The other day, right before my children came home from school, I caught my reflection in the mirror.
Crow’s feet. Laugh lines. A hint of jowls. Wispy hairline. Downturned mouth. Divots between the eyebrows. When did my arms get so… paunchy?
I studied myself for a few moments and looked away, despairing, disappointed. My kids are too young to have a mother who looks like this. I have only myself to blame; I don’t take care of myself as well as I could, opting for the couch more often than moving around. I started sitting more just when it was starting to get harder to stand up.
In addition, I’ve become more lenient with my eating and drinking habits. Second glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do every night. Do we have ice cream?
When did my reflection become difficult to bear? In my younger years, hours were spent holding my own gaze in the mirror. Expressions: I had a thousand, and I practiced them all on myself, tearing myself away only when I was satisfied at the resulting effect of a slight eyebrow arch, a wry half-smile.
Now I only gaze into the mirror to investigate stray eyebrows, examine rogue pimples and oh look, another gray hair. The selfie – what a joke. It’s unforgiving, unwanted, unnecessary.
Worse: I struggle to keep my weight from fluctuating. Merely glancing at cookies seems to cause my waist to expand. I need a full-throttle fitness regimen to keep me in my jeans, two-and-a-half hours a day at the gym. The just wait until you’re older comments that well-meaning relatives threw my way when I was a kid as I’d inhale a quarter of the Thanksgiving gravy ring in my ear.
My metabolism didn’t even say goodbye.
I feel old.
It wasn’t that long ago that a friend and I were chatting about how annoying it is when people age and they announce how too old they are for the activities of life anymore, as if age naturally precedes intolerance for all things previously enjoyed. I’m too old for roller coasters. I’m too old for screaming babies. I’m too old for loud concerts, crowds at the mall, staying up too late, eating nachos at midnight, watching cartoons and wearing short shorts.
That was over five years ago.
I was still in my thirties then. Mid-thirties.
I can still rock out at a concert, stay up late, listen to screaming babies, ride roller coasters, brave the mall crowds, wear short shorts, and the other day my husband changed the channel because he thought I wasn’t watching Steven Universe. That show is so weird.
I will not eat nachos at night, nor do I particularly want to. Roller coasters are fun, though they give me a headache. I’m only half old.
But the reflection doesn’t lie. And there’s nothing to do about it. Two-and-a-half daily hours at the gym might help my metabolism, but it can’t keep jowls from forming.
I want to look younger and feel better, to hold my gaze just a little longer. Don't we all? But time doesn’t travel backwards, and I don’t have a lot of money, so my options are limited.
I ran to my purse, grabbed my makeup bag, and put on some lipstick. Instantly I felt better. Turns out all I needed was a little color.
What has my life come to, that I apply lipstick in the middle of the day, right before my middle schoolers come home, to make myself feel better? Likely they wouldn’t notice if I had teeth on my chin or ears for eyes.
Which, in a few years, might be an improvement.