Could be: wrinkled skin, quivery never-plucked too-dark eyebrows, funnel shaped sticking-straight-out ears, awkward closed-mouth smile with lips squinched creating shadows mimicking a moustache, ever-lengthening snarly nostriled hook nose, mismatched odd-shaped eyes, stringy thinning hair pulled back tight causing the appearance of a crew cut, deep dark pits of under-eye circles, shiny spots, desert-dry splotches, absent eyelashes, and moles like pebbles scattered across the pavement.
These are silver hairs, not grey. I describe them that way because, truly, they glitter like silver. Grey to me implies a plain boring tone, and these shimmer as they lean toward white.
I’m writing about these hairs/threads because because for the first time in my life, last week, I saw myself and thought, “I look old.” I have never feared getting old. And, I suspect even when I am “old” whatever that is, I’ll have a youthful appearance (big eyes/big head does that). But this was my first experience with disliking some aspects of aging. In particular: my skin looks like crap. I’ve got wrinkles, which have never bothered me before. Everything seems blotchy. And too many photos lately have made it seem as if I have dark lines going along the side of my nose down to my mouth. Like Deputy (Droopy?) Dog or something.
Vanity. Sure. That’s mostly all this is and it will pass. But it’s not nothing and it’s not just a shallow experience. I’m recognizing I’m no longer in the generation of the “young,” and am entering have entered will be entering “old.” I’ve had many startling experiences where I realize those around me already see me that way. Or I just realize it again and again on my own.
The idea of being “grown up” is something I’ve danced with for ages. You’d think having a child or home ownership or marriage might speed up my familiarity with that concept. But, no. I don’t think I’ll ever feel “grown up” in the way I always thought I might. I had a mythic conception of what that meant, and it’s not something I ever want. I’d lose who I am inside if I became a “grown up” as I was defining it. I will likely never become someone who has routines, schedules, or consistent habits. Not gonna happen.
But, growing older, of course, will continue happening. I’ll be 40 in July, so it’s definitely going on. What’s been most striking about this past week’s findings is that I’ve never before had any sense that getting older might be hard or unwanted. I’ve always proudly said, “I’m just like my Mom, I’ve always loved the age that I am.” And that’s still true. And, honestly, the wrinkles and dried skin and ridiculous undereye circles don’t really bother me (as for the circles, I am 20,000 months pregnant and only slept 3 hrs last night). My husband and people who care about me see me through love-filtered glasses that can’t judge negatively. I have the same for them. I also know that I’ll learn to love the new older qualities in my physical being. As more of me sags (“your belly is like bread dough, Mommy!” says Maya), and more of me changes color and gets wrinkly, I’ll still be me inside. Once I connect the outer and the inner, the outer becomes beautiful again.
Friends of mine think it’s funny when I have talked about being “young.” In their experience, especially with family who did hard manual labor for work, “old” starts much earlier than in my circles. Where I’m from, people start second or third careers in their 40s or 50s. Life is really just getting going in our 30s. Where they’re from, your body starts giving out on you by your 40s and it’s an aching experience to make it to retirement age. If retirement is even an option.
Of course, besides the realities of colonoscopies, the coming mammograms, eyesight failings, and my parents’ mortality, age will always be that flowing and powerful state of mind. When I see myself in the mirror or in photographs, I may still sometimes flinch and say, “That is me?!?!?” because I feel so young inside. But, thankfully, I also have those love-filtered glasses all around me. People who wouldn’t care if every inch of me was blotch and wrinkle and flake. If I have to leech off of their acceptance of me sometimes, that’s what I’ll do. Most of the time, I expect I’ll stay in the blissful state where my Mother mostly stays… “I’ve always loved the age I am right now.” And then I’ll take a nap.