Tried my hand at writing a piece on aging with humor. 🖤 I hope this does not offend.
When I stand in front of the mirror lately, this strange woman with a creased forehead glares back at me. In a panic, it occurs to me I may have just woken up from a 20-year nap. Lately, I don’t recognize the mysterious face that appears in the glass. Every morning, we jump at the sight of each other, similar to girls in a catfight. Now that would be good for some of this pent-up energy. Who’s going to clean up the glass after I take this bitch down?
Many of us are familiar with the process of therapy. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of work learning how to love myself and all that. It’s finally beginning to make sense that I’ve always been good enough, that the people surrounding me were just downright disappointments. The more I heal, the more important it’s been for me to be honest with myself about the feelings that make me me and to give myself tons of grace over things I couldn’t do better. These are my daily practices, and I’m worried I might be relapsing.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the–Oh crap, I mean Alexa–am I pretty? (She thinks I’m perfect, inside and out, by the way). What happened to my perfect jawline and defined cheekbones? They surely didn’t inject my face instead of my gluteus maximus. I know I circled the butt on the diagram!
Deep-set, hazel eyes now permanently paired with bulging dark circles below them. Holding a straight face makes no difference. Under the mass of my long, wavy brown mane-covered head, my neck creases to form something all too similar to a wrinkle-ring around it. Fried by a popcorn kernel as a tiny tot, midway down is a diamond-shaped mark about an inch squared, slightly pink around the edges. The scar sags a little these days, making it the first sign that time is ruthless and stops for no one. Living in California, we’ve all seen a person who looks as though they spent one-hundred-too-many summers in the sun. Well, under bad lighting, my neck resembles that—like developing leather. I silently question if anyone else notices.
Decade-old pictures display snapshots of a girl that didn’t trust she was lovely. What a disservice I did to myself. I must have annoyed the crap out of my friends with such nonsense. Oh my god, I was beautiful. Folks gawked all the time like it was the most obvious thing about me. Men watched me as I took my place in every room. Yours truly, oblivious to the attention until it was pointed out to me. It had taken years to block the people out and now years longer to let them back in. Beauty was just a trait in the same way that being a woman meant you shouldn’t walk a dark alley alone. Sometimes, I resented it and couldn’t appreciate it because, for the longest season, it was all I had. Don’t feel sorry for me, pay attention people–after all, I was beautiful. At least I could have used it to my advantage.
I sound ridiculous; I realize that. Embarrassed, I sit here writing this as my mouth curves into an ugly disfigurement and my shoulders shudder. Basic intelligence says I have more going for me than fading beauty. The trick is in getting my sense of identity to cooperate. My ego (Oh, don’t judge me. You have one too.) doesn’t like this aging version of me.
You hardly know me at all yet this is your first impression. I promise I’m not shallow or vain like I sound. Although, I am contemplating Botox–but not to hide the wrinkles. I simply want to keep my moods to myself instead of my facial expressions giving me away all the dang time.
My body has changed too. Not how it changes after you have kids. I was lucky because I looked great as a young mom. The stretch marks I saw on my swollen 6-month pregnant belly while standing in the public restroom of that janky telemarketing job, disappeared. Maybe it was the cocoa butter. One of my dreams came true when my boobs grew two cup sizes bigger. Forgive me for my great luck. I’ve always said, I would have taken a million stretch marks over postpartum psychosis any day. Anyway, my midsection is bigger than I’m used to so I struggle to find the right style of clothes for millennials. Competition is rough out there. (In my best Chandler impression) Have you SEEN these women?
Still stuck in my 25-year-old self, I haven’t matured out of Forever 21 clothing yet. But, really I should shop at Macy’s. Please don’t ask me to try on clothes, I prefer to eyeball the correct size. Dressing rooms make me sweat and cry–a truly unpleasant combination. The floor-to-ceiling mirrors they place around those stores are problematic. It’s because of them that my inner world becomes increasingly depressed the longer I’m there, while simultaneously, trying to fake it til I make it. Waning positivity within minutes drops below self-loathing to utter humiliation. How many of those triggering mirrors must one store have? I should write the CEO a letter to ask if they can quit making me cry.
I sweat because it’s a thing middle-aged women do in small, enclosed spaces. Yes, removing a shirt from a hanger has become a strenuous activity. So I steer clear of dressing rooms. On an especially courageous day, I might break through all the obstacles sent to destroy me, now on my way to the finish line. Literally standing in one place when the recollection of all the hard activity I just did was equivalent to running a mile in California in August, causes sweat to drip from my face again. Glasses slide down my slimy nose and fog up. I’m a hot mess. The poor young thing at the counter pretends not to notice. Sometimes, awkward embarrassment makes me blurt out I don’t know why I’m sweating so much!–in hopes that pointing out the obvious will lighten the humiliation. No, it does not.
Eventually, I’ll stop risking sanity as though this time will bring a newfound glory to self-sabotaging behavior. If you ever see me heading toward Forever 21, will you give me a good slap in the other direction? Express is across the way and there I can feel like a whole, elegant woman.
I finally get out of there, fat and ugly with a wrinkled neck. Maybe Forever 21 has trick mirrors. They don’t. They have mean mirrors and mean lighting. Back to safety inside my car, I remind myself, No, Emily don’t look in the visor mirror–it will not get better for you.
When I run errands now, nobody pays attention to me. I’m clearly not ready for this new life. In an effort of self-love, sometimes photo filters are fun to play with. “No Filter Effect” is a big fat lie, and manipulative enough to remain my go-to. 5-4-3-2-1-snap, oh yeah, I still got it. Nobody will notice the difference. Can we all agree indubitably, it’s quite a silly culture we’ve latched on to? After all we give to this ungrateful world!
Last stop, behind the barista counter, Angelee waves at me and skips over. You look so cute, Miss Emily!
Thank you, honey, I sigh in relief to absorb the compliment, a welcome distraction to a traumatic day.
Triple vanilla latte?
Yes, thank you, hun. My bank account can’t handle it, but this is exactly why I spend all my money on coffee. I may not be roasted to perfection, but at least my coffee always is.
Coffee owns a large part of me and I’m good with that. You’re brew-tiful, I chuckle to myself. Why thank you. At least I’m still funny.