Well, I am officially one year older. My birthday week has concluded. No more “Happy Birthday” greetings, no more free drinks. Just me. My Dad asked me if I felt older. The truth is, not really. What would that even entail? How do other people feel inside? What makes you feel older?
At my birthday party, a friend asked how old I was turning. “28,” I said. “Ah yes,” he replied “I could tell you weren’t a day over 30. Look here”. He grabbed my face and pointed to my eyes.
“No crow’s feet. No lines. You look 25”.
I laughed. Can there be that big a difference between 25 and 28? As far as I can tell, I look exactly the same now as I did at 18. A bit more meat around the middle (what have you got to do to get rid of your busted can of biscuits?), a little less elasticity below the chin, skin a bit clearer. I’ve had the same haircut since 1997. I’m not any taller. If I mention my “biscuits”, I’m told to shut up. When do you begin to look older? Would you even want to?
“I should hope so,” I said while gently smiling “I moisturize”.
I read a piece in my new book club book, “The Brief History of the Dead”, about a woman who tried never to show emotion on her face. I understood the passage to mean she wanted to save her face. The act of smiling caused her pain; her face was a mask in jeopardy from breaking. Now that she was dead, she smiled all the time though it was still uncomfortable for her. I understand this principle implicitly. Wrinkles are caused from facial movement (among other things, but this seems to be the main offender). You first see lines form around your eyes from smiling and squinting and laughing. Paper-thin cuts stretch across your forehead from looking quizzically at something, from squinting, from acting surprised. Slowly the collagen in your lips begins to decompose and cracks stretch out from the center towards your nose, your chin, your ears, from smoking, or using a drinking straw, or making a disapproving face.
I see them now. I seek them out. Starring in the mirror, running my fingers over my skin, feeling for imperfections. It’s become obsessive, trying to control what takes the least amount of effort to do so. I could fix my jellyroll, but I’m lazy. I can be good and dedicated for a couple weeks, but once I see an ounce improvement I stop. I’d rather spend that time cooking or watching TV or reading. Where the moneymaker is concerned, it’s effortless: Wash face, exfoliate several times a week, moisturize, sunscreen, serums and potions. It all takes 5 minutes. I have no idea if it’s helping.
This week I fully realized what the number of getting older means. More questions about boyfriends or lack of boyfriends, more depression over lost opportunity, the realization that fewer opportunities would come my way. I could die bitter and alone. My cat could eat me and no one would find me for days. I could disappear “down the funnel” and out of the memories of others. Little by little we fade away, the point is to have someone else there to document it, to acknowledge it happening. I don’t want to become desperate for connection.
“The Hours” is on TV and Julianne Moore is talking about living with what we can bear. It’s a poignant statement. The series of events in life that stack up before tumbling to the ground and we are crushed beneath their weight. Every year we get older, the piles get higher and we beg the Heaven’s for someone to help us shoulder the weight.