What I Meant to Say About Aging
Aging sucks. That is what both my friend and I implicitly agreed upon, without actually stating, the other day as we chatted in the pool at her health club. Yes, I know that I should be grateful for all that I have and each extra year, really each extra day, that I get to spend on this earth. And, as someone (maybe Oprah) once said, “It’s better than the alternative.” I want to gracefully accept the crow’s feet, age spots, and other markings that keep cropping up with each new, but less frequent, glance in the mirror. I hate being one of those cliche forty-somethings who refuse to confront their increasing decrepitude, and I have always been disdainful of plastic surgery and Botox. But it is easy to be disdainful when you’re not afraid your face will get stuck in a permanent scowl, or making up excuses to stay in the house because the creases that you got in your face last night from plunging your face deep into the pillow refuse to elastically return to normal even after hours of vigorous self-massage.
What bothers me is that I finally have accepted the inner me right when the outer me is starting to fall apart. If I could have synchronized the satisfactory appearance of both, I don’t think I would be so devastated with the betrayal of my physical features. But I spent so long wrangling with the deep inner trenches and craters from emotional mine blasts that I essentially burrowed right under the peak of my outer attractiveness to the other side of the mountain.
Now that I feel settled and more attuned to my inner being, I keep expecting my outer self to match it. And everyday, I find myself sliding further and further from that peak. My students used to guess that I was much younger than I was. Now, if I happen to mention my age, and I am certainly doing it less, they cheerfully, and without surprise, inform me that I’m older than their parents. They are more astonished that I happen to know the meaning of LMFAO or the lyrics of the newest song by Lady Gaga than they are that I’ve been alive four or five times longer than them.
The cute fedora worn by the salesperson looks ridiculous atop my 42 year old face. The swirly dress that I ordered online looks unattractively too short on my spider-veined legs. I have finally started loosening up enough to try some dance steps, but no one wants to see me executing “The Sprinkler” on the dance floor.
I try to console myself by reminding myself that Jennifer Aniston is the same age, and she is still a sex object. But my newly level-headed persona reminds me that I never resembled Jennifer Aniston, even when we were both in our twenties, even when we both got married on the same day, even though we are both estranged from our mothers, and even though I once had her famous Friends haircut. Of course, she and Brad got divorced and my husband and I are still going strong. Really not a consolation though.
I am reduced to reminding myself that I look better now than I will tomorrow, a backhanded compliment that does little to minimize my dissatisfaction with my current appearance. I yearn to jump in a time machine and force my forty year old wisdom into my twenty nine year old body. What amazing accomplishments would have been made with such a powerful combination?
Or what devastating mistakes would have been made with such a lethal chemical mixture? Maybe God knows what he’s doing after all.