I’m 72. So What?

Catherine Texier pushes back against society’s dated ideas about older women, claiming her place among those who are determined to remain vibrant and relevant in the last decades of their lives.

Catherine Texier | Longreads | October 2019 | 22 minutes (5,425 words)

“I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” — Virginia Woolf

One day, around 20 years ago, towards the end of my marriage, we were walking through Central Park and sat for a moment on a knoll overlooking the lake. I don’t know what we had been talking about but I clearly remember saying: “I don’t see myself growing old in the States.” I was in my late 40s at the time. Perhaps the approach of 50 felt like a milestone, the beginning of “old.” Or perhaps what I meant was that I didn’t see myself growing old with him — which turned out to be the case, since we broke up not long after that.

Perhaps, after almost 20 years in the US, I still saw myself as just passing by — forever a green card holder, resident alien, with one foot on each continent, never really settling down, ready to flee back to France, like these expats from the old European empires who retire home after they’ve put in their time in the colonies.I only had a vague notion of what I meant by “old,” and when I would want to pack up. I figured life would send me signals when the time came.

Since then, I have stayed put — notwithstanding a few half-hearted attempts to cross the Atlantic, looking for international schools for my daughters in Paris when the divorce was final, or briefly putting my New York apartment on the market while fantasizing about quaint seven-story walk-ups near Bastille, when I had a boyfriend who lived in Europe.

Now, as the years pass, I have less and less desire to leave New York, where my roots have pushed down through the cracks of its broken sidewalks, even though, technically, at past 70, I suppose I am truly getting old. But the idea of going back to France would seem alarming, a tolling of a bell of sorts. Of course, staying in New York, the city I fell in love with at 22, might seem like waving a garlic branch in front of the grim reaper, a kind of vade retro satana, a vain attempt to stay forever young, or at least delay the inevitable.

***

I cried when I turned 20, the end of my teenage years. I felt old again when I turned 34 — with a 2-year-old toddler, and facing the imminent arrival of 35, because it was only five years short of the dreaded 40. And now, paradoxically, I feel younger, more vibrant and in better shape physically and emotionally than I did at 60, or even at 50. So is that all a question of perspective? And is that a slippery concept, that concept of “old” varying from culture to culture, generation to generation and from decade to decade? When we were in our 20s, my generation insolently proclaimed never to trust anyone over 30. After 30 you belonged to the despicable “adult world”— the world of Mad Men, where women carrying their little purses by the handle were secretaries or mothers, and men in grey flannel suits called the shots.

I cried when I turned 20, the end of my teenage years. I felt old again when I turned 34 — with a 2-year-old toddler, and facing the imminent arrival of 35, because it was only five years short of the dreaded 40.

In the 19th century, 30 was the threshold of serious adulthood. For a woman it was the beginning of the end — of freshness, youthfulness, desirability, fertility — as Honoré de Balzac’s novel A Woman of Thirty clearly stated. Each generation pushes back against ageism, until we got to 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 30, 60 is the new 40, and so on.

In 1974, at 40, Gloria Steinem, with her long hair and oversized aviators, quipped to a reporter who noted that she didn’t look her age, the famous line: “This is what 40 looks like.” Now, she says, commenting on a recent picture of her: “This is what 84 looks like. Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that? But 80 is about mortality, not aging. Or not just aging.”

Julia Hawkins, of Louisiana, might disagree. At age 103, she just won the senior marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, living up to her nickname The Hurricane. She only started running at age 100.

***

A 69 year old Dutchman, a motivational speaker, recently petitioned a court for permission to change his legal identity — by changing his birth date to 20 years later. He claimed he was in great physical shape and looked much younger. Being a younger man on paper, the Dutchman argued, would give him a boost and a leg up on dating apps. His website revealed he had seven children and “a steady relationship with the woman of his dreams.” However, he told media outlets he was dating and seeking to have more children with surrogate mothers.

“When I’m 69, I am limited,” he said, according to The Guardian. “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get any answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”

“I identify as a 49 year old,” he argued. “But I don’t want to lie.”

If a boy can legally change his gender to female, and a girl from female to male, his twisted logic went, is it such a stretch to just change your age legally, and — bingo — be permanently done with the curse of aging?

Honestly, when dating online, I’ve sometimes wished I didn’t have to mention my age at all.

