Ulla-Riikka.jpg
 

Ulla-Riikka, 67

A few years ago I saw a photo of myself where I looked just like my mother. It startled me and felt bad. As far as I know, my mother was never fully in control of her life. For decades, she lived with a demanding alcoholic man, compliant to him. She also had trouble getting stuff done in her everyday life. She spent a lot of time at home but couldn’t quite keep the place cosy and pleasant.

I have no desire to be like my mother. Yet I’ve started to see a reminder of her in the mirror. When a grouch with my mother’s features looks back at me, it makes me go out and do things. I’ve fallen in love with Finnish rock, and I travel around the country with other fans to see my favorite artist. It often feels like we’re on a school trip. In concerts, you get to let loose and forget your age for a couple hours.

But I can tell by the tone of some of my acquaintances that they consider my behavior embarrassing, even bizarre.

When we’re in concerts, my younger fan friends complain that some men tend to get too close. Nobody approaches someone my age, I’ve been left alone. It’s a good thing, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something. I’m not afraid to walk home alone at night, either.

How you feel about your looks is an ever-evolving process. The color of my hair has changed. I haven’t got a lot of wrinkles yet, but my body has changed. And the image I have of myself is a dated one: it’s an image of a more slender person who walks more gracefully than I do.

When I was younger, I didn’t think about my looks very much. I didn’t consider myself beautiful, but kind of okay. At that time, my inner self-image was more in line with the reflection in the mirror. I have never used much makeup or anything like that, people were more like natural hippies in the 1960s. Times sure have changed a lot. I feel like people are much more obsessed with their looks these days.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see an aged person, much older than what I feel like. It feels bad and sad. The sorrow also stems from feeling like I won’t have time to do everything I want in life. I never realized before that a thing like retiring is such a life-altering experience. It makes you feel like this was it. That, say, the plates I have at home are all the plates I will ever have.

When I was younger, the desire to live was a given. Now I have to search for that feeling and hold on to it.