Whom do we see when our eyes are closed?


I just scrolled through a picture gallery on Facebook called something like “Then and Now: 60’s Icons.”


Now, I am well-practiced at mentally erasing any wrinkles or jowls that I might see these days when I look at Paul McCartney, who will always be nineteen and fresh-faced to me, and I don’t think Yoko Ono looks any uglier than she did in the seventies when she broke up the Beatles. Jane Fonda is still gorgeous, although she’s thinner than Barbarella, and Cher has gone through so many faces it’s hard to remember how she looked back at the beginning.

But, oh, my dear… it’s sad to see how cruel the years have been to many of the people we admired!

Grace Slick, whom I always wanted to look like, now looks like me… old, fat, round-faced and jowly. Liza, whose features always threatened to wander away from the center of her face, now looks like Pangea divided. Diana Rigg is beyond the capacity of any Peel to restore her beauty, and Brigitte Bardot carries more crepe than a high school gym at prom time.

The men are truly scary. Mick Jagger looks as though Ice Road Truckers had traveled across his face. Robert Redford looks like a sharpei, and evidently shares one red toupee with Elton John… although neither has organically grown a red hair since the Millenium. Sweet Baby James, the subject of so many sexual fantasies in the ’60s, is now as bald as a vibrator.

Father Time is the ultimate dirtbag dad.

This shouldn’t be news to me, of course, but it’s a recurring surprise. Why? Because I tend to “see” familiar people  with a pair of eyes that are totally removed from my optical equipment… and when I’m confronted by undeniable proof of their aging (like side-by -side then-and-now pictures), I am angry, a little bit hurt, and just a bit combative.

I wonder who these people see today when they look in the mirror… do they see the old people they’ve become, or those magnificent young creatures that once took the world by storm? And how do they think of themselves when they speak to strangers? To their loved ones? To their fans? When they’re making love, do they close their eyes and “see” themselves as taut and supple? When they smile, do they imagine that people see their original teeth?

I don’t usually think of myself as the woman I look like today… unless I’m doing something revealing, like going for a job interview, or having my breasts measured for a new bra. When I close my eyes, I’m somewhere between 23 and 26. I have thick, short, very dark hair, enormous eyes, a tiny nose, full lips, generous breasts, and a waist that’s surprisingly small, given the ample proportions of my backside and hips. I’m justifiably as coquettish as Betty Boop, since I roughly resemble her.

That’s the woman I think I am when I’m in the company of my husband… and I hate the painful moments when I remember that this lady hasn’t existed for decades. That’s the woman I wish my children had known… and every now and then, I realize why they cringe at things I say… words that would be appropriate from an impudent young wench, but frankly creepy from the crone that I’ve become.

I don’t see my friends as they are today, either. I don’t see their grey hair, and I can’t think of any who’ve become wrinkled, or bald. Have any of the guys lost their hair? I suppose one or two of my friends may have gained weight, but since none has gained as much as I have, I’m still pretty impressed with their figures. Some, as a matter of fact, seem to look even better than ever.

I suppose if someone did a photo essay and called it “Ampy and her friends: Then and Now,” I might be momentarily shocked at how the years have crapped on me and my loved ones.

But happily, the mind has powerful editing abilities, and memory comes with an awesome auto-correct feature. Tomorrow, I’ll forget that I saw the stupid website that inspired this little rant. Once again, the name “Robert Redford” will conjure a picture of Hubbell Gardiner, and “James Taylor” will be as hirsute as that delicious young troubadour who sang “Fire and Rain.”


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