A few years ago, shocked to see the Tinder app that I had just installed on my iPhone, Chloé, my millennial daughter, chided me, “Mom, NO! It’s for 16-year-olds.” And when I protested that I had a 45-year-old friend who had met her boyfriend on Tinder, she pushed back: “Forty-five is not elderly like you.” (I was 65 at the time.)

“And at what age does elderly start,” I asked.

She shot back…. “Fifty-five?” The next morning I found the Tinder app had disappeared from my phone.

I have obviously now reached, and perhaps even passed, the nebulous old age I had imagined and dreaded on that Central Park knoll years ago. And here I am, facing the couple of decades I might still have ahead of me (my mother passed away at 85, my father lived until 92, and my maternal grandparents until 92 and 97). It still hasn’t occurred to me to pack up my bags to “grow old in France.” Instead, I am dating online, and just finished a new novel.

“You’re in denial,” Chloé said. “Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old? How are you going to climb up the stairs?”

My generation is caught between two tectonic forces: the impulse to live full throttle till the end — as long as our health can handle it, the way we chose to live since our 20s — and the push from society to put us back into our place and nudge us towards the nursing home, so that the next generations can take over.

A few weeks ago my financial advisors presented me with a thick portfolio to show me how I could rethink my situation going forward (meaning: as I got older). There were two of them pondering my less than substantial investments. he senior advisor was very proud of the algorithm spat out by their computer, which compared how my assets were allocated now and how they could be allocated more judiciously for my old age.

I stared at the numbers and the colorful graphics, trying to follow and make sense of the difference between the dollars of 2018 and the dollars of 2038 — if I were to live that long. The way my assets were distributed (my Manhattan apartment being by far the most valuable) I had an 87% chance of being able to cover all my expenses for a comfortable lifestyle. It was obvious (according to the computer algorithm) that if I wanted a 97% chance of covering my expenses in my old age, I would have to sell my apartment and put the cash in the stock market. Real estate used to be the gold standard, the senior advisor continued, but since the subprime crisis, it had become riskier than stocks. I countered that my apartment had lost none of its value. On the contrary, since I had bought it for a pittance, 30 some years ago, it had increased almost a hundredfold, and what stock can beat that?

But there was also the question of whether I should gift my daughters as much as the IRS allowed tax-free every year – $15,000 a year. These were my stated preferences, the advisors reminded me: 1) taking care of myself until the end, 2) not being a burden to my daughters. I had flash-backs of my mother repeating as she got older: “I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

It was then that the senior advisor — sensing my reluctance to selling my apartment — told me about his mother, who was in perfect health for the longest time, and didn’t want to move out. Then, she suddenly became ill, and she needed to be taken care of every day, have her diapers changed, etc., and because she didn’t have the money to pay for a private nurse, the financial advisor and his brother took turns taking care of her every day until her house was sold — which took six months — and they put her in a nursing home. The obvious question I didn’t ask was: why didn’t the brothers hire a private nurse themselves, paid out of their own pocket until mom’s house was sold?

***

For whatever it’s worth, I have inherited good genes. In her 60s, my mother carried her kayak on the rooftop of her camping-van — which she had outfitted in order to sleep and cook in it — and headed for the rapids of Ardèche, in Central France, or for the lakes of Finland, where she later spent her winters in a log cabin without water or electricity and only heated by a huge stone fireplace. She would fetch the water at a well, carrying a tin bucket, and cut her own wood, stacked in the shed to feed into the fireplace.

A rebel and a fearless traveler all her life, she never married, had lovers, although she only vaguely alluded to them. She was fierce and virtually followed by a trail of sulfur, even if all she did was showing up in a room. Her presence was electric. She didn’t care what people said about her. If they judged her she stood up to them, cursed them with fiery expletives, and slammed the door. To her very last days, she refused to play the role that the French bourgeois society expected of her.


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At 85, she had a brain hemorrhage just as she had traveled back from Finland. When I got the call in New York, she was staying at a campground in the South of France — waiting for the tenant who had rented her house for the winter to move out. Apart from a heart attack in her 70s, from which she fully recovered to continue her life of traveling, she had never really “gotten old.”

In the hospital in Saint-Raphael, on the Côte d’Azur, my mother was entertaining the ICU nurses with stories of her kayaking days when I stepped in, straight from the airport, my head and feet covered with the regulation blue plastic covers. From the sheet emerged her still strong shoulders and buff arms (all that kayaking!), tanned and covered with freckles, her face still golden from the outdoors. Seduced, the nurses were rapt with admiration and attention.

