Thanks to the advance of my two diseases – cancer and COPD – I am a great deal slower these days than I was just a few months ago.
Recently, after I wake in the morning, I have found myself sitting on the edge of my bed for quite awhile – three or four or five minutes or so. It is not that I am worn out from getting into an upright position or that I am thinking about anything, it is – well, I can't tell you why. I don't know.
But one day last week, as I sat there, it occurred to me that had anyone been watching, I would appear much like Auguste Rodin's sculpture of The Old Courtesan (La Belle qui fut heaulmière):
So, on that morning, I took a good look at myself in the full length mirror and saw that I wasn't far off in my comparison. In fact, she is even in nearly the same position as I had been sitting on the side of the bed looking down - at nothing really.
The image of the courtesan and my reflection in the mirror stuck with me that morning. Surely many, maybe most people would find the courtesan – and, therefore, me – to be ugly. But I don't.
Part of what was rolling around in my head is how interesting the old courtesan is and how many times I had sought her out when I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art during the years I lived in New York City.
I was younger in those days and recall wondering if she presaged my eventual appearance. Now I know: our bodies are nearly twins and for some reason I'm rather pleased with that.
Here is the text from the page for The Old Courtesan on the Metropolitan Museum's website:
”Incorporated into the left pilaster on The Gates of Hell, the withered old woman evoked a moral connection between sin and the ravages of time. The harrowing veracity of the independent sculpture accords with a statement of Rodin’s: 'Character is the intense truth of any natural [sight], beautiful or ugly.'”
Yes. I'll take intense truth any time.
I was going to have some more to say in this post about our culture's insistence on youth as the ideal of beauty. Then I recalled that I had written about this back in 2013, and it holds up rather well. So I will just link and you can follow if you wish. Here are How to Accept Our Aging Bodies Part 1 and Part 2.