My mother spent the better part of her life trying to cheat time, and she died a very sad and lonely woman because of it. Until her death at 73, she never felt she was pretty and thin enough or, in her later years, young enough to claim even the smallest of spaces on this planet. Once her beauty faded and she was left to make peace with the tormented woman she was, she took to her bed and pulled the blankets over her head. For my mother, there was no peace to be had.

Her life became my cautionary tale, and through the years I have tried to avoid her missteps. At times, though, the forces of inherited biology and culture have conspired to set me down on her very footpath, and, to right myself and point in another direction, I have had to summon up all the courage and steely will I could find. 

For my mother, a divorcée at a time when women did not divorce with impunity, beauty and economic survival seemed inextricably entwined. She believed that her good looks and feminine wiles were the only things that stood between her and the street, and, sadly, she was not wrong. With only a high school education and $78 a month in child support, she needed to become very clever.

Thankfully, I have had more options in my life than she did. I am well educated and so have always been able to land a professional job. But now, at 60, and having had to endure a protracted period of un and under employment, I have become well aware of the fact that destiny is not ours to fashion. We have only a little bit of say.

I didn’t imagine that at this point in my life I would find myself single and without work. But, there it is. Without a job that pays a livable wage and that affords me my dignity, I am very clear about where I would end up. Fortunately, I was offered a good job, which begins next month, and so I can put off the inevitable. At some point, though, my dyed hair won’t fool anyone, my wrinkles will simply guffaw at the face cream I slather on, my knees will hurt all the time, and I’ll be ready for bed at 7pm.

Like my mother, I have worshipped false idols, and I find myself now kneeling in front of a naked altar. Before it is too late, I hope I will come to learn what kinds of new offerings I must make to which kinds of gods. And save myself.


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