Unlike my mother, my grandmother had grown old the proper, bourgeois way. I remember her in her 60s, in a simple gray shift dress, a lavender cardigan and a flowered apron, her hair cut short, permed and lightly blued by her stylist, carrying her signature dish of veal paupiettes to the weekly lunch with my uncles who came to visit every Thursday when I was off from school.

Now, paradoxically, I feel younger, more vibrant and in better shape physically and emotionally than I did at 60, or even at 50. So is that all a question of perspective?

Her only physical exercises were gardening, going to the greenmarket, picking quince to make preserves, or doing some light housework (she had a housekeeper for the heavy lifting). My grandfather had been an amateur boxer, and he was an avid swimmer, and every morning before breakfast he did his calisthenics in the garden. But in spite of my grandfather’s encouragement, in the summertime, Mamie would just sit on the beach in the South of France under an umbrella, fully clothed while my grandfather taught me how to swim until I could cover one kilometer each way. She refused to learn. Perhaps, at that point in her life, she thought it was inappropriate, too daring for an older woman to get undressed on the beach and move her body that freely.

After my grandfather passed away at age 92, she stayed alone in the big house outside Paris, cared for by her housekeeper who came everyday, and cleaned and cooked for her. When she became forgetful in her 90s, and later bed-ridden, the family hired a full-time nurse and set up a hospital bed on the first floor, in a bedroom with an adjacent bathroom, to make it easier to wash and change her.

***

In my early 70s, I am aging naturally, except I still dye my hair. But I am obsessed with women who let their hair go grey and I follow them on Instagram. Grey hair don’t care. Thick locks cascading down their backs. Gorgeous odalisks sunning themselves on a Malibu beach or hiking the Himalayas. Silver-haired models are the hottest trend. When I had my menopause around age 52 — a non-event that glided past me largely unnoticed — I read in a book that now was the time to embrace my crone status. I didn’t know what the word meant, but I didn’t like the sound of it. I had to look it up. It means a cruel and ugly old woman. I had zero intentions of ever becoming a crone, which to me meant giving up my sexuality and withering on the vine.

More recently I found out there’s more to the word — that the crone is one of the Triple Goddesses, which represent the stages of a woman’s life: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Each facet has a sacred purpose and is regarded as equally beautiful. Each stage also corresponds with a phase of the moon. The Crone phase is a sort of culmination, meant to fully integrate and embody all the wisdom we have gathered in the previous phases. The picture that illustrated the word crone on Google was that of one of these white-haired goddesses, a makeup-artist-turned-older-model I was following on Instagram. Her name was Cindy Joseph. On a blog called “That’s Not My Age,” I found a text she had written: “It’s about time. What the women of the Boomer generation are doing is unprecedented. We have reinvented every decade of our lives and are continuing to do so in our 60s and 70s; starting new careers, going back to college, we’re doing stuff differently to the previous generation. We’re a new wave of older women and manufacturers have finally recognized that.”

A few months ago I found out she passed away in the summer of 2018. At 67. Of cancer. I had never met her, but my heart sank. She was a pioneer, but she didn’t even make it to true old age.

***

Because of the baby boom of the ’50s, our demographic is more populous than the 25-44 age group. There are 108.7 million people age 50-plus. This includes 76.4 million “Boomers” (born 1946-64), compared with 49 million Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 82 million Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Moreover, the number of people who are 50-plus will continue to grow over the next decade to 19 million more, while the 18-49 population will only grow to 6 million.

That means that we, baby-boomers, are a huge consumer market. And it makes sense for companies to make products aimed at us, especially us women, the big consumers, and to hire older models. I find those sisters of mine very beautiful. Owning the symbols of age (grey hair and un-retouched wrinkles), making them appealing, even sexy, instead of hiding them, botoxing them to death or stuffing them with fillers.

I’m also a bit obsessed with celebrities in my age bracket. Isabella Rosselini, who is in her mid-60s, recently posted a video promoting a Lancôme cream — wearing minimal makeup and delivering unscripted text that sounded fresh, and not only personal but practically revolutionary: “Fortified, glowing… that’s what I want my cream to offer. You know. Not youth! I’ve had that. I’m done with that.”

