No, not the age jumps (gaps) between brothers and sisters. For now, I’ve written enough about that topic in both The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives (shameless plug) and in many posts right here.
Nope, I’m talking about the days when you wake up, look at yourself in the mirror and stare in dismay at a new line that has made its debut around the corners of your mouth, the corner of an eye or anywhere else. Or maybe a slightly deeper fold that runs along the side of your nose like a river in the Grand Canyon.
Oh, I could go on about the physical “ravages” of age. I fondly remember the day when I was in my early 40s and a friend sat on a porch step one rung higher than mine. She peered at the top of my head adorned with a mass of what I called a “lion’s mane” and declared, “You don’t have one gray hair!”
Honestly, I hadn’t given a thought to turning gray. I was concerned about the small amount of loose skin between my bra strap and my arm. (If only I’d realized then what I know now. I would have worn sleeveless tops every day of the year.)
So, back to the present. A new wrinkle . . . a deeper line . . . crepe paper skin . . . Your first response? If you’re like most of us, you want to slam a bag over your head (any material/size will do) and sulk for the rest of the day. And that’s what I recommend—minus the bag, of course.
We need to grieve. To feel sorry for ourselves. To wonder where all the time has gone and why we look more like our mothers/grandmothers than we vowed we ever would.
Hell, if you feel like buying a burka, go right ahead. Cover yourself and all your imperfections from head to foot. (If it’s summer, take care: you could suffocate.)
We grieve all kinds of losses: loved ones, pets, friends, satisfying jobs. But, rarely, do we give ourselves permission to grieve for what society has convinced us is a loss of beauty. Oh, we complain to anyone who will listen. (My husband has had it up to “here.”) We bitch about our flabby stomachs, our sagging chins, the veins large and small that mar our legs into an atlas-like illustration of all the rivers that flow through our state.
(BTW, I may take the prize for the flabby stomach thing. Mine used to be so flat and taut. Farewell.)
What I’ve found is a little bit of grief goes a long way. Feel sorry for yourself. Look at old pictures and curse the day you were born. Maybe even try on that size 8 dress you’ve hidden in your closet in the hopes of someday being able to wear it again.
But at the end of your age jump and your day of grief, give it up. Look straight in the mirror and thank the gods or goddesses that you look (and feel) as good as you do. And remember: Next week, next month, six months from now you’ll look back on today and wish that you had embraced that wrinkle or sag because you looked damn good.