March 28, 2024

Lessons in Love from a 72-Year-Old Woman.

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“You know,” Dot leans in toward me, a spirituous glint in her eyes, “He’s 20 years younger than me, and we’re still at it today.”

A short pixie cut of ash-grey hair, delicate features and slight of frame, Dot is the pure definition of elegance. Much like the Burberry trench coats, Mulberry handbags, and velvety cashmere sweaters that stock this high-end thrift store. She glows in the way that some people do. Those that have chi, prana, life force energy.

She approaches me as I’m eyeing up a nordic-style coral trench coat that’s hanging in the window. “That one’s brand-new, sent direct from the designer, we’re selling it at the third of the price,” she declares in the way only a woman who is staunchly proud of her job does. “I probably shouldn’t,” I ponder out loud, “oh, but why ever not, dear?” she enquires in earnest her piercingly cyan blue eyes widening.

I’m not sure if it’s her sincerity or my own dedication toward truth telling, but I give her the completely unfiltered response: “The interest rate on my mortgage has tripled and I got a divorce. I’m in a financial quagmire.” Staring back at me, I see the face of a woman who knows what I’m talking about.

And I know she wants to tell me her story.

I listen as we walk around the store together, swiping through the aisles of clothing rails while surveying the colourful and sophisticated assortment of apparel.

I learn that many years ago, Dot inherited a sum of money from her father, made a down payment on a home that later sold for eight times her initial investment. She later got married and moved into another property she bought with her husband although the sole upfront investment had been hers. After an almost two-decade long marriage, she was left with only a small fraction of funds after the judge administering her divorce ruled 70:30 against her. His reason? Despite her former husband’s well-paid job and healthy pension, she was 15 years younger than he and she had time on her side before retiring.

The story hits hard and it’s personal. I reflect on how close it runs along the lines of my own story. The key difference being the judges’ ruling. In my case, fortune was on my side, or perhaps just a well-reasoned judge.

Yet I’m reminded of how close I came to losing it all. How tenuous it all is. How everything can seemingly evaporate in the blink of an eye.

“But I didn’t care,” she tells me jovially, the epitome of a woman dancing on the grave of her former life. “Screw the money. I was so unhappy I was breaking out in hives. I just wanted out.”

No sooner had the judge made the ruling, she hopped on a flight to Australia to go meet a man 20 years her junior who she had recently met.

“I planned to stay three weeks, but I ended up staying three years. I’m 72 now and it’s still the best sex of my life,” she says, recounting the period as a “thrilling road to self-discovery after the end of a loveless marriage.” She describes him as “my bestest-friend-with-benefits in the whole wide world.”

“I got my happily-ever-after, but for me it was my freedom. You need to do whatever it is you couldn’t do in the marriage. You need to rediscover who you are, and most importantly you need to feel good about yourself,” she says handing me a black bodycon dress, “this will look fabulous on your hourglass figure my dear.”

And I feel that she already knows me better than I know myself. I try it on, and it fits like a glove, accentuating all the right places. We discuss how this will be a dress I wear on a date, at some unknown point in the future, for someone worthy of wearing it for.

The conversation naturally flows onto self-love. “Every morning I wake up and I tell myself I’m beautiful and I love myself. And every night when I walk through the door, I do the same thing. You have to do that again and again, over and over, and then you have to go out into the world and do the same. Most important you must never stop showing yourself that kind of love, not even for one minute.”

And with that she’s cut through to the gooey mesh of my inner core. I feel giddy. The kind of self-love Dot is embodying is authentic, earth-shattering self-love. The kind that makes us fly across continents to go meet someone 20 years our junior. The kind that gives the confidence to say at 72 years young, I’m youthful in spirit and elegant in style and I can have as much unattached fun as I please.

And the synchronicity of us being here, talking about wild, timeless romance while thumbing through vintage Chanel does not escape me. Dot’s presence and advice feels as much of a present to me as the £20 bodycon dress I’m about to walk out the door with.

On deeper reflection, I observe that both vintage clothes and ageless romance celebrate an enduring quality that keeps both suspended in a capsule that both defies the bounds of time and manages to remain relevant.

I walk out of the store and ponder that it is not just one but three treasures I’ve scored today: Dot and her story of 20-year-her-junior lover, her advice on self-love, and my future date bodycon dress I’m now in possession of.

Rekindled nostalgia; timeless elegance; enduring appeal.

~

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