Wrinkles & Grays–In Which We Get Older Everyday

Dear Lily June,

The other day, I got into an argument with a co-worker. There is a TV in the main office, always switched to some morning or news show (depending on the time of day), and on one of those shows was an aging celebrity. It doesn’t matter who, because, in this aspect, he was interchangeable with many in the American celebrity set: He had clearly had some plastic surgery done to appear younger than he was. That’s actually an understatement, Lily June: At almost seventy, his facial cheeks had all the perk of a newborn baby’s ironed butt.

I found myself disappointed, asking incredulously, “Is that really X?!” to which a co-worker sighed sincerely, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of money as you age?” At this, I looked her over.

She is a woman in her late-forties, early fifties, whose face reminds me frequently of own mother’s. Her curly hair weaves around her face like silver ribbons tucked here and there into a bird’s auburn nest. A woman with a caustic wit, her face is nonetheless also lined by pain: She lost her eldest son when he was only twenty-one, and his car slid the wrong way on ice. That winter melted everywhere but in the depths of her eyes. She keeps him alive by telling stories of him to whomever she meets, and in that love, and in the continued strength of her laughter, and in her soul’s and hair’s refusal to submit, I think she is a stunning beauty.

I told her that I relish the wrinkles I’m sporting, the newfound hairs that are springing up wiry and white, telling her I look forward to aging naturally. Because I’m only in my thirties, she dismissed me, saying, “You only think that’s what you want. Wait, and you’ll see.” I wondered why she was trying so hard to convince me to be dissatisfied with the way Nature will change me.

I remembered the words of my own mother who would always tell me when I wouldn’t dutifully march in front of her camera lens at picture time,

“If you don’t like a photograph of yourself, wait five years.”

Of course, that advice has often proven right. In the ravages of time, and the wasteland my waist has become, sometimes I have looked back at the photos of the skeletal teen I once was and wished for that bony body back. Or at photos of me in my twenties and thought what I imagined then was flabby and saggy looks really, to me now, just curvy.

But lately, in cleaning out our apartment’s closet for the move, I have looked deeper into the shots of my sixteen-year-old self who I once kept inside my mind as the scale by which to judge who I’ve become at thirty, and I was surprised to see this: She looks so gawky to me.

She stands, her arms thrown over her waist or chest, trying to hide what little meat there was to that body. She is a tangle of awkward right angles, all elbows and knee bones. She looks like she’s trying so hard to look happy, but I remember how self-conscious she was. Even in size-zero jeans (that have become, thank you very much, sometimes as high as size fifteen), she looks so scared that people will judge her, thinks she takes up too much space, and so she tucks her arms into pockets to try and fold up like a piece of paper containing some secret she can’t bear anyone else to read.

At thirty-one, I am larger. I laugh (and cry) harder though my body is everywhere else softer, and I bounce and jiggle more. I would be an absolute liar to say that the reflection I see in the mirror is the ideal version of me I wish I were. And yet, that me–that reflection–that body is the only me there is. To disapprove of her because her laughter will eventually spread lines across her skin like fireworks over a night sky? What a sad way to age, the definition of which really means to just “keep on living.”

My co-worker continued to protest that one day I would really understand what it meant to long for the beauty of youth, and I continued to fire lines like Yeats’ at her,

“But one man loved the pilgrim soul in [me], / And loved the sorrows of [my] changing face…”

How truly beautiful you might be, Lily, if you can do us both one better, and instead of waiting for someone to love your aging face, you embrace it yourself, seeing not just sorrows in its changes, but all the joys and experiences of a lifetime that brought you the visage you see.

