At the office, one of my doctors recently saw a patient who was somewhere in her 80s. She was diagnosed with a number of visual ailments, the news wasn’t the greatest. I documented the exam, the doctor discussed her treatment options, and the patient began to leave. On her way out of the exam room, she turned to me. In spite of her age, her eyes were vividly blue and alert. She touched my hand.
“Sweetheart, don’t ever get old.”
I sat there for a moment, unsure of what to say. I finally decided to go with one of my departed father’s famous lines.
“It beats the alternative!” I called to her retreating form.
But does it really?
I sure as hell never thought I’d get this old. I was fairly certain I would die before I reached thirty. There’s nothing major medically wrong with me, I just am a morbid person with a vivid imagination. So you can imagine my surprise when thirty snuck up on me like a cat stalking a crippled mouse. I remember the first time I became aware that thirty was a tangible reality when I was getting a new driver’s license. It was summer time, and I was pregnant. The year was 2007, and I was 24, almost 25. Upon examining my new license, I wrinkled my nose at the picture. I was red faced from the heat, and wearing a pink tee-shirt. The two combined made me look like a sunburned flamingo. Lovely, I thought. I’m going to have to use this i.d. for how many years? Then I wrinkled my nose again at the expiration date. 2013! I shook my head in disbelief. By 2013, I thought, the bun in my oven will be five years old, and I will be thirty. THIRTY! I laughed. Perish the thought, I dismissed the notion and continued about my 24 year old day.
You see, as the baby of my immediate family, I was never really that interested in growing up. A huge part of my identity was formed upon the notion that I was the little one, the adorably fallible one, and my efforts at adulthood were cute, not anything to be taken seriously. The second I spawned an Eliza, that all changed. I was still in relative denial, until I hit 29. On my 29th birthday, one of my co-workers came up to me and cheerfully wished me a happy birthday.
On the spot, I morphed into a troll. “Not happy. 29 is the death sentence. 30 is the execution!” I hissed.
She laughed, because she was 23, and things like that are funny when you are 23. I pointed my gnarled claw at her. “You just wait. 30 found me….it will find you, too!” And then I shuffled off to drink my Metamucil, and take a nap.
To quote the late great Aaliyah song, “Age ain’t nuttin’ but a number.”
Yes, that is true, age isn’t anything but a number. But then the next line is, “Throwin’ down ain’t nuttin’ but a thang.” Um, Aaliyah, throwin’ down isn’t just nothing but a thing. Wanna know why? Because throwin’ down leads to the most terrifying sexually transmitted result ever….a case of the babies!
A case of the babies makes you old. Children age your ass faster than a tanning bed set on high.
What I want to know is this….how does one age gracefully?
Years ago, I swore I wouldn’t be one of those older women running from her impending age. Because women like that, I surmised, looked like maniacs attempting to run on a track, flailing their arms about with no control and pathetic to watch. Yet women who aged gracefully seemed to trot like an Olympic sprinter, with grace and ease to the finish line.
Then I saw my first wrinkles.
In the last few months, I kept noticing that my lower eyeliner was always smudged by the end of the day. I thought this odd, since I’ve been using the same eyeliner for the last decade, and it always stayed in place even when everything else in my life didn’t. I got close up in the mirror, and inspected my face.
Much to my horror, my lower eye skin had some tiny lines in it. At first I was furious. Not to sound conceited, but my good skin has always been my saving grace. I feel like I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to be remotely cute in every other aspect and use every product known to man, but my skin always was fairly clear and smooth. And now this. I was becoming a fossil before my time. I’d become the old waitress in the run down café named Doris who greets customers with a cigarette in her mouth and a face like leather, rasping “Whut can I gitchya?”
Frantically, I googled “Causes for early eye wrinkles.” Then I discovered the culprit. I suppose now is the time to divulge that I picked up a nasty little habit last spring. My life was hell, I was fed up with everything, I didn’t give a damn about anyone, let alone myself, so I packed on 20 pounds and started smoking. I had stayed so strong for so long, but a break up finally pushed me over the edge. I chose to not just fall, but catapult myself over the edge. Smoking privately was a form of self destruction that soothed me in a strange way. I suppose I had done the “right” things and received nothing but bad things in return for so long, that now I wanted to taste the other side. Fuck it all, I figured. Now I’m going to do things entirely wrong, and maybe I’ll see some right.
Early eye wrinkles were my reward for polluting myself. Although I was pretty sure I could reverse the lines by smoking cessation, I needed a quick fix. I ended up in a Walmart aisle staring desperately at anti-aging creams. Then I found a bottle that promised smoother eyes within 3 minutes. Hell, I figured, I’ve got 3 minutes! That night before bed, I tested the serum out. The bottle advised me not to smile or frown for 3 minutes. Okay, I thought, I can remain emotionless for 3 minutes. I smeared on a few drops under each eye. It’s hard not to move your face when you feel as though it’s turning into plaster. Ever wondered what it would feel like to put super glue under your eyes? Buy this stuff! After 3 minutes, I checked out the mirror. Not bad, I thought. Then I smiled. Smiling is a giant no-no. My cheeks moved up with the smile, and the skin below my eyes stayed strangely tight. The effect produced looked like an extraterrestrial Joan Rivers. “Oh, fuck no!” I screeched and began to scrub the super glue eye serum off. I ended up with raw, red, wrinkly eye skin. My mirror image pouted, as it looked like it now had pink eye. I flipped off the mirror, and went to bed.
Thankfully, by morning my eye skin was back to normal. I was lamenting my eye investment failure, when I began to dry shampoo my hair. At Walmart, I had also picked up a stronger dry shampoo. I realized how well it worked when I looked up nonchalantly in the mirror, and was shocked to see a chick version of Anderson Cooper staring back at me. The dry shampoo had coated my roots in a thick white powder. I was now prematurely grey. The dry shampoo had given me a delightful preview of what I would look like in the next 15-20 years. I brushed the dry shampoo out of my hair so furiously, I broke the hair brush.
Tonight I sat around the living room with the family, attempting to relax. Eliza was happily playing with ‘pixie dust’ (glitter). She generously sprinkled the pixie dust all over my face. Eliza stated that the “Pissy dust” had made me beautiful. Being the mental eight year old I am, I began laughing uproariously at the ‘pissy dust’. My mother stared at me, and I knew she was scrutinizing something. “WHAT?” I finally said.
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just that glitter really shows your eye wrinkles. Don’t ever put glitter around your eyes.”
I responded that I had found the cause of my eye wrinkles, and they should be repaired in time.
“No, honey,” she said, “Not those eye wrinkles. Your crow’s feet.”
“CROW’S FEET!” I screamed.
“Uh….uh….”she stammered “They’re not crow’s feet! More like baby birdie steps!”
“My face is not a Disney playground!” I yelled, “There will be no birdies stepping on my face!”
I left the room with arms crossed, and wearing a frown that I was sure was adding wrinkles to my face by the second.
So much for aging gracefully.
Don’t be surprised if you open a celebrity tabloid in the near future, and see a picture of me and Demi Moore partying with men half our age, and looking utterly ridiculous while doing so. (You know it's bad if you're getting down with your bad self, and Lenny Kravitz is trying to pretend he's somewhere else.)
We’re not pathetic, we’re cougars.
And we’ll limp to the finish line like the winners we are.