Reaching back to my late 1970’s pre-pubescent vanity, I decided that I could avoid aging. Ignoring endless magazines, rows of cosmetics and treatments, professions, and advice dedicated to this subject – my regimen had only 4 rules:
- Wear sunglasses when the sun is shining. Squinting is bad. Period. I can’t tell you how many pairs I’ve been through, but I will use the phrase “sunglass emergency” on occasion.
- Avoid smiling with the eyes. I used to look in the mirror and practice raising my eyebrows and opening my eyes wider, while smiling, so that I would never have crow’s feet.
- Use good lotion, lots of good lotion and touch the face softly, always working upward and outward.
- Only wear makeup on special occasions. Use it as a ‘treat’, not a staple.
At 22, my boyfriend forcefully held me down and popped a zit, breaking my life-long record.
At 33, a twenty-something waitress at TGI Fridays in Oakland asked if “I just stare at myself in the mirror and think about how young I look”. No! (Okay, yeah…I did.)
And now… I am almost 50 years old, nearing half a century, approaching a landmark event, reaching my personal best, my shining moment …aw, shit! I’m getting old!
Being middle-aged feels weird. I want to dart across the street between traffic, but my body doesn’t move as fast as it used to. I want to sluice through water. (I want to go out in public in a swimsuit, but those days are long gone.) I want to read the small print without glasses. I want to see without help. I want to stay out all day and stop taking naps. I want to stop wearing tennis shoes whenever there’s walking involved.
As my eye doctor said, when I first ordered some Progressive bi-focal lenses to hide my middle-aged vision from the world, “it only gets worse from here.”
In the last couple of years, when I look in the mirror, I can’t ignore the signs of aging. On my face, my lips look smaller as they head south into a permanent frown. The line of my chin isn’t quite so distinct, and when I bend my face down, my chin multiplies and my once long, lithe neck disappears. My eyes have started to sink into their sockets, giving me a high, sunken brow. (Now this, I think, is nice!) There’s no stopping this train now. Well, there can be detours along the way: Botox and face lifts, breast lifts, eyelid tucks, tummy tucks, liposuction, stomach stapling, hair dyes, permanent eyebrows, permanent lipstick, Viagra for men, on and on. Although I still get comments on ‘not looking my age’ and compliments on ‘beautiful skin’, my hair gives away my secret, at about 80% gray.
What I want is to age gracefully, neither fighting nor admitting defeat; welcoming the wisdom, the relaxed confidence, the security of knowing myself extremely well, like Sophia Loren or Lauren Bacall. Classy. Elegant. Refined. Relaxed and unhurried. Secure. Dignified.
Every year, when someone asks if I still get a cake or celebrate my birthday, I say, “Hell, yeah! It means I’m still winning the game.” Victorious.