Hi, Lady. I see you.
Yes, you! You, on the Boogie board, battling the waves.
I see you while others younger and fitter splash about these ocean waves and sunbathe on the beach.
I see you in your modest black one-piece with the ruching on the sides (is that how you spell “ruching”?), designed for a structured slimming effect. I know from personal experience that bathing suit you’re wearing cost well over $150 since someone named it “The Miracle Suit” and all who buy it are hoping for a miracle.
I see you, in all of your MIDDLE-AGED MAGIC!
And I know it feels less like magic and more like trickery.
You’re battling those waves by yourself. Are you here alone? Perhaps on a solo vacation, an opportunity to reclaim joy. Or maybe your family is on the beach behind you, your husband well into that bucket of Coronas, and your teen kids too embarrassed to admit they know you.
(Oh, wait, that’s MY family…)
I see you out there in the sea. It’s rougher perhaps than you thought it would be.
The young surfers near you are standing only briefly on their boards before wiping out. And here we are, in the Age of Old.
I see that you are struggling against the pull of the tide. You seem to be going backward. Rather than riding the waves in, the sea seems to be pulling you OUT, feet first, as you paddle forward with your arms.
Each time a wave crashes over you, I lose you momentarily in the white foamy caps.
I see you emerge once or twice without your board.
And one time I see your boob pop out. That happens to me too sometimes.
(Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone else saw it…)
With the tanned cheek leak on this beach from those half our age, I don’t think anyone is looking at us.
But I see YOU.
And you know what I see?
I see the look of exhilaration on your face.
I see the amusement and the joy as you ride the waves and crash, again and again, and laugh to yourself.
Perhaps you’re laughing about how bad you are at this! Or that your boob popped out and you’re wondering if anyone saw it. (Again, just me, and your secret is safe with me).
Or maybe you’re just laughing because you’re having fun.
I love that you have given yourself permission to have fun.
Or maybe I’m simply projecting my joy watching onto you because it’s fun to watch you.
I see you. Being you. Making a Big Splash.
You pull yourself out of the water and sit for a bit on your board, looking out at the horizon.
You don’t look defeated. You look content.
I return to my lounge chair and my book and as I pass you, I make eye contact.
You give me a knowing smile.
I give you one back.
There is a moment of acknowledgment.
We see each other, in our middle-aged bodies in our bathing suits with the ruching and our ample cover-ups, in our desire to be noticed and appreciated for what we have rather than what we lack, and for our limitless futures instead of the wistfulness of what is past.
No Miracle Suit necessary. Just the miracle of knowing someone sees you.
Now let’s go have some fun, no matter which way the waves pull us.
Valerie Gordon is the founder of The Storytelling Strategist. A former Emmy-winning television producer, she uses the power of story to help clients and audiences create meaningful lives and memorable conversations. The author of “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life,” she understands how rewriting faulty or unhelpful inner stories can create external success.