The first time I saw my soon to be wife Rosemary Healey in Mexico City I almost died in a fit of passion and amazement. Rosemary had a slim body, she was blonde (for a Latin, that’s me, it’s like red to a bull) and had legs from here to there. In Early 1968 mini-skirts were in fashion and Rosemary was fashionable. In record time I married her. I would say, looking back in my memory (and through my photographs of her) that she was a pristine beauty.
I remember the first time I convinced her to drive in my VW Beetle to Veracruz to visit my mother. I made sure when I got to the port city that I had plenty of 3-in-One Oil to oil the hinges of her bedroom in Veracruz. The rest is history. We have two daughters and two granddaughters and we have been married for 47 years.
When I see her sans clothing in our bedroom I see a changed body. I am sure the same applies to me when I parade in my birthday suit before sinking into a nice hot bath.
All that has given me food for thought for quite a few years. While men are allowed to age with character lines on our faces, those lines on women are anathema. They are to be remedied with makeup, impossible diets and Oil of Olay. If it comes to worse, then Photoshop Diffuse Glow willrejuvenate the face, etc.
I gave up a long time ago approaching handsome older women and telling them, “I think that your are remarkably beautiful just the way you are now. You remind me of my fall garden, when my roses and the rest of our plants are ready for winter. They are beautiful in their early decay. I would like to photograph you nude.”
I have never been slapped but the looks I have received have been damning. My requests in writing have rarelybeen answered.
In Facebook there are many photographs (many are friends of mine I have never met in person) of women past 59. They somehow manage to point their phones in their direction and through filters they look obviously washed out with no wrinkles. Comments are the usual “likes” but more often they are, “Amazing, you blow me away with your beauty.” But the worse ones are the nasty (do people know this when they write it?) “You are still beautiful.”
And these women persist in posting new pictures of themselves. Most of them are truly awful.
Some 15 years ago two beautiful but young women came to my Robson Streetstudio. I told them (I was an idiot), “You are as young as my daughters. I am not in the least interested in either of you beyond the photographs I will take of you.” Suffice to say that they thought I was weird and they never returned.
I tell people that usually do not want to listen to me on the subject that I love my wife and I am especially attracted to her because she is 70 to my 72 years. I am attracted to women who are close to my age. The thought of being on a desert island with one of those young things convinces me I would soon jump into the sea and be food for sharks.
In a later blog I will go into greater detail as to why I consider my roses to be people and that we have many intelligent conversations. But for now I will venture into the subject of my Dowager Roses.
I visit my garden every day and I notice the changes in the garden and particularly which roses are about to bloom (this happens in May), are blooming or are past it.
Not all roses look terrible when they are past their prime (when is a human female past her prime? What do we mean by prime?). The Gallicas, mostly red or purple turn dark or light after their prime. Some likeRosa‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ turn almost black and then the meer whisper of air will make them fall apart. Other Gallicas turn to a beautiful metallic gray. These Gallicas are just as beautiful (in my books) when they are past their prime. And many retain there sweet scent.
Other roses, particularly the English Roses, fade in colour and some double their size. The queen (or is that king? Wait for the later blog on this) is Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’. The version you see here is almost 6 inches wide. In its prime it is about 4 inches. The most amazing quality of Abraham Darby (one of the most fruity fragrant English Roses) is that it is even more fragrant when it is past it. And if you attempt to talk to it (she, him?) there is no crumbling.
Are roses like older women, beautiful (not still, please!) in their own way? Are we so used to seeing roses in their prime (a vestige of Victorian exhibitions of roses, perfect roses, in little boxes)?
When a rose is in its prime is determined by the various rose society organizations that post what the perfect rose (depending on their class, be they old garden roses, hybrid teas, etc) should look like. Rose exhibitors use tricks like placing umbrellas on poles to protect roses from rain. They know when to cut the blooms and some put them in fridges to cease all action of aging.
For me, I love my Dowager Queens until they drop and then the memory of their life, unprotracted few months of a lifetime, remain in my memory and in my many scans of them in their peek, as buds and as Dowager Queens.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.