The Postscript: We make up the rules

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

By Carrie Classon

I scrutinize myself in the mirror on a regular basis. From the front all is well. I am pushing sixty and holding together reasonably well.

From the side, it’s another story. I have inherited my grandmother’s neck. My chin is on a mission to meet up with my chest, bypassing my neck entirely. This is a stealth mission, on my chin’s part, but I see what it’s up to. It borrowed the genetic plans from an earlier generation and the descent is inevitable. In a contest between me and gravity, I have a pretty good idea who the winner will be.

That’s part of the fun of growing older. It’s a constant guessing game as to which part of me is going to start moving in an unexpected direction, shrink, grow, or disappear entirely. I keep a wary eye on myself—not because there’s much I can do about these unexpected developments, but just to keep tabs.

We all do this, I suppose. I saw a friend for the first time in a long time and almost before we’d finished our hellos she blurted out, “I’ve gained 20 pounds! My new job is so stressful I don’t have time to exercise!” (Where were the twenty pounds? I thought she looked great.)

Another friend only wears long sleeves, even in the warmest weather, because she is convinced her arms are unattractive. “Batwings!” she said, on a rare occasion when I caught a glimpse of her arms above the wrist. She flapped her arms in an effort to imitate a bat. “You see? Flap! Flap! Flap!” (It was only because of her superb acting skills that I saw the resemblance.)

But these are new developments. Another friend of mine doesn’t wear lipstick because she believes she is ugly. She believes this because someone (her mother) told her so a very long time ago. She is now my age and still doesn’t wear make-up. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think anyone needs to wear make-up. I just find it unbearably sad that she still hears the cruel words of her mother almost a half-century later.

There is a lot of criticism of the fashion industry, but that’s not where I’m going. If I were selling clothes, I’d stand a better chance by putting them on a coat hanger—or an 18-year-old who resembled one—than a well-over-fifty-year-old with a conjoined chin and chest. That’s not my point: I think we make up most of the rules ourselves.

I was recently in Mexico wearing a bikini. I know I’m not supposed to. I have a friend who insists it’s against the rules to wear a bikini after forty.

“Whose rules?” I asked her.

“Mine!” she said firmly. That’s hard to argue with.

But I’m not insisting she wear one. I still do and I don’t especially care if people find it inappropriate. I saw another woman on the beach and I’m pretty sure her bikini top would have ridden a good four to six inches higher a few decades earlier. But who cares?

I want to wear a bikini until I’m ninety—if I feel like it. I want my friend to splash on bright red lipstick and let her long-dead mother deal with it. I want my friend with the “extra” twenty pounds to buy herself a flirty new dress and feel fabulous. I want my friend with the batwings to feel the spring wind on her shoulders.

I also want my neck to secure the border between my chin and my chest—but that’s another story.

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” will be released next month. Learn more at