Saturday, May 29, 2010

There is a Traitor in Our Midst

When I was in my twenties, I couldn't understand why people would spend so much money and time using all sorts of funky products trying to look young. My mother has beautiful salt and pepper colored hair, which is now more salt than pepper. My grandmothers both aged gracefully. I believed I would embrace my aging process as a beautiful part of my life.

When I was in my thirties, my pepper colored hair began to sprout some salt. My gray hair was not only an unattractive yellow-gray, but it was course and curly- in complete opposition to my otherwise dark straight hair. All my friends who had any gray readily jumped into a Miss Clairol box and made it go away. I finally conceded to peer pressure and darkened my gray hair.

Now, in my forties, my body has completely revolted. I am seriously considering putting it on trial for high treason. My hair has "salted" up considerably. Gravity has done a pretty serious number on everything. My muscle tone has turned to something resembling old mashed potatoes. My forehead has really deep lines running east to west across it. And crow's feet have sprouted at the corners of my eyes.

Those people whose judgement I questioned in my twenties are now on my speed dial for consultation on how to rid my body of these evil encroachments on my youth. A friend was telling me about her botox injections. My interest piqued. How bad was it? How much did it cost? Most importantly: did it work? (She looked a tiny bit offended that I asked that, since technically, I suppose I should have been able to tell. But cosmetic changes are delicate, much like weight. If you tell someone they've lost a ton of weight, or look so much better, it's sort of backhanded compliment. You've told them they look so great now, because they looked so bad before...)

Now, would I actually go through anything more drastic than hair coloring? Twenty years ago I would have said "NO WAY." Today, I say, "probably not." But I'm not ruling it out. By the time I hit my fifties, I may be looking for part time jobs to fund my cosmetic procedures. I would hope I would welcome some of my aging, as I had originally planned. But there's no denying that watching your body change and age in front of your eyes is at the very least terribly unsettling.

As I watched my next door neighbor's sixteen year old daughter walk around the pool in her cute little bikini this evening, I mourned the metabolism of my youth. I wished desperately for my flat belly and my curves that were where they were supposed to be, instead of sliding down my body. And I yearned for my young skin that smoothed across my face, instead of scrunching and wrinkling.

But I looked at her mother, who is about my age and faces some of the challenges everyone my age faces. It occurred to me that my three children also had been a product of my aging. And, I may not embrace my body's aging, but I do embrace my age. I am happy where I am and with who I am, even if I'm not happy with my treasonous body.

So, bring on the hair dye, and whatever else help with the body's appearance. But keep the memories, the experiences and the love!

1 comment:

Stephanie Faris said...

This is something that has been bothering me, too. But, before I met Neil I had a good friend who was drop-dead gorgeous. She was in her 20s. She spent the majority of her day on her looks. She'd go to the gym, get her nails done...PLUS she was already getting injections (I think hers were something called Restalyn?) and had already had three boob jobs, a nose job, and lipo dissolve...none of which she really needed, except maybe the first boob job, since she was an A-cup.

I learned something from that. We become the sum total of how we spend our days. You can work on your looks and, yes, we'll look much better, but what do we have inside? Not much. My beautiful friend was an incredibly shallow person. She took her master's degree and turned it into a career as a "promotions" model. (She goes downtown and hands out Jack Daniels samples at bars.) I just look at someone like you and see you as beautiful for reasons that go beyond looks. You're a mom, a writer, and beautiful. I think that things may sag as we get older, but when we age gracefully, we're even more beautiful because we've grown so much inside. Those age spots we'll have are badges of honor.