Two days ago I was sitting at the dinner table at my guest house, chatting with the owner. He looked at me for a while. "I can see from your face that you must have been beautiful when you were young" he said.
I smiled uncertainly and kept my composure for long enough to finish my dinner. Later in my room I cried, then laughed, then cried some more. I've been avoiding mirrors for the last year or two as I don't like the evidence that stares back at me, but still hoped at the back of my mind that I was being self-critical, that other people wouldn't have noticed what I could see. Of course I always knew that the years of sunbathing would catch up with me eventually - and now they have. & what I also have to accept is that ageing is not an illness - something I will recover from next week - but that I will NEVER be young and beautiful again in my life.
The guest house owner was not being deliberately cruel. In Africa, the wisdom of age is valued much more than the innocence of youth, and beauty has little value. Any African man would choose a rich woman above a beautiful one, and as I am white I am obviously rich...
However whilst I am sure that I have absorbed some African values during my time here, I have clearly not lost the Western veneration of youth and beauty. If anyone knows a good plastic surgeon, please send me the details.