assertively resist all manner of toning exercise? When did my hair begin to frizz and require mousse? Mousse! Why do I never, despite lathering on bottle after bottle of moisturizer, feel, well, moisturized? The circles under my eyes are not going anywhere. I think I'd best accept them and stock up on concealer.
My hands are looking ever more like my mom's and grandmother's: prominent veins, slightly ridged fingernails, skin that looks to me like micro-scales or finely-grained leather. Unlike the other evidence of decline, this I don't mind.
I always loved their hands and can still feel Nanny's in mine, even though she's been gone for nearly two years. In her later life, her skin was paper-thin but so soft. Unbelievably so. Her uneven fingernails were like a New Orleans sidewalk: on not a one can you walk two feet without encountering a break in the concrete due to uppity Oak tree roots.
My mother's hands always seemed so capable. Strong yet tender, large but feminine. I like to think I have a combination of their hands, and so it feels traitorous not to embrace the fact that mine are aging in similar ways.
As I watched the boys bury each other in the sand and Tom walk aimlessly while reading his Kindle (yet never hit a thing) and all the hotness of youth swarming around, I found myself glancing self-consciously toward my lap and my poochy stomach. I looked admiringly at my still-lovely legs and at my hands which, like my mother's and grandmother's have done and can do so much, and I felt a poignant peace.