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The Centenarians – baring it all at 100.

Posted in Aging, and Life & Love

ChinProfileCRiley Plum loves to sit on her grandfather’s lap and play with his wattle. That’s the swathe of flesh that hangs down below his chin. She tenderly flips it one way and the other. Chatting to him as she does: of this and that – ‘random’ (her current favourite word) things that pig into the sweet little head. Popper doesn’t mind at all. The bond that has forged across their 73 year age difference has nothing to do with how his body is aging. It is about shared spirit. And trust, and lack of judgement. And loving one each other completely.

She is also frank: “You are really old Popper. Look what your skin does.”  He just laughs and kisses her on her head.

On Tuesday when the Nans were here for one of their weekly sleepovers, we ended up watching a program called Botched. As the title suggests, it’s about reconstructive and cosmetic surgery that has gone horribly wrong. Because it is TV – we get to see the most sensational cases: implants that have exploded, rhinoplasty that destroyed a nose, silicone that has migrated, a man who wants to look like Madonna, a boy who has become a Ken doll. The kids are fascinated … and complain when I make them turn off anything particularly graphic. I look at our girls’ narrow, perfect little bodies and make them promise that they won’t augment. They are entirely fabulous just as they are.

Hannah stared at the woman with 500ml breast implants: “But, Suzie, what will their boobs look like in 50 years time? It’s going to be weird, they’ll have big false boobies and granny bodies.” That goes for botox and fillers and the rest too. Good point, Darce, I guess we will have to see.

I wrote a week or so ago how I felt my body was letting me down; my legs in particular. And I received a fair amount of scolding from friends who think I should just shut up and enjoy life. They are right, of course, but I promise that I see my legs as they are – not as a twisted mirror image. One of my friends, a man, sent me a link to Anastasia Pottinger’s Photo Essay, Centenarians: “This is how we are MEANT to look” he said.

The pictures are quite beautiful. Pottinger had the opportunity to photograph a 101 year old woman who volunteered to model nude for her. The idea was to document the female form in a beautiful way – and the model was willing to do anything the photographer asked … as long as she was not identifiable in the images.CrossedArms1MPottinger writes: “When I later reviewed the images on my computer, I knew I was looking at something very special. It was when I began exhibiting the work that the idea to continue the series was born. The response to the images has been remarkable. Viewers are visibly moved by what they are looking at. Whether it’s wondering, “is this what I’m going to look like?” or remembering a loved one – the response seems to be universally emotional on some level.

Aside from the images themselves, the intersection of meeting my models and both of us taking that leap from chatting to making images of their bodies is where the excitement lies. It’s that moment and the mutual trust that comes from the experience that is evidenced in the intimacy of the images. “

I remember my Granny Maude’s hands. She had terrible arthritis that had twisted and gnarled her fingers. Her skin was paper-thin and her veins fanned out in blue rivulets under it. She was always bruised and nicked and healing. Granny used to shake her index finger at us when she thought we were being naughty and we would laugh because her finger pointed not at us – but to the right or left. She knew, she never minded, and she used to play into it. She died at 97.

For Maudie, growing that old was a reward for a life well lived. And she had no qualms about how she looked. I have vivid images of her and my Grampa Stanley– dressed to go to dinner or for tea … looking ‘just so’. Her in her frock, stockings, and widened shoes (to accommodate her bunions). There was a matching handbag hooked over her arm, white cardigan over her shoulders and stylish brooch. Grampa would be wearing khaki trousers, pulled high over his belly and belted tight. His shirt would be immaculately pressed, he would have sleeve garters above his elbows and his shoes would be shining. He would offer my Gran his arm, and off they would go. Side by side for nearly 80 years.

But what I remember more than anything – was their faces above the snazzy get up. Shining, happy, old, wrinkled, white-haired and smiling – always smiling – delighted at seeing us. I would love to see them one more time – exactly as they were then. As nature intended: nothing pulled up, plumped out, deleted or inserted. Just my grandparents – looking like I thought grandparents should.

We Wildish live long – so who knows, I might just make it to 101 as well. And if I do, and if she is still interested – I will ask Anastasia Potter to take my picture. And she can show my face. Which, I promise myself, will match my body.

(If you or anyone you know would like to be part of the project. Contact Anastasia Potter through her website. The model must be willing and must be 100 years or older. All images in this post copyright Anastasia Pottinger)

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  1. silvia

    If we can grow old in good shape with no disease transforming our body and spirit there’s a special beauty in a person with age. I dare say even sensual.
    What Riley does with your father I used to do with my grandpa. I was totally fascinated by the multiple ways of rearranging his features by modeling his skin.
    A few days ago I indulged with the thought of having my grandparents back to, as you said, look at them one last time and treasure that image forever.
    And yes you’ll look terrific in 50 years, your legs notwithstanding.

    October 21, 2014
  2. A super blog – one I will share with No1 Daughter. Moke x

    October 19, 2014
  3. A fabulous post…and you’re absolutely right: growing older is definitely a reward for a life well lived and I might add that it sure beats the alternative. <3

    October 17, 2014
  4. lovely post. You always write such great posts.

    October 17, 2014

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