Spain has taken on many characters in my life: the land of partying (Ibiza), beautiful beaches (Southern Spain), delicious epicurean scene (tapas, paella, queso y jamon, vino, y mucho mas), romance (the stereotype of passionate Spanish lovers), passion and performance (flamenco), and history (global colonization, Franco). That was how I viewed Spain as I moved through life.
Being in Spain was comfortable. I learned some Spanish in Mexico and could just barely get by but definitely could not carry on a conversation with local Spanish. We learned in Andalusia, Spanish is spoken particularly fast. This was validating for me but I’m not kidding myself into believing that this was the reason for my sad lack of ability to converse. We visited Malaga, Granada, Marbella (en route to…) Gibraltar, Cadiz and Ronda (for the day). Every city had its own charm. But the one thing that every city had was fashionable Spaniards. I noticed that older folks and children were out socializing. Dinner tables were filled with people of all ages, talking, laughing and contributing to the conversation. There wasn’t a “children’s table” and kids weren’t expected to color on placemats while not interrupting adult conversation. Individuals into their golden years were not socializing with only retirees. Furthermore, they weren’t wearing Dr. Scholls loafers and over-sized pajama shirt dresses. Older women were wearing (block) heels, colorful floral shirts with flirtatious sleeves showing off their shoulders, lipstick and mascara. Older gentlemen were dressed in fashionable loafers, linen shirts, pants, donning a weather appropriate hat. There was an air of people taking care to present to dinner well. There was no one who appeared as though they were trying to look 20 years younger. I thought to myself, “they age well”.
It made me think about standards of beauty in the U.S. – and globally, really. Growing up in Southern California, there were too many times when I spotted a woman who looked to be in her late 40s or early 50s wearing a skirt too short, showing cleavage cheaply, wearing way too much blush and thought “how sad.” Growing up in an Asian family, we had our own version of that. The ladies would generally not be caught dead showing cleavage or wearing short shorts but the obsession was about skin – skin color, plumpness, smoothness, wrinklelessness… I remember watching the piling up of creams and frenetic face massages and exercises and still thought “how sad.”
When we fight signs of aging we are fighting a losing battle. I suppose if you botox, you may add a few more years of appearing fresh-faced, if you can call it that. Don’t get me wrong, when I noticed the lines by my eyes, or the sun spots on my skin, I reacted. I looked into lightening cream and thought “man, I should’ve been wearing sunscreen all these years” (I never did, my fault). So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care but that perhaps we can benefit by a shift in focus. Instead, of alienating older people, include them in social scenes and treat them with dignity and respect. Dress up, take care of yourself as you are rather than fighting with desperation life’s accretions.
My goal after this trip was to support myself and my fellow cis gender women-folk in aging well, aging gracefully.