I am still trying to learn how to love myself like that, so I can confidently model, if not an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini, an attitude sexier than any of its synthetic fibers. I aim to become, for you (and for me), an absolute Goddess of Reality, and to keep in mind, in the meantime, these lines from David Foster Wallace on vanity,

“Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”

***

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32 thoughts on “Wrinkles & Grays–In Which We Get Older Everyday

  1. bitsfromheaven says:

    LOVE.
    I love this post LJ. It’s great, a new member to my top five faves on your blog.
    It’s true isn’t it, that everyone at some point, feels so cornered by aging, yet accept it at the same time. I am with you. My scars, grey hair, fading shimmery complexion and even my no longer taunt skin are all beautiful, and tell the story of me. I want my kids to SEE me laugh and I want to feel all of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Patricia says:

      I told Danny that I wanted to grow old gracefully. Yet, the reality can sometimes catch you off guard. I’ve always looked younger than my age but as my skin starts its downward gravity pull, I say “What the heck?” 😳

      Liked by 2 people

      1. bitsfromheaven says:

        Yes…same here. I’m 35 and have grey in my hair, and because of my liver not up to par I have age spots on my hands and my face gets a little ‘weird’ out of nowhere. Because I was adopted it will be one big surprise when I’m all old n’ shuffling along. But I’d take saggy any day to still be here!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Patricia says:

        I must have overlooked the part about you being adopted in your posts. Or forgot. That makes me want to go back and refresh.

        We seem to want what we don’t have. I literally made myself sick trying to gain weight.! Duh, quit smokingggg. Have a hysterectomyyyy Get happyyyy and it will happen.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Patricia says:

        How do you think I gained all that weight? Southern and Mexican! I weighed 82 lbs at 21. I weighed about 90 when Danny and I met. I shopped for shorts in the same department as his 9 year old tiny daughter. I had to have size zero clothes altered. Then I got happy! This weight is unhealthy for me. I am 4’11” I seem to lose quite easily so I just need to focus.😍

        Liked by 2 people

  2. shelie27 says:

    I’m with you too. I couldn’t help but reflect on a phone call I had sometime ago with a man, who called the home. I would like to share it sometime with you and Lily by linking this post to my story? As always A, lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stacy says:

    I am exactly there with you, my friend.

    More and more grays are popping up each day. When I attempted applying eyeliner recently after going without for a year, I noticed the skin of my eyes is significantly less cooperative in bouncing back after a firm tugging.

    But last week, while climbing onto a floating tube and preparing my young son for our ride behind a speedboat, I looked down at my strong thighs and felt momentarily proud of the capabilities of this body. This body (by which I’ve sometimes felt betrayed due to its cumbersome nature) seems to carry a new brand of strength and contentment these days — a contentment that is edging out the harsh self-perception I clung to for the past decade. I hope my body and my mind can rest here together for a while.

    Thank you for these lovely thoughts. I always feel, after stopping here, as if I’ve encountered a friend along the road.

    Stacy

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Patricia says:

    Ok so you are mad at me. Did you forget to tell me something? Move? lol In that awesome post, that was what screamed out at me. I could say so much about this subject. While my family is distraught over my weight, I am enjoying the ability to find clothes that fit. Yet, they are right. It’s sad when you lose 20 lbs and it barely shows.😳 I love you and will be anxiously waiting to hear.😍

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Patricia says:

        The lapse is on me. I have gotten behind. I just read back to your “white flag post”. I make the mistake of being methodical I reading posts when it would be better to read my faves first. Often I end up reading the same bloggers day after day because I start at the top of the list. Will catch up today because you have been on my mind every day.

        Had the corral tunnel surgery. Piece of cake. Having an assessment of my bones, not the density scan but some other kind of scan the 20th to find out about the pain on the other side.

        What were the results of your test once the doctor submitted it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. dearlilyjune says:

        I know what you mean with methodical blog reading; I do exactly the same thing!

        I’m so glad to know your surgery went well. I FINALLY (months later) called into the doctor since they never updated my records with the results, and they told me everything came back negative (i.e. fine).

        So the theory is that the bleeding I’ve been experiencing is a product of passing small stones…all the time. Add that in with my other bladder condition, and it does not make for a happy camper.

        But even if I have to live with some pain, I get to live. And I was granted a fully working mouth with which to complain. 🙂 So life is good.

        Liked by 1 person

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