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Monday, August 04, 2008

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The Promise

I stood in the dark parking lot, letting what I'd just heard sink in. Patrick was twenty feet away, saying goodnight to one of the people we'd just come from dinner with, white ash drifting from the end of his cigarette as he gestured. I looked at my girlfriend.

"My god," I said. "How awful."

She nodded. "I've heard he's already moved out and is living with the new woman."


We kept our voices low, more out of solemnity than secrecy. If we were ten or fifteen years younger, such news would have been gossip. Pretty young things can go whistling past the graveyards of other women's marriages. At 38 and 40, we all but crossed ourselves.

My friend is a close enough friend that I don't have to pretend enlightenment when I'm not feeling it. "It's so unfair," I said. "Our time runs out, and theirs doesn't." For a rare instant, I missed having my own cigarette to blow smoke in the face of mortality. But I quit years ago for all the obvious reasons, not the least of which was how smoking ravages a woman's skin. Of all the arguments I've used to try to persuade Patrick to kick his nicotine addiction, that's one I've never bothered with. The lines around his eyes only seem to make the green of his irises all the more piercing. What makes women look haggard makes men look rugged. Bastards.

"Sometimes I feel like I should run out and have an affair just because," I said wryly. "Because what if I want to later and I can't, because nobody wants me? I mean, what if it turns out we squandered all of our youth on men who go and leave us later for younger women?"

My friend laughed. "I feel exactly the same."

We were being funny with each other, but relaying the conversation to Patrick on the ride home in the car, I lost my bluster. My voice was thick liquid, pooling in the back of my throat.

"You don't understand," I choked out. "You don't know how it feels." I was beginning to cry. I felt doubly vulnerable, because I am supposed to know better. I am supposed to know that beauty is skin deep, that youth is wasted on the young, that age is a state of mind, that the best is yet to come, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. What kind of a shallow twit does it make me to admit I am afraid of not recognizing myself in the mirror someday, of becoming invisible in a society where appearance is social currency, of wearing out a way of being in the world that's been so familiar and easy for so many years?

He let me carry on in the key of "you don't" for about half the drive. Then he spoke, in the low and quiet tone he uses only when he really needs me to shut up and hear something. It is only good for a finite number of uses, so he saves it for the big things.

I never want my husband to hesitate on the verge of such a moment, wondering how it will play out in the blog or in print later. So I'm not going to repeat what he said to me here, or anywhere. But he told me to listen, and to listen good, so I did, while he turned all my "you don'ts" back into "I Do".

I almost forgive him for wrinkling well. Bastard.



Blogger /brandon\ said...

i used up all my low quiet tones on foot massages back in 1996. nobody told me they were finite! i will know better for my next marriage, i suppose.

6:39 PM  
Blogger I am Boymom said...

I found you through Ransom Note - I love your blog...seriously. Funny that I am reading this post while I am in the middle of my midlife crisis. My husband didn't leave me, but I do feel like I have become invisible to the world now that I have to get back out there and compete in it after being a stay at home mom for 8 years.'s a scary place to be. Hopefully my husband will figure out something awesome to say to pull me out of it. In the meantime, it helps to know that somebody out there gets it!

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to know what he told you. Something like don't be an insecure twit? Or, shut up, pretty girl?

Having been a plain woman my entire life, and not really ever being able to trade on my looks (I use other currency), I can't imagine what it's like to be afraid of aging like that. I do know what it's like to become more invisible with age in some ways and to some audiences (teens), but in other ways and to other groups of people I think I shine more than ever.

Oh sure, I have pity parties for myself, but usually it's around money or family.

It's heartening to know he was able to tell you something to stop you in your tracks. I just wish you could share it ... it sounds potent. We could probably all use it.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Petunia Face said...

What a beautiful post for such a raggedy ass thing. Thank you for putting into words what I'm afraid to even feel. *sigh*

And whatever your husband told you? It ranks right up there with the mysteries of the ages, like what the hell did Bill Murray whisper into Scarlett Johansen's ear at the end of "Lost in Translation?" I'm making up my own pretty story...

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does he have a single brother? ;)

8:34 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

petunia face,

truly, he is the Kyran whisperer. ;-)

9:00 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Looks are such a double-edged sword for women. I think we need better training as girls how to wield that power and what to expect from it, both good and bad, and how to prepare for the inevitable loss.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

r3, this is a subject I keep circling, and feel so vulnerable about precisely because I'm afraid someone will say, "shut up, pretty girl". and yet, I think it's something all women and girls need to be able to talk about freely, because this culture is so skewed toward youthful, physical beauty, none of us escapes it entirely. my appearance is the least of my gifts, I hope, but there is still some grief and fear in leaving a phase of my life behind, however irrational.

yes, Suebob, to all you said.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I don't know. I recently attended my (gulp!) 30th year high school reunion and it seemed to me that the average woman was significantly better preserved than were we bastardly men. So maybe beauty is in the gender of the beholder?

12:27 AM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

If we can't be honest about our fears with each other when it comes to this, then what? Do they play out in the waiting room of a plastic surgeon's office? (Maybe here and there, for some, but talking about it ought be a stop along the way.

