I’ve never understood the horror some people have of others knowing their age. Among other things, it requires endless forms of subterfuge and denial, from falsifying mere statements of age to all of that domino-like cascade of phony documentation and historical records that must be juggled over time–though, according to those claims, that will have stood quite still. In more extreme cases, it leads to a compulsion to alter oneself to fit the imagined character of the mythical preferred age. I find lots of highly stylized and generalized and ‘flawless’ dolls unappealing, weird and creepy, and ever so much more so, living beings who have had themselves altered by cosmetic means (temporary or, in extremis, surgical) to be less age-appropriate or individual.
Yes, I do understand the urge to fit in, to be accepted. But perhaps my having felt, most of my life, that I look pretty average and ordinary–none of me either bad- nor good-looking to any extreme–makes me inured to the pain of those who think themselves terribly, awfully out of sync with others in appearance. Certainly I know that there are many who have had external reinforcement from thoughtless or cruel others that they are unattractive or unfit or otherwise unacceptable. That is one true form of ugliness: bullying. Demeaning and hate-fostering and belittling are as terrible in their way as any forms of torture, because they scar the soul just as effectively as physical abuse scars the body and spirit. And that can make anyone feel old ahead of time.
But when it comes to the simple and petty desire to deny the years spent on earth or the effects of living a full life on one’s body, skin and hair, I still don’t quite get it. I watch those hair-coloring commercials where fabulously primped and preened models assure us that those smart enough, like them, to use X brand are obviously grand and wonderful enough to warrant the expense of that harmless form of self-adornment “because I’m worth it.” Well, good on you! But it so happens that I think I’m worth just as much with my own dull dishwater brown hair sprinkled with hard-earned threads of white. Plastic surgeons are always eager to inform me that I could be smooth, cellulite-free, and have perfectly formed chin, nose, breasts and cheekbones if I’d only let them perform their magic upon me. In addition to my having seen a long parade of walking evidences to the extreme contrary, or at least extremely contrary to my own tastes, I am shockingly content to have a mole practically right in the middle of my face, one ear far lower than the other, shoulders of quite different sizes, stubby hands, remarkably pasty and slightly sallow skin, a couple of scars from clumsiness and carelessness, and–oh yeah–quite the growing collection of wrinkles here and there upon my entire personage.
Get used to it. I’m a used vehicle. I’ve driven this body through a lot of history, which, if not remarkably rough or exotic, takes its toll in bits and pieces, softening up that muscle tissue which once was a tad more taut, stiffening the formerly flexible joints, adding a few pounds here and a lot of freckles and spots there, and all of the other signs of ordinary aging. Beyond beating, as it’s said, the alternative, growing older has some distinctly positive aspects to it in my view, not least of them that I know, like and respect myself and my finer features far more than I appreciated such things in younger years. I am finite, yea, even slithering down the slope of the latter part of my life, and I will die. Before then, I plan to live it up.
And if that shows in my greying, thinning hair, my spotty memory (which was always a hair more colorful than reality anyway) and my thickening waist and glasses, my slowing reflexes and my ever speedier increase of dithering and forgetfulness, so be it. If it shows in my increasingly complex network of wrinkles, why then Good on Me. Literally. I earned all of these insignia of my fine, me-sized-adventure filled life, and if they make me look less than smooth and perfect and doll-like and youthful and conventionally beautiful, I don’t mind one tiny bit. I certainly never liked ironing anyway, and I earned the right to savor my wrinkles just as they are.P. S. I was born in 1960, and I still have hopes of getting a whole bunch older than I already am, if all goes well.