Getting older is not as bad as the media would have us believe. So far, at 63, I kinda like it. But aging has a habit of springing tricks on you and one of the most bothersome is also one of the most common - the disparity between what you feel like inside and what the mirror shows you.
The mirror and I have worked out an arrangement over time. I will look at my face only in segments – eyes, forehead, cheeks, chin, mouth (as I wash or apply the various female emollients and arrange my hair) and it won’t do anything to shock me.
Some background to set the scene: once in a while, passing a plate glass window, I have caught a glimpse of myself and for an instant, wondered what my mother was doing there. Normally I cannot see the resemblance, but on occasion it leaps out unexpectedly like that. Sunday morning a similar kind of passing glance happened in the bathroom mirror as I rose from retrieving a dropped tissue.
Who is that grandmother in the mirror, I wondered. For a nanosecond, I really did think it was someone else, but then I understood it was me even though the reflection didn’t look anything like what I know I look like. At least, not me as I know me from the inside. From that interior vantage point, I’m a normally attractive grown up, probably in her early 40s - something close to the third photo from the right up above.
But in the mirror Sunday morning was a fuller face, somewhat lumpy looking with softer features than I believe I have. And that hair – long hair pulled back and up off the neck. All in all, thoroughly grandmotherish. I was fascinated and couldn’t stop staring. The actress Tyne Daly came to mind. I looked like a grandmother in the same kind of way she plays one on the TV series, Judging Amy.
It’s the oldest story there is about getting older. After a certain age, no one feels on the inside what they look like on the outside. And whose fault is that? Not mine. But it is directly connected to the messages we are bombarded with every day about the virtues of youth, youth and youth. There are so many newspaper and magazine stories lately about plastic surgery – even 20-somethings and 70-somethings are having it - that it is becoming un-American not to. You’re not doing your part for God and country and the denial of death if you’re not being peeled, Botoxed and suctioned within an inch of Nancy Reagan eyes.
I just hate that. And I hate that I’m taking a stand here on this blog for the acceptance of older folks as we are, and even I succumb to the cultural imperative to put a bag over my head so not offend others with my grandmotherly visage. Life shouldn’t be like that. And we should do something to fix it.