But are we really done with that?

The Instagram account @overheardLA and @overheardNY posts fragments of real conversations eavesdropped in Los Angeles and New York City. The @overheardla account recently posted this dialogue between two friends, waiting for their coffee to be ready:

Woman: The barista wrote “Kelly Is hot” on my drink. I’m old, but I still got it!

Friend: That says “Kelly 1 shot”

***

I regularly see an osteopath who lives way into the far reaches of Bayside in Queens. The long ride back to Manhattan from Flushing is lulling, if I have a book to read. But sometimes the N train is crowded when I catch it at Queensboro Plaza. A cute 30ish young guy offers me his seat. I am mortified. Me? I am the little old lady who young polite dudes offer their seats to? I am torn between relief over having a seat so I can quietly read until my stop, and the depressing confirmation that when I leave my home early, in leggings, with no makeup, a big scarf and my beanie pulled down to my eyebrows, I don’t fool anyone. For a brief second I resent the polite young man and — as a kind of cheap, ego-boosting revenge — I toss him a sexy smile.

 

“I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.” So says the Lover in the opening pages of Marguerite Duras’ most famous novel, when he sees the narrator, decades after their affair. They — or their fictional counterparts — had originally met near the ferry crossing the Mekong River near Saigon when the narrator was a 15 year old French girl and he was a rich young Chinese man in his 20s. Duras did look ravaged in her later years — mostly because of alcoholism, though. Still, the word “ravaged” feels like a punch in the gut.

But not to Duras. Cool as a cucumber, she continues:

“Very early in my life it was too late. It was already too late when I was eighteen. Between eighteen and twenty-five my face took off in a new direction. I grew old at eighteen… my aging was very sudden. I saw it spread over my features one by one, changing the relationship between them, making the eyes larger, the expression sadder, the mouth more final, leaving great creases in the forehead. But instead of being dismayed I watched this process with the same sort of interest I might have taken in the reading of a book…. And I’ve kept it ever since, the new face I had then… My face hasn’t collapsed… it’s kept the same contours, but its substance has been laid waste. I have a face laid waste.”

***

The weekend before meeting my financial advisors I had had the idea of trying out a silver wig in a wig parlor in Manhattan. A fashion stylist friend was staying at my place and he concurred that letting my hair go natural could be very cool and sexy/ He agreed to go with me so I could see what I would look like if I stopped coloring my hair to its present ginger.

If you go grey, my beautiful French friend Nathalie warned me by text-message, you’ll look 10 years older.

Anyway, the meeting with the financial advisor killed all desire to play at going gray and we never made it to the wig parlor. I lost my nerve.

A few days later I was lying on my back at night, unable to sleep, thinking of my future self, old, incapacitated, alone and decrepit in my apartment, needing my diapers changed and my younger daughter coming after work to change me like a grown baby. The smell of shit and piss came to mind — perhaps the very thought she had when she asked me: “Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?”

Then I thought of the men I had dated on and off in the past few years — most of them younger, some way younger than me. Would they be up to changing my diapers? I doubted it. They would hightail it as fast as they could at the first sign of trouble.

In my early 70s, I am aging naturally, except I still dye my hair. But I am obsessed with women who let their hair go grey and I follow them on Instagram.

In my bedroom mirror and in my reflection in store windows in the street, I see myself as an older, but attractive woman, stylish, vibrant, full of life, embarking into a new chapter in my journey. Seduction, I am convinced, comes from inside, from your self-confidence, from energy, not from how smooth your skin is. I still have books to write, projects to launch, love to give. I am not done growing. I repeat to myself that it doesn’t matter whether I have 50 years ahead or me, or 10, or even only 5; that it is the energy I bring to forging my present that matters.

Still, my brain can’t wrap itself around the cognitive dissonance.

***

No matter how you look at it, an older woman who insists on being visible and sexual seems to trigger anxiety among women and threaten older men’s masculinity.

In 2017 a young blogger named Jenna Abrams with a twitter following of 70,000, was particularly outraged that a lingerie brand had hired a woman in her 50s to model their bras and panties.

“Three-day steak in laces… College girls in cotton Mickey Mouse hipster panties are desired, grandmas in laces, sorry, are not. This is a natural law and we cannot do anything with it. But it is 2017 and the marketers are unappeasable. They are brainwashing older women indoctrinating the simple idea: “You are fuckable.” You won’t eat a rotten fish even from a fancy dish. It is plain and very cruel cynicism: making profits on despair of the undesired.”

