What is it about aging that has us looking in the mirror more cautiously, now, one squinty eye turned away as the other is forced to face the inevitable: We’re old. The way it snuck up on us one day and bit us in the saggy behind was downright rude.
I believe we never had the chance to bid a fond farewell to our youth, to appreciate the smooth swath of skin that once fit us so perfectly—the taut belly, the toned arms, the round firm breasts that once nursed our babies as well as the carnal pleasures of our lovers. These breasts borne of skimpy halter-tops and yellow polka-dot bikinis are now relegated to underwire, longline bras with wide straps that hoist them up like a crane would hoist a leaden weight. Stretch marks belie the former outline of lean muscle mass. What started out as a few post-pregnancy striations has multiplied like a cotillion of worn elastic bands. There’s no patch of derma impervious to this scourge that puckers our skin till we have the loose wrinkled look of a Shar-pei.
Our upper arms are flaps that swing like adipose hammocks whenever we wave or clap, or pound our fists in despair. We’re forced to wear turtleneck sweaters and scarves to hide the crepe folds of our chicken-necks. Our brow is knitted into trenches of anxiety and we’ve developed jowls where the outline of jaw used to be. Our eyes are laced with threads of red, and below them, fine lines run from cheek to chin like the arc of former tears. Coarse gray hairs jut out from our temples and laugh lines crease the corners of our eyes even as we frown. As our ship sinks, we require botox, laser peels, lifts and tucks, just to stay on an even keel. As gravity takes its toll, it isn’t cheap and I sense an eerie connection between the words “gravity” and “grave” as we inch ever closer to the latter.
Yet, I believe that as the wrinkles in time become etched in our faces we are reminded that at a certain age each birthday is a gift. There are worse things than aging—death for instance. In the meantime, let’s be content to connect the age spots that dot our arms like tiny stars—the prototype of a new constellation, perhaps, light years from now. Let us view each spider vein that runs like a narrow river down our leg, as part of life’s roadmap—the imprint of a life well-traveled. Let us savor our scars, those remarkable symbols of healing that remind us that where others may have perished in the face of adversity, we have triumphed. Let us wear our battle scars like a purple heart as a reminder that life at its longest is still short. I believe that only then can we appreciate the looking glass we try so hard to avoid, and begin to see ourselves in a perfect light.
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