It's not even just the worry about fading beauty or youthfulness-- there's also the tease of newness. Unless. Unless there's someone on the other side of the car to knock our doubts on their arse. ("I do" is a great thing to hear from the right person, even after so many years. Especially then.)

The wrinkle thing is still unfair, though. (Plus, when men gain weight, their legs still look good. So not fair.)

1:12 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

As my 48th birthday approaches, I may occasionally moan about the shape of my backside, " put down that ice cream, Elizabeth" and sometimes see a recent photograph and think, " who's that?" But I am always grateful for the additional time to see and be and grow old.

When you have a health scare in your thirties or your friends begin to die too soon, the aging piece begins to look more like, "uh oh, I better do it now, even if it's scary" rather than than a repeating refrain of , "where did the woman I used to be go?"

The best part of aging is that the more I am able to create the life I've dreamed of, the more I begin to recognize myself in the reflection of my own eyes.

Thanks for tackling another tough topic Kyran!

2:19 AM  
Blogger patsyrose said...

Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. If we truly love the person we see their beauty in a tone of voice, a soft touch, or the color of their eyes.

We see their beauty in the way they handle children or pets. We see their beauty very easily in their smile.

People who see only superficial, physical beauty are missing a lot.

8:09 AM  
Blogger beth♥ said...

That type of honesty is a beautiful thing in a relationship! ;o)

8:53 AM  
Blogger anndeo said...

Amazing post - It scares me too, but on the flip side I feel the same as when I was 20.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

I am too young to have the wrinkle concerns (dodges rotten fruits) but I still have a bone to pick with these men. Why is that if I put on 5 lbs all of a sudden my clothes are bunching and pulling and just ew, whereas the cut of mens clothes allow for damn near 10 lbs of growth before one even notices let alone raises a judgmental eyebrow? ;-)
Kyran, good to hear your husband had the words you needed to hear. And good for you for hearing them.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it wonderful that he loves you enough to a) listen to your worries and your insecurities and then b) put your mind to ease and reassure you. Love is a blessing, and not everyone is fortunate enough to do it correctly. Thank heavens you have a partner who does.

8:05 PM  
Blogger elaine said...

True confession time: here is my recent moment (evening) of vanity.

This past Saturday I attended my class of '78 high school reunion (not the same one as Tom, though). Today at work I told my colleagues how I spent my weekend, hoping to hear them say, "You're kidding! {their eyes open wide in surprise} You look too young to have graduated 30 years ago." Instead I got, "You were very brave." I'm not sure how to take this.

Seriously, though, my appearance anxiety disappeared when I reconnected with my old, dear and yes, older friends at the reunion. I noticed we all had a few more lines around our mouths and eyes but also depth to our smiles and vision. (Of course you could say this so much better, Kyran, but you probably know what I'm trying to express about wisdom.)

Thank you for this post.

11:56 PM  
Blogger sin city cynic said...

As 40 came and went my body changed significantly to me. My best most reliable feature (flat stomach) turned doughy and saggy so quickly. It is a shock to find my pants not fitting that well this summer and even more of a shock to find out I can't get motivated do to something about it. For once in my life I feel like I'm entering a cage fight with time and I've got to fight like hell to keep it all together. Thanks for voicing the fear that most of us all share.

4:18 PM  
Blogger White Hot Magik said...

I love that last line, while he turned all my "you don'ts" back into "I Do

10:01 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

Is it weird that after reading your last paragraph I want your husband to be my boyfriend?

10:10 PM  
Blogger v8_grrl said...

thank you for this post...It gives me hope in mankind....Because what I heard last night in a hushed tone so the kids wouldn't hear....I haven't been happy in 6 years.
Makes me smile to know there is love

9:02 AM  
Blogger Julie @ Letter9 said...

Oh, I love reading about the way your husband reassured you last night. That's wonderful. I love it that he listened first and then quietly and surely made things better. That's a good husband who knows you well.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

v8_grrl i'm so sorry. i hope that disclosure will prove to be a turning point.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Wow, Kyran. I have thought these things, in a different capacity as a single woman -- but losing my "currency" is top of mind everyday.

Fantastic post.

12:54 AM  
Blogger heffernhyphen said...

Sometimes I think about how much fun it would be to have a blog of my own . . . to sit at night thinking deep thoughts, even deeper say, than, "I wonder what Daniel will eat for breakfast tomorrow? Are we out of Pop Tarts already?"

But then I read you. And I just don't think I have the courage to be spray cheese on the same platter as your brie.

I might try, if only it weren't for lines like these: "Pretty young things can go whistling past the graveyards of other women's marriages. At 38 and 40, we all but crossed ourselves."

Check, please. Bitch.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jerri said...

I caught my husband sending naughty text messages to one of my employees right before Christmas last does a number on you, no matter how confident you are, and I was, it will flop you around on the ground like a good ol' fish.

I purposefully hunted down someone to send me naught text messages and set him up to catch me. I know, bad bad me.

We are in counseling now, and honestly, neither of those events have really played a big part of our sessions yet....I say just don't know til it hits you...and flops you a big ol' fish

8:18 PM  

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