How To Age Gracefully

(Spoiler: if you didn’t have fat cheeks and terrible acne as a teen, you’re screwed)

The author, circa age 13

There’s a certain age you get to when you realize the bitter truth about life: you are getting to be a fucking old hag. At a particular point you realize time is staring at you with its evil eye, and each time you turn around, you see evidence of it: in your cracking knees, in your growing cataract, your fading memory and sagging boobs. 

To be sure, you don’t miss your teenaged years when just about everyone teased you relentlessly, mercilessly about your acne, when you spent all of middle school paralyzed under the mini-volcanos of your face. Miraculously your skin crawled out the other side without much scarring, and now you warn every teen you see against the dangers of over-cleansing. Rubbing alcohol, for instance, turned out not to be such a good idea. 

You take solace in the fact that you didn’t really lose your fat cheeks until you were 40, while most people lose them by age 8. When you were younger, though, you hated your round face. You looked like a chipmunk perpetually packing nuts. Now when people compliment your bone structure, you want to yell back to childhood, “See! It was under there the whole time!” At a rare spa day, your facialist tells you there’s still lots of collagen in your skin, which is comforting, especially when you read how synthetic collagen is made.  

You feel good that you married a bit later in life, so you wouldn’t wind up with one of those losers you dated in college. You pride yourself on giving childhood insecurities more time to stew than many of your peers. By the time you found your husband, you were an overdone roast and soggy potatoes.  

You start to take solace in the fact that you waited to have kids ‘til later. But then again, you waited to have kids ‘til later. Sitting in the little chairs at their tea parties irritates your hips, playing “red light green light” in the backyard is murder on your knees, and picking them up and carrying them any sort of distance requires having a core, the likes of which you haven’t seen since you got pregnant with your second child. And everyone knows it’s the second pregnancy that just kills your body. To compensate, you now dress like Stevie Nicks. That way you don’t have to suck anything in. And now “Tusk” is your favorite song. 

Your memory used to be a one-way steel trap door, where nothing got out. You memorized phone numbers, recalled conversations and names without effort. Nowadays the trap door could use some oil at the hinges; you need to write everything down, even the name of the woman you met exactly 30 seconds ago. The trap doors sag and have lost their spring, much like your boobs. 

For the last couple years, every other day your five-year-old has asked about getting a sister. She really wants one, to do her hair and nails, she says (she’s super girlie, and you were always on the tomboy side, and you don’t know where she came from). After your husband’s vasectomy, you would tell her “Sorry honey, that ship has sailed,” but now, as you realize you are entering perimenopause, you tell her “Honey, that ship will really stop coming, from all angles.” 

Secretly, you want nothing more than to go to your next high school reunion, where all your old crushes will be fat and bald. That is, if you can see by then. Your eye doc tells you the fuzzy ball in the middle of your vision is your cataract, and it will only get bigger. He advises you not drive at night, and that you will need surgery this year. So at least there’s that to look forward to. 

You knew old age would eventually get you. You just didn’t know it would start encroaching so soon, that time would cast its evil eye upon you so quickly and intently. After all, you’re only in your early 40s (which surprises most people, so that’s cool). You plan to ham up the “early” part as long as possible, even as it’s belied by the impending menopause, cracking knees, sagging boobs, the growing cataract. Until then, you regard the hell of acne and fat cheeks as having been worth it (Take that, bitches!) – as long as you can still remember those good ol’ days. Or anything really.  

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