I’ve been wanting to write about getting old. I see the signs that I’m not 25 or 30 anymore and I don’t like it.
I look in the mirror and see more white mixed in with my thick dark hair. I notice dark streaks under my eyes—well-hidden with glasses but clearly evident when I’m putting makeup on. I have trouble reading the name of the color printed on the bottom of my lipsticks. I yearn for more light at band rehearsal so I can see the notes as they race by me.
A few months ago, I had a Mary Kay lady visit me. She asked me to put all kinds of goop on my face—to cleanse, to moisturize, to blend my uneven skin tones. All the while, I looked into the small mirror provided. I asked her about spots on my face that I hadn’t noticed before. “Oh, those are age spots.”
What?! I’m too young for age spots. Age spots happen at 70, not at 44. But there it was on my face, a dark splotch where there should be skin the color of my palms. Take note. This is how the cosmetic industry makes a great buck—through our fear of becoming old. I bought $70 worth of moisturizers and night creams that day. Me, who for years, watched my older sister and mother use all kinds of potions to keep their faces smooth and fresh, and said to myself, “Yeah, well, if it makes you happy.”
What this points to is what happens when reality intrudes on our self-image. The question arises, “Who am I now?” I am no longer the fresh-faced twenty something. I’m not even the more mature and still fresh-faced thirty something. Who is this forty something with bags under her eyes, age spots on her cheeks, and an outstretched arm to read the fine print?
Getting older is an exercise in creating a new self-image. Acceptance creates the base of the new self-image. Yes, I’ll put moisturizer on my face daily and night creams on nightly. But I won’t go for the “blemish concealer with heavy duty coverall mask.” Yes, I’ll live with the white hairs for now and let my hairdresser decide how white might look just right for me. Yes, I am in my forties, old enough to have kids in college instead of being in college. (Although a few years ago, a sorority cook did mistake me for a co-ed when I was staying on campus to recruit for my high-tech employer).
Who am I now? I’m a middle-aged woman who loves life, has a sparkle in her eye, and lives in a body that shows its age, beautifully and naturally. Now that’s a self-image that sounds true.