Sunday, June 24, 2012

JOAN DIDION: on aging and manifestations of misplaced vanity

Photo: Brigitte Lacombe for New York Magazine

I read Joan Didion's Blue Nights with my real life bookclub and found it underwhelming. The book picks up where The Year of Magical Thinking left off and explores the events around Didion's daughter's untimely death at 39. You are telling the same story, I kept thinking. I've heard it before. I know it saddens you beyond belief and I feel for you but I don't need to hear it again.

But then I couldn't stop thinking about it and this past weekend, I went back and pretty much read it again. And this second time around I read it slowly and with compassion that for some reason I had not been able to find just a few days ago. I was particularly riveted by Didion's panicked yet unflinching observations on aging: her surpise at finding herself frail and weak at 75 but also her inability to let the process go undocumented:
And yet:
And still:
Despite all evidence:
Despite recognizing that my skin and my hair and even my cognition are all reliant on the estrogen I no longer have:
Despite recognizing that I will not again wear the red suede sandals with the four-inch heels and despite recognizing that the gold hoop earrings and the black cashmere leggings and the enameled beads no longer exactly apply:
Despite recognizing that for a woman my age even to note such details of appearance will be construed by many as a manifestation of misplaced vanity:
Despite all that: 
Nonetheless:
That being seventy-five could present as a significantly altered situation, an altogether different "it," did not until recently occur to me.
To whoever styled the NY Mag shoot and got Didion to wear the black cashmere leggings: nicely done!

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