Last night Tom and I went out for our anniversary dinner, and I wore make up. It's the only day of the year I'm guaranteed to wear make up, so I always take my time and do it right. And on the drive to the restaurant I glanced in the visor mirror and noticed that my make up had filled into tiny wrinkles under my eyes and made them stand out. I looked old. Combined with the fact that I'm letting my hair grow out natural, I looked really old. And you want to know a secret? I liked it.
I have known too many people who never got to be old. Derek died in high school; he never got to be old. Aaron died 3 months after graduation; he never got to be old. Smokey died in his thirties, as did Jeff and Chris, and none of them got to be old. I want to get to be old. I want gray hair and wrinkles, and grandchildren and knobby knuckles and brown spots on the back of my hands. I want the privilege of arthritis and the prize of menopause. I want it all.
Of course I worry that when I'm turning 50 Tom will still be looking at 18 year olds. And I certainly don't want to look 20 years older than I am. But life is a downhill slope and it's always more fun to roll down the hill fast than to desperately try to claw your way back up. "There's nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25." I really believe that. Also the old saw about how life isn't about looking good in the casket but about how much fun you have getting there. I don't want my last thought to be worrying that I ate too much at lunch, or that I'm hungry because I only had a salad. I also don't want to live so long that my last thought is hoping the next aid to change my diaper is gentle with it. I want to live long enough that I've accomplished my list but not so long that living is a burden. And if I have wrinkles under my eyes already, I'm not going to waste any of my precious time now worrying about it. Life only has so many hours in it (often less than we'd like) and I'm not going to waste them covering my grays, or peering at my wrinkles (or injecting my head with botulism), or clinging to a childhood and youth I didn't much enjoy when I had it.
Somewhere along the line I learned, from media or society or whatever, that as long as I felt like shit it was okay. As long as I hate my thighs, it's okay. I may be fat, but at least I know it and am fully aware of how terrible it is. As long as I'm miserable about my complexion it's okay. I may have zits but at least I'm trying to get rid of them, as evidenced by my obsessing self-hatred over it. This is why you see all sorts of women all the time announcing "I'm so fat," or "I look like Hell," unsolicited: to alleviate guilt. But now I have decided that I'm tired of hating things about myself and feeling ugly for other people. My lips have tiny lines coming out from them. It's from years of puckering up around cigarettes, I know, and eventually I will be unable to wear lipstick without it running off into those lines. But I'm not going to hate it any more. I sag, and am larger than need be, and some parts of me wait to stop moving until the rest of me has been still for an awkwardly long time. But so what? When I die, am I going to regret not obsessing about it all, or am I going to regret the time I wasted freaking out about it just so maybe people wouldn't insult me if I beat them to it?
I want to be an old lady, in a rocking chair, fat enough to give my grandkids a soft lap to sit in. I want to stop hating myself because the inventors of photoshop made it possible for every billboard, commercial, or print ad to make actual mortal people somehow seem inadequate.