The hungry frock

I was showing my age yesterday. Yes it surprised me too.

The kind of surprise you get at the end of the day when you realize your skirt is tucked into your undies. And as you cast your mind back down the bright corridor of your day, you realize that it’s been tucked all afternoon while you were out and about in the crowd.

Or the more flashy surprise of someone rushing up behind you and yanking the offending skirt out of your knickers on a busy street.

I did that recently in a mall. An older woman, meaning older than me, elegantly dressed, was disappearing around the corner from a public toilet when I noticed her frock was tucked into her knickers. I said to myself, “Look the other way Rita,” trying to convince myself that it wasn’t my problem. I walked fast to the end of the corridor and into the mall looking in the direction she had turned. She was walking beside her husband, the offending frock sticking to those knickers like you know what.

I couldn’t help myself. I ran after her. Rushed up behind her and yanked at the frock. I don’t know who got the biggest surprise. They turned fast for an old couple. We were all breathless, them with surprise, and me from running up the mall. “Your skirt was tucked,” I said in a huffy kind of way. Then I turned and walked away leaving them standing limply, recovering.

Anyway, noticing my age hanging out was a bit like the first kind of frock shock, discovered at the end of the day, that aha of insight about why people avoided your gaze, or snickered as you walked past. Not that attention grabbing frock shock of someone running up behind you and yanking your frock.

Or perhaps it was more like one of those long moments when you look in the mirror and see yourself as if for the first time in a long time, as others might, from outside in, instead of just being inside yourself quietly looking out from your own private planet while the world revolves around you, or being caught in the longest sentence that never seems to end and you’re not sure where its going.

I wouldn’t have known my age was showing except that I crossed paths with some young students also unpacking their cars at Uni, Wright College, the new, self-contained accommodation (nice, very nice).

From the looks, well the not-looking-at-me-looks, I got the message that they had guessed I wasn’t in the same age range as them, and perhaps they were wondering what a woman, not in their age range, or the expected age range, was doing at their Uni, and moving into the brand new accommodation.

I wanted to say, “hey I’m not pretending to be young. I won’t be going to the toga party with you. I’m not a cougar, I’d rather read a book. I won’t bump into you in the Uni bar because I can’t drink more than one glass of wine without needing medical attention.” I wanted to add, “and I don’t want to be young. I like being the age I am now. I just love learning.”

I was young for a long time once and I didn’t like it that much. I think youth is overrated.

When I was young – late teens, the age of my three young friends, though they may not have called me “friend” yet, unpacking their cars – I cared about what people thought. I cared if people were old or young, cool or not cool, how they dressed and even what they smoked and drank. And I especially cared if I was cool or not cool. Though I never did get the hang of being cool. And now I don’t give a rat’s.

But as we passed each other loaded up with bags and boxes, I said nothing because they were looking at the ground or the other way as if they’d seen that rat.

The funny thing is that from the inside you don’t notice that you’re getting older. I guess that’s one of the tricks of Nature, a kindness, because it happens slowly. If no one is looking at me like that (as above), and I don’t wear my glasses in front of the mirror, I forget that I’m not 38. For some reason my psychological age has been stuck at 38 for years, (my halcyon days? I can’t remember!) I’ve got a friend who’s older than me who thinks she’s still 30. So I know I’m not the only one with a mismatch between my inside and age and my outside age, which might be at the heart of this shock of ages.

I guess that’s why I’m surprised when people act as if I’m old, older. When you’re nineteen, anyone over 26 is old. And you can’t believe it will ever happen to you, that you might get old! Hahahaha… another one of Nature’s (human nature, that is) little tricks, or some kind of nasty practical joke?

Yes, getting older is like those times you sort of know you’re putting on weight but then one day, usually at the end of your holidays, it punches you in the face like a closed hairy fist, as you try to pull on your favorite frock, or trousers, and they wont have a bar of it, or a zip of it. You put them back on the rack because they refuse to go around, and hug your bulging belly.

At least I think it was the age thing. But perhaps it was that I was dressed as a superdag. Traveling out West gave me a superdag tag that’s stuck to me. I was wearing my daggiest cream hat. It still had smears of tomato sauce on it where my grand niece, or is that great niece? Anyway, she is grand and great and everything fabulous, mashed it in the tomato sauce while we were having our sausage sizzle. (She’s only 12 months old so everything looks better smeared in tomato sauce). Perhaps it was my hat that made them look the other way and not the dirty rat of ageing.

Being older and daggy has its advantages. I get to be invisible, slip under the radar because people look the other way. And I can wander off taking photos instead of taking responsibility, except for myself that is. Well maybe I could stop taking responsibility for me too? I need to think about that one.

It’ll be interesting the next time I see a hungry frock tucking into someone’s knickers, will I look the other way, telling myself I’m not responsible, or will I rush up behind her and grab the end of that frock, in my out of breath way, because running makes me breathless these days? Well always did, come to think of it.

The best thing about getting older is doing what you love. But to do what you love you have to know what you love, and what you don’t love. And then it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks but you, because you love what you do and do what you love…… and now I’m getting really funky so I’d better stop before I make us all puke on my cuteness, because old and cute don’t mix, no, they curdle.

And there it is, the greatest gift of ageing. You get to laugh at yourself or at least smile.

You know that your thighs are lumpy, and your breasts sag, and your hair has lost its shine, and you can’t leave the house without your glasses, and the list goes on, and you don’t mind too much because your brain keeps adapting to those changes, slowly.

And yes, you smile at who you’ve become because every hard knock and every sorrow is written into your skin and bones and aching knees, and you’ve learnt to smile and laugh in spite of it all, and sometimes because of it all, most of the time.

Life and age teach you how to love, not just what you do, but who you are, no matter what your body parts are doing without your permission.





  1. Ah Rita, never you mind all that young discomfort and arrogance. We were all there once. Fact is, you have now moved through time and space and are where you are doing what you planned and love.
    Enjoy it, be happy. Good on ya!

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