Susan Dix Lyons: Age

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Age is a number, but not just a number, as Susan Dix Lyons has learned.

I’m in the checkout line at the supermarket with a bottle of wine on the conveyor. “Date of birth?” the clerk asks. I give her the date as I fumble with my credit card, when I’m startled by a voice behind me.

“Wow, I can’t believe you had to do that in front of me!” the guy next in line says. I turn to look at him. He’s about my age. His teenage daughter is by his side.

This is a public service announcement for men who feel badly for women like me who get older with time. I believe your intentions are good. You’re probably just trying to shield me from the social blot of snatched youth. But believe me when I say that I don’t regard my date of birth as something cringeworthy or unfortunate.

I might point out that the designer Vera Wang started her business at 40, that abolitionist Sojourner Truth was 54 when she gave her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech, or that film director Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar at 57.

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But that’s not really the point.

Like many of you out there, I was rattled when I crossed into 30. How did I suddenly get so old? By then I had my first child, and I spent the day at the beach carving my name in the sand to see how fast the tide would wash me away. Now, two decades and two children later, I look back at that young mama with tenderness, and the only people I’m worried about getting swept away too fast are my remarkable kids and the beautiful man who helped raise them. I’ve always loved life and everything we could do together when we drowned out all the nay-sayers, but here’s the truth: I love it more than ever now, when half of it is behind me.

And here’s something else about the me you’ll now encounter in check-out lines. I walk taller than ever before. I finally know who I am in my body, and I genuinely like that girl-woman and her unpredictable story. I look in the mirror and I don’t see regret or fear. I look in the mirror and think – damn, look at me! – alive, knowable, riding the surf. That’s me, in this short, holy moment of my life, grateful for the days that carried me to who I have become.

“It’s OK,” I say, turning to the man and smiling at his daughter. I hope that she notices how steady my voice holds the years.

“5-2-67”

With a Perspective, I’m Susan Dix Lyons.

Susan Dix Lyons lives in the Napa Valley.