My mother was always slender. As a homemaker in Long Beach, California in the 1940’s she usually wore what all women of that era wore – housedresses. In the 1950s she often wore slacks or a shorter version then called “clam-diggers” – calf-length trousers.
When I was first married, my husband and I moved into the front unit of a duplex my folks owned, which was right next door to my mom and dad. During those first few years I was busy learning how to be a mother and my mom's help was invaluable. One particularly hot day in summer she came knocking on my door holding a glass of freshly made lemonade in her hand for me. Oh, it looked so good, and I took it gratefully. But I was shocked to see her in shorts. Her legs were lily white and skinny. The shorts appeared awfully baggy. Mom asked me what I thought of them.
Now there are two truths here: First, back then women looked older at any age than they do at that same age now. I'm sure "housedresses" were responsible for much of that. And secondly, when a person is young, older people always seem very much older than you are. Now at the time of this episode, my mother was probably 45 and she didn’t look bad for her age except for her white scrawny legs and her very wrinkled knees. I look at my youngest daughter now, who is close to the age my mom was, and I see a healthy, attractive young mother; I certainly do not see wrinkled knees, but my mom had them and I was taken aback at her appearing "in public" with those legs. However, I would never have said anything of the sort to her so I simply said, in answer to her question, "The shorts are really nice and I'll bet they help you stay cool in this heat." She was pleased at my response, but I made a mental note to myself NEVER to wear shorts when I got “old.”
Time passed, my kids grew up and moved away, and I actually got well past the age of 50 with not much trauma, feeling young and healthy. And without thinking, and because I had moved to a desert-y area of Southern California, I wore shorts all summer long. It never occurred to me that I might be past my prime and that shorts might not be the best thing for me to run around in. I didn’t feel any different than I did when I was in college, so why not?
Why not, indeed? All was well until one day I walked past a full-length mirror in a store and saw my mother’s legs hanging out from my shorts. That was the day I accepted that I was, in fact, aging and that I'd better go buy a few pairs of pedal pushers, or clamdiggers or Capri pants, whichever were in fashion at the time and all much longer than shorts.
I believe what goes around comes around. I have found it so in my life. The moral of this story is to be very careful what you say and even what you allow yourself to think, if it is in any way judgmental. Everything, in one way or another, comes back to bite you. It is very embarrassing and can be awfully humbling.