Helen Mirren (73), would disagree. As she told Woman and Home magazine “All my life I’ve been looking at 16-year-old girls selling beauty, so I think it’s fabulous that they’re using a 70-year-old woman to sell products to other 60 to 80-year-old women…Your 40s are good. Your 50s are great. Your 60s are fab. And 70 is fucking awesome.”

Perhaps the young blogger wasn’t aware of this new sub-genre of porn called “dirty grannies.” But it doesn’t matter, because “Jenna Abrams,” who also posted and tweeted pro-Trump rants and became a darling of the alt-right, was exposed as the creation of a troll farm based in St. Petersburg. Her twitter account was expunged after the 2016 election. But her blog is still alive and well. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that “she” is a misogynist Russian troll guy masquerading as a woman.

Jacqueline Trincaz, a French professor of sociology specializing in old age writes (and I am translating here, from French) that, “The lecherous old man is ridiculed, and the old lustful woman is considered a ‘libidinous witch’ and judged either as a shocking eccentric or a shameful rich woman grasping for her youth.” But even though all societies condemn older people’s sexuality, as being “unnatural,” in the game of love, she writes, “older women are almost always the losers, condemned to contempt and abandon.”

In her 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler states that “gender proves to be performance — that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to pre-exist the deed.”

I believe that age, too, is a doing, a performance. It is a social construct, and the roles were written millennia ago: the good mother, the honest woman, the dragon lady, the matron, the fallen woman, the whore, the ingénue, the young girl in flower, the granny, the old crone, etc. We can create new roles.

 

À 74 ans, J’aime faire l’amour  (At 74 I love to make love),” Jane Fonda — not afraid to be seen as a libidinous witch, or as a dirty granny — declared in an interview to a French journalist, and that quote was printed in big capital letters on the cover of French weekly Paris Match in January 2012. (Note that she said this to a journalist in France, where attitudes about aging are more forgiving.)

In a video interview in Allure via the website StyleLikeYou, the designer Norma Kamali, 71, in great shape, sporting long brown hair with super-short bangs and a pair of glamour cat’s eyes glasses, cannot believe her age: Seventy-one is a number I cannot relate to,” she says. “It’s some little old lady somewhere, somebody’s grandmother… When I turned twenty-one I really freaked out and my mother, with her wicked sense of humor, said ‘Norma, it’s all downhill from here.’ The irony is that I feel more beautiful today than I did then. I work out seven days a week… There isn’t anything I think I couldn’t be, frankly. I know it sounds arrogant. But I never would have said that if I was younger, would I?”

On her Instagram, Kamali posts daily short videos of herself in a black leotard doing barre and floor exercises and encourages women to take charge of their health.

***

It occurs to me that age is relative. I grew up with my grandparents and my mother. My father, a young med student, disappeared from her life mid-pregnancy after his parents found out that my mother was eight years older than him and evidently not a virgin. My grandmother was 54, but to me she was always “old,” a little old lady presiding over her domain, wearing a housedress and slippers at home, and only changing into an elegant suit to go to Sunday mass or to go shopping in Paris. Certainly she “acted” old in comparison to my mother, who preferred to play the movie star, perched on high heels, a cigarette at her fingers, and later the hippie, in jeans and combat boots or loose caftans. Sometimes my grandmother, after her bath, would ask me to help her fasten her bra because she was having difficulty reaching back. I remember her white skin gently giving under the pressure of the bra, whose hook-and-eye closure I struggled with — for fear of pinching her, but also for fear of touching her. The ripeness of her skin made me think of a pear going off. And the smell of her lavender powder or the Roger & Gallet eau de cologne she dabbed herself with was for me the smell of an old woman.

But what surprises me, now, as I am already past that age, when I hook my own bra, is how was it possible that she had trouble reaching back in her 50s? She lived for decades after that, to 97. So much of her life she needed so much help.

No matter how you look at it, an older woman who insists on being visible and sexual seems to trigger anxiety among women and threaten older men’s masculinity.

