The Bell of the Ball

Give me character over charm and beauty any day they say, but is it really true? When does a woman stop wanting to be admired for her beauty or feel that she is desirable?  When does a man ever choose a mate who isn’t the embodiment of physical perfection?

I have a confession to make. Although I am past the age when beauty opens doors for me or when members of the opposite sex think of me as attractive there is still the little girl in me who wants to be admired.  So back to that confession. I bought a party dress I will never wear and have no occasion to wear. It was frivolous and reckless. I don’t have the budget for this sort of nonsense.

So I have been musing over that dress. What possessed me to buy it and why I feel I must confess my little girl desire to be admired. I never went to a prom or attended a swanky New Year’s Eve party. I never got to buy the “princess” dress, the one that makes you feel beautiful and sexy.

As a single mother who struggled raising her children, my New Year’s Eve festivities consisted of drinking cheap wine coolers around a bonfire in the middle of nowhere. Bottle rockets and firecrackers for the kids. I wrapped up in red plaid flannel shirts, jeans and boots and then feel asleep alone on my queen size bed.

Not a bad life really, just not one where I had no occasion to play the bell of the ball. And I actually miss the bonfires with my now grown children. I miss staring up at the cold night sky and seeing nothing but the stars while listening to the kids rattling on about something or other.

Yet, there is something in me that makes me feel just a tad cheated. I can afford the dress now, but my youth slipped away as did many of my dreams. It isn’t firm skin that I miss. I miss the possibility of youth, when your whole life still stretches before you and you still think something magical can happen. You believe that you control your destiny.

Then I seen this photograph of this beautiful, wrinkled old Indian woman and she filled me with hope. It isn’t over yet, I tell myself. Tell me your stories, I want to say to her. I want to be encouraged and told it doesn’t matter that I didn’t get to wear that dress.  I want her to tell me that, although my youth was wasted, my life had meaning and still holds possibilities. When did I get so cynical and sad I wonder.

I am in a holding pattern. I am no longer a full-time mother but don’t know what I am now supposed to be or do. I never really lived the single life, I worked and raised my children and was very much the homemaker-homebody type.

I think what I need to do now is find my bravery again. Much is written about women who go through empty nest or enter middle life in a sort of confused silence. One of the most important things that defined you is no longer your identity. Nothing is written for women who are divorced and then find themselves alone. The sage advice has always been to work on the relationship with the husband you most assuredly neglected. No husband here.

There is nothing holding me back now to do whatever it is I want, except figuring out what it is I want. It is terrifying to no longer have an identity. It’s like being a teenager again and hoping you’ll figure out where you fit in and who you will become. So here’s what I am thinking, maybe I will have an occasion to wear that dress yet. I won’t be the beautiful young bell of the ball, but it will mean something special. I am positive about that.