Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Age

I have always looked young for my age. And up until the last five years or so, I have always hated that fact. As a kid, I was so eager to BE older, and the fact that I didn't look even as old as I was was an endless irritation. As a teenager, I made the typical teenage mistake of believing that looking OLDER was the same as looking COOLER, or at least more sophisticated. And sophistication is one thing that I have never been able to even approach, either in appearance or personality. I gave up on that one soon enough, though it took a lot longer to quit being wistful about it. Even as an adult, I wanted to look my age because I felt I was finally beginning to earn my maturity. Somehow I thought I would earn more respect if I could at least lay claim to the years I had lived—visually, anyway.

But the last five years put an end to that, of course, because I was at the age, short as it is, when a woman can be both fully adult and not on her way out in terms of the way people interact with her. Face it; there is an age when women become wallpaper: people's eyes begin to pass over her. So for a few years, there, I was happy to look younger than I am.

But this year it's over. There is no doubt now that I am Middle Aged.

First it was the gray. (That, really, began in college, but it got really bad the last five years or so.) Thank goodness there is dye for that, though, or I would have been hitting this wall quite a while ago. I toy with the idea of going natural sometimes—I've seen a few handsome women pull it off, particularly in Berkeley, where the women wear their hair in neat, mod bobs, seeming to relish the distinguished silver. But it requires a very trim figure, fantastic designer clothes, and a deep commitment to make-up in order to pull it off. And there are an awful lot of women who go gray who, well, don't pull it off. And I admit to being influenced greatly by peer pressure. In Pocatello, things might be different, but here in South Jordan there are exactly two women in my ward who are naturally gray. That's a hard audience to play to.

Then, in the past year, the Middle-Aged Spread hit. The thighs. The saddle bags. The grandma-belly. And no recent pregnancy to blame it on. I began exercising for an hour a day instead of the 30 minutes I was doing before, and nothing came off. I can get a little of it to go away if I diet unreasonably and continuously . . . but, seriously, NOT WORTH IT. What is the point of living as long as I have if I can't have a peanut-butter egg once in a while?

OK, so, steer away from the skinny jeans (not dignified enough anyway, right?), begin to wear more skirts and skirted tops, smile a lot. Do yoga in the privacy of my own home. I can deal with the spread.

Then there are the little physical things that come to make their homes in my body and seem to think it's a permanent move. The stiff hip joint. The tail-bone pain. The shoulder that just doesn't quite rotate like it used to, the digestion that has begun to assert its preferences tyrannically. All of these have been relatively easy to accept because of the bigger Illness that I've struggled with the past few years that Seems To Be Waning Significantly. I will never stop rejoicing about that, so a few little creaks and whines are liveable.

And now we are approaching the area that I am finding it difficult to make peace with: The Sag.

Now, I don't mind the sag in my body, in general, all that much. (See "Middle-Aged Spread," above.) We'll skip over that in the very way that people's eyes skip over saggy middle-aged people in general. It's the facial sag that I'm having a problem with. Bad is the area around my eyes, because I find my face aching at the end of the day from trying to keep my skin from sliding off my skull by sheer eye-brow strength. I'm now discovering why so many old people have those horizontal wrinkles on their foreheads. It's because they, like me, are trying to peer out from under their saggy upper eyelids by arching their eyebrows all day. I can stand in front of the mirror and lift my entire face up my skull by sliding my forehead up with my fingers. "Face lift" begins to take on meaning, begins to be tempting . . . surely it's not just vanity if I am aiding my field of vision, right?

Dr. hubby assures me that, if it gets bad enough, the insurance will even pay for a little eyelid surgery because it "interferes with vision." I'm thinking I might could justify that one . . .

But the thing I hate most, my nemesis, is the WATTLE.

Now, I've always had a little wattle. (I prefer the more kind term, "weak chin.") And I've always hated it. And a tiny little bit of chipmunk in the lower cheeks. But there is no denying it these days: I have a full-blown, hideous wattle and JOWLS. These are not things I can hide with makeup. These are not things for which there is a helpful haircut. (Let's see. Now that my hair is long, I can pull it together under my chin. Could I put a scrunchy there? A tiny, Jack Sparrow-like braid? No?) Not even heavy-duty turtle-necks will help. It is there, like a tumor, like an extra limb, like a parasite, sucking away any dignity or claim to looking young that I had left. It Will Not Be Denied.

And it eats at my mind, telling me that plastic surgery can't be all that evil . . .

The solution to all this is, of course, to learn what old age is designed to teach us all: that our bodies don't matter, that God wants us to look out at others and love them for their spirits and not worry what they are thinking about us, that love brings more joy and more power than glamour, that nothing matters except that we are right with God and our fellow man.

Yeah, yeah. But I could be more right without my wattle. I'm just saying.


Jennifer B. said...

I love how you ended this!

Eyelid surgery said...

It was a story of every second person that when you are smaller in your home you want to seem bigger and greater than all but when you come to that age you dont feel comfortable with your face. So, i feel that eyelid surgery is the only solution when you seems not good.

Joey/Denny/Emma said...

I read Nora Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck" a couple years ago and laughed when she wrote about all her friends wearing neck scarves and turtlenecks in the middle of the summer. I am at that stage now where a turtleneck is my preferred wardrobe item.

Congrats on being accepted into the MFA program. I'm happy for you.

Darlene Young said...

Thanks, Denny. I really enjoyed that book, too.

My problem with scarves: short neck, and no sense of fashion.