IIn the Pilates class, I caught myself glancing at older women. They were fit and happy. One had lips painted red. She wore a black velvet headband and thick gold creoles. The other woman had short gray hair and slightly tanned skin. Younger participants are usually in the minority in this course, probably because it is often held in the morning during the week.
I admire these older women, their charisma, their struggles that are an expression of their life experiences. I was thinking of my grandmother, my father's mother, who moved to Germany with my grandfather as a guest worker in the 1970s and who lived alone for over 30 years after my grandfather's death. When I stayed with her, I loved watching her dress as a teenager. I could see her wrinkled but beautiful and soft skin, her love handles, nesting around her, protecting her from life's challenges.
Sometimes my cousin used to play with her skin on Granny's arm and show me what happens when you drag her with your fingers. How slowly she came back! Elasticity has dropped. My grandmother let it go. We knew that one day we would be old too. And we appreciated it even more, being young. Then in the closet next to the towel I discovered my grandmother's anti-aging cream, which she used in the late 70's.
How little memory
I also remembered the soft, white skin of my maternal grandmother, whose back I was allowed to clean when she visited us in Germany or in her village of eastern Anatolia. The arms and legs were immaculate. There were many small deep wrinkles on her face. A reminder of the loss of her first husband, whom she escaped when she was 13 and wanted to forcibly marry an older man. He fell in the war in Russia. Traces of forced relocation to the west and during the uprising in Dersim in 1938 can be seen on her aged skin. My grandparents needed to assimilate there, forget their Alevi-Zaza origins and become loyal to the state. They did not stay in western Turkey for long. They sold the precious land and returned to East Anatolia – out of longing for their roots.
How I would like to know what experiences women in my Pilates class have gained. Where did her wrinkles come from, which shaped her life. What deaths they suffered, what pleasures they allowed them to celebrate. Of course I can't ask her. There are strangers in fitness.
But why are there so few depictions of women with this old and beautiful skin? Why do we see their faces the most, but not their bodies? Why are we learning so little about what they experienced? I see old women when they sign up to witness World War II. It is important. But I would love to know more about her struggles, her life experiences.
Active in old age
Characterized by my Turkish culture, respect for the elderly is very important to me. I also see young German Turks, as they offer their place on the bus or in the subway of older women. These women are not only looking forward to sitting on the full bus, but also giving thanks for their gratitude.