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By The Blessed Belle of Blowing Rock. May 17, 2016. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A couple of months ago, I went on a first date with a handsome gentleman I met through mutual friends. He lived out of town so he booked a hotel room in Boone.

We met at a nice restaurant on King Street. I felt an attraction and my intuition told me it was mutual. The evening was floating flawlessly; no lapses in conversation, no awkward dealings with the staff and no salad stuck in my teeth. “So far so good,” I thought as he paid the bill.

After dinner, we strolled down King Street and decided to veer off into a local pub. Earlier, I had smoothly expressed some of my knowledge about wine. It must have impressed him because as we grabbed two stools at the end of the bar he said, “Now let me teach you a thing or two about beer.”

….there was no salad stuck in my teeth.

It was during spring break at Appalachian State University so there weren’t many college kids around. In fact, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

We sampled a few different beers and I did learn something: I don’t care too much for IPA’s. My right knee and his left knee touched every so often, sending a tingle up my spine. We exchanged demure grins and at one point I’m certain my eyelashes fluttered quickly, twice in a row.

Our conversation was effortless and easy, like the flow of the New River on its 360 mile journey from its North Carolina headwaters, through Virginia and West Virginia before joining other tributaries to the Ohio River, and then on to the Mississippi and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Like early explorers drifting downstream in rough-hewn canoes, my date and I had no idea where this simple journey of conversation would take us, but it seemed like an exciting adventure was afoot.

A few college students, possibly even high school, walked into the bar (along with their false bravado). One of them had a large skull and crossbones tattoo wrapped around his thin forearm. He kept swinging his head to the right so that his long layered bangs would “feather,” just so.

I would rather worry about being underage than overage.

While my date conversed with the neighbor on his right, I overheard the bartender ask “Tattoo” for his ID. He rolled his eyes and reached for his wallet. As I was pondering what the legal age was to get a tattoo, I heard him smirk as he slung his head in my direction, “I would rather worry about being underage than overage.”

Not sure if he was directing his head (and sarcasm) toward me – or still trying to get those bangs just right – I coolly fixed my eyes on him, but showed no reaction. His friends did not react either.

Meanwhile, as he flicked his license to the bartender, it was as if a tiny burst of karmic air caught it, shooting it upwards just enough to hit the bartender in the chin. “Not cool, dude,” the bartender grumbled. Tattoo sarcastically giggled, strangely enough like a little boy (imagine that).

My date, still chatting it up with his neighbor, was oblivious to the scene. Our knees, though, continued their flirtatious game of cat and mouse. Even as we were in conversations with others, our knees would knock and then linger, pressing harder with each touch and then remaining pressed hard together.

I felt beautiful. Some little schmuck wasn’t taking that from me.

That night I felt particularly beautiful. Proud. Full of life. Some little shmuck wasn’t taking that from me. I silently stated my new mantra, “What someone thinks of me is none of my business.” God, I love it.

In the Western world, society places a lot of focus on aging, especially for women, and most messages are negative. Skincare lotions and potions write “anti-aging” on their labels, but they are an oxymoron. We can’t “not age.” I like to say that I’m “growing older” instead of “aging.” We are all continuously growing – older.

For the longest time I lied about my age by a year…or maybe even five. Not anymore. I’m on the brink of my 50th birthday and I’m giving 50 a big ol’ hug. Christiane Northrup, M.D., renowned women’s health expert and one of my favorite gurus explains, “We should view growing older as an ascent up a hill. Our value only increases as we get older. Dismiss the thought of being placed in an age portal. If you’re 70 and you want your hair long, wear it long. If you’re 80 and want to wear leather pants, wear leather pants.”

Once I grasped her philosophy, my outlook on growing older changed. Lately I feel I am unraveling from a cocoon of tightly wound string that simultaneously releases a sense of freedom and empowerment. I embrace who I am, authentically, including my curves and my quirks.

If you’re 80 and want to wear leather pants, wear leather pants.

I catch myself calmly handling situations with a refreshing aplomb that I would not necessarily “handle” normally, before. Each day I live more in the moment and worry less about the past and the future. I’m allowing God, the flow of the Universe and my personal power to create my course instead of that adversary in my head that steered me in the wrong direction too many times to count.

This new life, this new me – it feels good. Really good.

The day after my date I called my spirited, 96 years young great aunt. She asked how the evening went. Like a giddy schoolgirl I told her about my date and knocking our knees together at the bar.

Then I told her about Tattoo and what he said. She laughed, “Sounds like he’s a lit’l too big for his britches. Poor youngin’, he just doesn’t know yet.”

“Know what?” I asked with great anticipation.

Lemme tell ya honey, gettin’ old is a privilege.

“Lemme tell ya honey,” she replied. ”Gettin’ old is a privilege. Everyone I’ve ever known and loved is dead and gone. Just imagine that. Now, I could be pitiful or I could be grateful because I knew love like I did. I choose to be grateful. That’s what gets me up ‘ever mornin’ …and I like gettin’ up.”

I could hear her smile. “Plus, it’s all in God’s plan,” she added. At that, she paused for a second and whispered as if she were sharing a secret, “You have to trust that.”

Over the next month, the promise of a romantic relationship between my date and I fizzled. I told myself it was the long distance. Ironically, a message reached me in a roundabout way that my date really wants to have another child and he thought I was much younger than 49. Ouch. I told the messenger that I suppose he thought my hips looked like good breedin’ hips, too. I felt the sudden urge to let out a loud, guttural “MOOOO.”

But it is what it is. It’s not my place to judge him for what he wants or his plan. I also know God’s plan for me is to share my gifts with someone who deems me most-worthy. It is a shame, though…our knees got along so well.

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