Getting old is a rich journey, filled with insights and profound appreciation for life.
At least, that’s what people tell me. I wouldn’t know, because I’m fighting off age with tooth and nail. Whatever the opposite of aging gracefully is, that’s what I’m doing.
Talk about first-world problems: I have good health, most of my teeth, a nice home and a partner. Yet I mourn because my bathing suit days are over.
I learned this fact like so many women have: In the unforgiving fluorescent glare of a three-way department store mirror. And I wasn’t even buying a swimsuit. I was trying on dresses, standing there in my skivvies, when I saw my reflection from what seemed like 47 different angles—none of them flattering.
It was, no pun intended, like an out-of-body experience. Initially, I didn’t recognize that reflection as… you know, me.
There stood a short woman with flabby knees and a booty that seemed hell-bent on reaching her ankles. She also had odd little dents on her thighs.
“Bless her heart,” I thought, gazing upon this other woman. “She’s fighting the good fight.”
Then she sneezed, a honking shriek that sounded a lot like yours truly.
When I realized the other woman was me, my vision narrowed to a pinpoint. I may have stopped breathing. When I came to, I was getting dressed faster than a firefighter answering a 2 a.m. alarm.
(Before you think I totally hate myself, I do have cute feet and broad shoulders, if broad shoulders are something to aspire to.)
Yes, I’m vain. And I would love to have no vanity. I know women who don’t give a flying fig about wrinkles or bleeding lipstick or wiry gray hair. They seem to be perfectly happy… and free. Free from society’s judgment, free from the struggle to stay—or at least look—youthful. Free from the tyranny of six-week color touchups and 15-minute bedtime rituals.
(If you added up all the minutes I’ve spent removing makeup plus toning, exfoliating, masking, rinsing and stroking on body lotion, eye cream and neck moisturizer, it would equal a long weekend in Paris. The hours I’ve spent applying makeup would equal a week in Belize. Maybe I should travel more and primp less.)
Truthfully, I do all of the above for the same reason I exercise compulsively: I can’t not do it. Also, it’s sort of a courtesy to other people. If I don’t want to see my blotchy skin and puffy eyes, why should you have to?
I recently finished a book by a 30-ish couple who worked hard, slashed their expenses and left the rat race for a homestead in Vermont. (They kept throwing around the word “retired” but they still work remotely, so whatever.)
Anyway, the wife talked about how much she saved when she quit wearing makeup—and nobody even noticed!
“One day I stopped wearing mascara, and nobody noticed. A few days later I stopped wearing eye shadow and nobody noticed. Then I stopped wearing blusher, and nobody noticed, etc. etc.”
Sister, I call baloney. People noticed, they just didn’t say anything. I know what I look like without makeup, so I don’t go without makeup. When I do, people ask if I’m sick, or tired, or had a bad night. The bare-faced look is like really short hair: Some women rock it, others… don’t.
Hair, makeup, skin… it doesn’t matter what we do, we age each day regardless. And, as Grandma used to say, it beats the alternative.
(Julie R. Smith, who will be a scary-looking old gal, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)