A snapshot can do it… a store window reflection… a chance remark by a friend. It’s the moment you realize you’re not young anymore. You’re not old either, thank the Lord, just – you know, not young. You don’t feel any different on the inside. But your inside doesn’t match your outside the way it used to and suddenly you know it.
Your friends are getting face lifts, so you stand in front of the newly unfriendly mirror, pulling up your cheeks and pushing your neck around. Tautness makes you look so much better you don’t ever want to let go because now it’s clear to you that your libido may be friskier than your face.
A few years ago, my own such mid-life shocker mobilized me into hyper-drive. An interview on TV stunned me…. could I really look that much older than I’d thought?. I didn’t try eleventeen new face creams looking for a miracle, but I did take out all those Plastic Surgeon recommendations I’d previously stuffed into the back of the desk drawer just in case. I did collagen shots until I had no wrinkles but looked like a chipmunk storing lunch. I discussed a tummy tuck with a surgeon until I read the stats on the death rate associated with abdominoplasty. I upped the number of times I, and my hard-won black belt, hit the dojo, and I never again left home without makeup. Fortunately, I spared myself Botox because I’d read the lab studies that say it can cross the brain barrier. Besides, I laugh too much to be believable as deadpan.
But then the second shock set in. All the self-scrutinizing was tiresome, expensive and fairly fruitless. The procedures and pamperings my friend were doing sounded more like obligation than fun. But obligation to whom, I wondered? Did it really make one whit of difference to anyone on planet earth if my face had a wrinkle, or my waist had wandered north of Size Ten? The good news and the bad news was that the answer was no.
It was suddenly clear to me: I hate surgery, my idea of self-indulgence runs more toward bubble baths and books than derm visits and I was spending way too much time and money to make way too little difference. And there were philosophical issues, too…do women with facelifts really look young, or do they just look ironed? Do old eyes in a newly young face seem beautiful, or somewhat disturbing? Hmmm…
By going to the dojo six times a week as I used to when younger and skinnier, I could probably lose that 20 pounds that had come and gone so often I’m sure it just sits waiting in some alternate universe to be called forth by a single mocha cappuccino, but is that really the best use of my time? Maybe one of the perks of mid-life is a keener sense of what’s important and the common sense to allow in some of those small frivoling pleasures denied us in youth. Maybe this is just one of those great imponderables that every woman must ultimately decide for herself.
So at the end of the day, my tummy stays un-tucked, I’ll never have a six pack unless I buy one at the grocery store, my neck which I hate just like every other woman over 60 does, isn’t worth $15,000 and the dangers of surgery. I have so much I want to do, see, think, learn, be, so having seen that tempus is fugiting faster than I’d realized, I’d best decide what I really want to spend my precious time on. By that criterion, following the phantom of lost youth seems about as useful as wondering where those 20 pounds spend their in-between times.
So, I’m doing my best to age gracefully. I know that sounds lazy and undisciplined, but I’m not a total slouch. I still get exercise doing karate and being propelled along at the end of my 120 pound pooch’s leash. I’m cherry-picking beauty choices with cheery irrationality – being a redhead is part of my personality, so gray hair is off the board, but I love makeup, so I still try every new color that comes down the pike. And I’m not above an occasional facial with Denise, the greatest facialist on earth, partially for my face’s sake and partially because she’s hilariously witty and being pampered while laughing for an hour is good for more than my skin. I’m working on – but no longer worried about – the perambulating 20 pounds and I’ve learned to ignore most mirrors unless forced by fate or hairdresser appointment to really look closely. So much for the graceful part.
But call me Old at your own risk. Remember I do have a Black Belt.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2013