Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aging Awkwardly, But Grateful

As my 50th birthday looms, I am determined to not fret over the evidence of history etched on my face more and more each year and instead try to adjust my attitude.

I don't want my wrinkles injected with cow's collagen or my frown muscles subjected to bacterium toxin or my eyebrows lifted into perfect crescent moons via a surgeon's scalpel.

Of course, all people should be able to do what they want with their faces and their bodies without others criticizing them. So let me say here that I am not criticizing anyone.  I am simply venting, because I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that beauty will be founded eventually on the homogenized look of plastic surgeons, instead of on individuality--and something even more troubling, that because I want to opt out of these procedures, I will be discounted because of it.

And left to fly my wrinkled-woman flag alone.

At least in the past we all looked old together. We comforted each other through our common shared experience.

But now, I see myself in 30 years, one of the last few old female faces left and, consequently, compelled to explain myself to curious little children who don't understand why I am so different from others my age. Why I look 80 at 80.

Still, I can't get passed this feeling that tells me not to interfere with something that isn't broken. And when I ever begin to doubt that, our Jeep provides me reassurance.

Each time this old girl goes in for an oil change, someone invariably comes up to me, holding some grimy part of her, and tells me how wrecked it is. I then call my husband on my cell phone, and he always tells me some version of this: When you go under the hood to fix something, which probably doesn't need fixing, you're only asking for trouble.

And I know he's right, because the time I did let someone fix something, which probably didn't need fixing, somehow another thing mysteriously got broken. So now I leave well enough alone.

I'm trying to do the same with myself.  Although, three years ago, I decided to get braces.

A year or so after I'd gotten them, I teasingly asked my husband what he thought, certain he'd agree I looked like a wrinkled teenager. But instead he said he didn't like them.

It took a few days for me to finally eke out why, because he kept saying he didn't know.

It wasn't the cost, he said, or that I more or less up and did it without much discussion. It also wasn't because I looked a little ridiculous, although I think I did.

The reason he didn't like the braces, he said, was because he feared they were only the beginning, and that I would eventually do something more riskful, like injecting botulin into my face. Or worse.

I was glad he loves me enough to worry about such things--and that I was once again reminded that he doesn't need me to change my outsides.

And I'm grateful he's been that way for the entire 25 years that I've known him.

Once, when I whimpered about hating the way my face looked since I've gotten older, he said, "I don't like it when you talk that way about your face; I like your face the way it is."

And I cried then, because he told me what probably all wives want to hear.

If only it were enough.

But it isn't. I am the one who has to love my outsides just the way they are or I will never be satisfied. I will always be afraid of the next new wrinkle or gray hair--or lack thereof.

So I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be aging at all. It means I'm still alive. When I do that, I can feel my attitude getting stronger.

I also eat more healthily than I used to and I exercise three times a week, so I know I'm on the right track.

Now, if I can only quit obsessing over whether or not to buy that cosmetic contraption on that shopping channel that superficially stimulates your facial muscles with baby electrical currents and thereby firms and smoothes the skin…

QUESTION: How accepting are you of your aging process and what, if anything, could you do to improve your attitude?

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