I have two new wrinkles, possibly four. Well, not wrinkles really, more like sags. Skin is mounding at the bottom of my cheeks, around the corners of my mouth, as if my flesh was pudding that just slid down my face. I was warned to stay out of bathrooms with big mirrors and bad lighting. Despair is a known side effect of compact fluorescents. Especially with age as a pre-existing condition. One minute I was happily smudging eye pencil around my lids. The next, I was brutally humiliated by the marks of gravity pulling my dark shadows into deep canoes. No! No! Not me! Not now! I put the palms of my hands on the sides of my head and pulled back my sags until I looked like the Edvard Munch Scream. My ego was ambushed.
It’s not easy to recover from such a mortifying moment. I like to believe I’m handling my age well, that my weathered skin is a badge of honor, that these lines on my face are the price of my intelligence. I have survived menopause and needing eyeglasses to make toast. These ripples are the plumping magma of a thousand hot flashes. I am a brave survivor of middle age, a high priestess of self-esteem, Crone of the Elderwood marked by the moles of wisdom, the elevens of patience and the disappearing eyebrows of time. Age — it’s what’s for dinner. Still I’m plagued by vanity and stared at myself in the mirror with air-sucking shock. There was no warning for these new grooves in my skin, no hairline fracture to hint at what was coming, no slight swelling of tissue to indicate the sudden avalanche of me, nothing.
To cure myself of this irrational hostility toward a particular facial feature, I Googled jowls. The results were soul crushing. Jowls. “The lower part of a person’s or animal’s cheek, especially when it is fleshy or drooping.” Example: “she had a large nose and heavy jowls.” She! And then this. “The loose fleshy part of the neck of certain animals, such as the dewlap of cattle or the wattle of birds.” Yes, my face is sliding down my skull to become a wattle around my neck. That’s something to look forward to — when I’m 80, I’m going to resemble Winston Churchill. So much for moisturizer.
I know I have to get a grip on my ego. This pity party has to end because it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to stay in better lighting for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be vulnerable to these feelings every time I pass a mirror. I need to embrace the changing me the way I embrace the changing seasons. Okay. That’s a crock. But really, I know I look good for my age. Yet, inside each of us is the critic that’s never satisfied with how we are, and my inner critic got the better of me for a couple days. I’m coming out of it now. Just in time to go on a holiday sugar binge and fret about my weight.