She wears sorrow well, a Chanel jacket of translucent threads and occasional sunbeam, each loss a scarf, bracelet, or glove.
Do not even enter her life unless you are the stuff of finest silk, metal, or perfume.
She will transform you when you are gone.
We are three women, 70 and older, living alone, our houses next to each other. We have been married five times, divorced four times, widowed twice, and lost two partners to dementia. We are called les trois graces. We radiate class.
Beyond my street, I have many more women friends of a certain age. My five closest friends, now living alone, have had six marriages, three long-time partners, four divorces, and been widowed three times. Each woman is more engaging and beautiful than the other.
Only one of us has serious health issues, two have had love affairs with men half our age, one is having a movie made of her life, another does scuba dives and two of us ice skate, one is active with on-line dating while another is an international fashion icon, two of us are working to inspire global movements to create a better world, and one of us is prodigiously creating miniature collages juxtaposing spiritual light and earthly violence. One is in Cuba with her Belgium lover. We have gravitas and style that women under 50 have not yet considered possible for themselves.
We know how to deal with men who are pompous, wear classic suits from two decades ago, cook signature dishes from each of the many lives we’ve led, travel anywhere in the world and order the best food on the menu, flirt without taking our clothes off, manage money, and create homes that are breathtaking. Breathtaking.
Plus, we get to say things like “I saw on Facebook that the second husband of the woman currently with my third husband just had an operation.” It takes decades of life to be able to say something like that. It’s almost worth it just for that.
It’s not about what we have done – led organizations, published innumerable books, been in the foreign service in Asian posts, run art galleries, headed boards, set up global networks, and been mothers, wives, and organizers. No, it’s about who we are now. It’s about what our pasts have become.
We are burnished, elaborated, embossed, glowing, subtle, nuanced, tricky, Baccarat crystal, crepe de chine, and mysterious. We are mysterious even to ourselves.
We became who we are not only through decades of experience, and continuing losses, and low points that were as low as the highs were high, but by what we chose to leave behind and what we chose to bring with us to now – by what we discarded and what we embraced.
We created the beings we are. We selected this memory and discarded that one. We interpreted experiences in ways where we rung whatever juice was in them out of them so we could drink of it and say “Yes, this is good” or “Yes, you taste bitter, but I accept you.”
We learned how to leave things and people when that was called for and to make the path of the future wider, not narrower. We learned that people will leave us, abandon us, betray us and still we make the path of the future wider, not narrower.
We learned to answer the call to joy. We learned to swim through the dark deep waters and observe wild creatures of grief, first in rawness and then, slowly slowly, dressed politely enough to be brought to the surface, presentable at the dining table as our friend.
We learned that when you have a minority fraction of your life left that nothing is so important as to make it sweet and to savor it. We have learned to make things of beauty out of loss. We have made things of beauty out of our selves.