In 1985 she was lying on her deathbed in the living-room. I had just flown from New York for my final goodbye. All the family was there — my uncles, my cousins, my aunts, my mother — standing stiffly as if at a performance, the sheer number of us allowing us to avoid personal outpouring of emotion. We were there watching the matriarch’s end, like the court attending the lever or the coucher of the Queen. She was already lying on her linceul — the traditional shroud they still wrap the body into in Vendée, the Atlantic province where she grew up. In her late 90s, she still had that youthful upturned nose and high cheekbones, except her white hair was combed sideways, flat on her skull and too short, like a boy’s. She was the first person I had seen dead. I had missed my grandfather’s funeral because I was living in Montreal at the time, and I couldn’t fly back on such short notice. Of all the cousins I was her favorite — the granddaughter she had raised — a source of shame and embarrassment for me, who wanted nothing more than to be a normal kid with two parents. I felt guilty about not embracing her. But I was standing paralyzed among them, fearful of death, asserting my youth. The housekeeper, however, had no fear of it. This warm woman from Portugal, who had taken care of my grandmother for a decade, threw herself on her body and sobbed noisily, covering her face with kisses. Meanwhile, my family of uptight bourgeois French people were terrified of stepping too close to death in case it was contagious. To be honest, my grandmother wasn’t easy. she was old-fashioned and expected her grandchildren to be quiet and deferential and once pursued my elder daughter with a wooden spoon when she talked back to her; she was judgmental and played favorites and the least favorites had grievances.

The contrasts between my mother’s and my grandmother’s old days couldn’t have been more pronounced. They had grown old and died as they had lived — and I think each had played the role she had chosen. After my mother had been cremated, my cousins, uncle and I had dinner al fresco by the Mediterranean. My mother wasn’t easy either. She had a violent temper. But she was also wildly bold. And our goodbye to her was very different. We reminisced about her adventures, the crazy times with her. We laughed and cried and drank rosé.

The approach of death puts pressure on life, to extract as much juice from it as we can. But it’s a different kind of pressure than the one I felt when I was younger — the social pressure to conform, to hit the required milestones, meet the right man, get pregnant, have a family, succeed in your career. Rather, it’s a new awareness of time being finite, the focus sharper, the purpose clearer. Simplifying, pruning, keeping only the essential. There’s a huge relief in attending to your core needs and goals, getting closer to the bone, a deeper spirituality.

Perhaps that was what my mother was looking for when she spent her last winters in her log cabin by a Finnish lake. In her notebooks she praised the darkness coming around 3pm in the afternoon — like a shroud, the silent snow floating down. She had told her friends, who lived in the big house by the lake, that she wished to die there, and she almost did; she missed by just a couple of weeks.

Sometimes, in-between the business of daily life — forging ahead, getting shit done, the daily work-outs, the writing, the teaching, the literary gatherings, and giving my daughters all the love I feel for them — a slit slices open through the texture of life and time stands still and peaceful. The countdown to the future (the images of my grandmother on her deathbed, my mother in the ICU trying to move her paralyzed arm) stops and gives place to a wide open space where age falls away. I don’t feel any different now than I did at 22, when I first came to New York. The spirit is the same.

Maybe that’s why I still can’t bring myself to get my US citizenship, just as I don’t want to go back to France. I am keeping an out. I am still not old. I don’t want to live an American old age, but I am not ready either to go back and lie down on French soil like a dying dog.

As the poet who goes by the name “Atticus Poetry” writes in Love Her Wild, “I hope to arrive to my death late, in love, and a little drunk.”

* * *

Catherine Texier is the author of the memoir Breakup and of six novels. Her latest is Russian Lessons. She has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Newsday, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Marie-Claire and Nerve.com.

Editor: Sari Botton

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Also In the Fine Lines Series:
Introducing Fine Lines
Gone Gray
An Introduction to Death
Age Appropriate
A Woman, Tree or Not
Dress You Up in My Love
The Wrong Pair
‘Emerging’ as a Writer — After 40
Losing the Plot
A Portrait of the Mother as a Young Girl
Elegy in Times Square
Every Day I Write the Book
Johnny Rotten, My Mom, and Me
Everything is Fine
Barely There
Bracing for the Silence of an Empty Nest
To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time
Game of Crones
Father’s Little Helper
Whole 60
Conversations with My Loveliest
What is Happening to My Body?
Keeping my Promise to Popo
Hello, Forgetfulness; Hello, Mother
Old Dudes on Skateboards