Women of a Certain Age, Part 3.

This lady is one I see frequently on the street in San Miguel de Allende, usually helping out a flower seller who works near a sidewalk cafe. There is something compelling about her. I was pleased and rather surprised when she agreed to let me take her photo. She doesn’t have the strong, outgoing personality of the woman in the first of these posts, and she doesn’t seem to have the confidence of the woman in the second post of this series. In fact, in this woman I  always sense a feeling of vulnerability and shyness. I always say hello to her. Sometimes she holds out her hand to me, sometimes she doesn’t. When she does, I always find some pesos for her.

As a woman growing up in the USA I have certainly dealt with issues of strength and vulnerability. I have always thought that a woman could be one or the other…strong or vulnerable…but not both at the same time. My life in Mexico has taught me that only when we realize our vulnerability can we really find our strength. As a child growing up in a fairly dysfunctional situation I always felt vulnerable. The same vulnerability carried over into my first marriage. I was always expecting someone to come in the door in a really hostile mood, and even if it had nothing to do with me, I always felt it was my job to fix it. At around age 35 I managed to see that I could also be strong, and I saw being strong as the key to my survival. I saw strong as good, and vulnerable as not so good.  My experiences in Mexico have helped me to see that I can actually be strong even when I am most vulnerable. In fact, the only way to be truly strong is to be able to accept my vulnerabilities, love that scared child within me, and then to find my strength. I now see that we cannot really know our strengths until we also see our vulnerabilities. It is the ability to see both these sides of ourselves that matters most. So many women, especially women like me (old enough to have been strongly affected by the Feminist Movement..and to know what life was like before it), are not willing to see how vulnerable they really are. It’s always got to be Wonder Woman, all the time.

I don’t know the difficulties that some of the women I see here experience every day. I don’t know their joys. But, what I see is their magnificent survival. It is a simpler life here, and people aren’t all worked up about impressing each other. There is a kindness of spirit that I see in the faces I meet on the street. There is a shyness, just waiting for me to make the first move and say hello. I suspect they wonder about me sometimes, too. While I know that our lives have been very different, I also see more each day how similar we are.

One of the most important things I have learned about living in Mexico is that I simply cannot judge the lives of others. Many people come to a country like this and think that somehow the people’s lives are inferior because of the standard of living that they see. But, wait. Stop and look. This is not inferior, it’s just different. If you can put aside your own standards and expectations you can find a world very different from what you have ever experienced, but a beautiful world, nonetheless. And, you can look inside yourself and find strengths you didn’t know you had. And, when you need to feel vulnerable, you can just do that, too…without judging yourself at all.

Women of a Certain Age. Part 2.

This photo will never cease to amaze me. What amazes me is that I got it. This woman walked by me in the twinkle of an eye. We were in a large market in a village in Oaxaca. It was packed with local people, and a beehive of activity. People were selling things, looking for things, buying things…..things including live chickens, all sorts of food, clothing, household goods, motor parts, vats of a nasty local moonshine called pulque….you name it. From the midst of all the confusion, I started to go down a little flight of stairs, from one area to another. At that moment I saw this woman, and she saw my camera, right in her face. Instead of turning away, as many of the women here are likely to do, she gave me a beautiful smile…a little pose. She even found her light. Then she was gone. I got one shot at this one, and it was sheer luck. Or perhaps I should say, a magical blessing.

The feeling I came away with from this instant was the confidence of this woman. She is who she is. I asked Fred last night if that phrase, “Vanity thy name is woman,” came from the Bible or Shakespeare. (It was Shakespeare.) There is something about this woman that has caused me to think about my own vanity. Not to be too hard on myself, because working in the fashion/art business in the USA can sure cause a woman to want to look as young as possible. I certainly did. Almost everyone I hung out with was also concerned with this. And, most of them were a good 15 t0 30 years younger than me.   And, if you want to true confession, I always wondered why anyone who had access to that kind of technology wouldn’t do it if they possibly could.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not at all critical of having a little work done. God knows, I’ve had a bit. I am not sorry for doing any of it. I just wouldn’t do it at this point. I have come to realize that the right people don’t love you or like you because of how you look. They love you because of the way you make them feel. And, in this culture, the attitudes about age seem very different. Elders are respected. The grandmothers are powerful members of the family unit.

I have been away from the assistance of needles, lasers, and all the other wonderful help with this situation since October. It’s definitely available in San Miguel and it’s about time for a fill-up. But, I’m not going to do it. I am becoming happy with my face the way it is. In this culture I feel no real need to look young; I just want to look healthy and happy. And, of course, I’m not “cashing in my chips.” If you know me you know I love make-up and dress-up. I just am starting to feel that I can feel comfortable with the way I actually look and come across as a 73 year old woman at the same time, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s remarkable.

Women of a Certain Age. Part One.

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I am so moved and amazed by the older women I see in Mexico. There is a strength of character in their faces. Some of them have lived hard lives, but they are a true inspiration to me. The lady in these pictures is Publita, I see her occasionally on the streets of San Miguel. I always stop and give her money. She gives me a smile. She has so much personality. She seems like a force of nature. I know very little about her, but I always look for her when I am out and about. What a wonderful face she has. I am going to show you five women in this series. They are just the ones I have been lucky enough to capture. There are many more that got away. All of these faces have made me change some of my ideas about aging. I no longer see it as something to dread. I see it as something to aspire to.