Since I was six years old, the aging process has always been a ball of confusion with me. Back then, I harbored amusing concepts about growing old. My childhood naiveté led me to believe that at age 16, I would be a mature adult; at 21, I would be a middle-aged old fogey; and at age 33, I would qualify for Social Security and a sturdy walker to help me get around.
But as I grew older, things turned around dramatically as I came to my senses. Now that I’ve reached 39…well, OK, a bit on the other side of 39, I don’t actually think I’m over the hill yet. I have taken steps to try to stave off the ravages of aging by carefully adjusting the foods I eat and taking better care of my dry-prone skin. I have altered my diet by infusing it with healthier foods. Though I moisturize my skin every day, I’ve reluctantly accepted the inevitable wrinkles and have given up tackling the graying hair, which accompanies aging. Almost. Granted, I had been going through phases of denial, tuning I tuned out anyone touting the benefits of “aging gracefully.” Truthfully, I didn’t want to age gracefully. Hell, I just didn’t want to age at all.
Like many others at this inevitable crossroad in life, I took radical steps to try to stave off the ravages of growing old. Initially, I aggressively tackled the first signs of aging, which usually materialize in the face. Seemingly overnight, thousands of vile wrinkles took their toll, brazenly taking up immediate residence in the skin on my once-smooth face. In deep shock, because my skin took on the leathery texture of a well-broken-in baseball glove, I craved a quick fix to help me recapture that fleeting “youthful appearance.”
The media hype touting the “guaranteed” results of the wrinkle-fighting wonder drugs sucked me in. But Botox was never an option for me. Sticking poison into my face to freeze my wrinkles into tight skin smoother than a bobsled track is just plain stupid. Besides, I didn’t want to look like a rejected replica of myself, which would be stored in a back room of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Cleansers, lotions, day moisturizers and night creams loaded with Vitamin A, retinol, glycol and fruit acids and an array of hard-to-pronounce chemicals became my very best friends. I tried them all with varying degrees of potency. After months of use, these wonder creams failed to lead me to that fugitive fountain of youth. Instead, they left me and my wrinkles high and dry at an abandoned well. The only “wonder” I experienced was why I bought them in the first place.
I have to admit that as my facial skin gradually got smoother, the wrinkles got much smarter. This “alien life form” created sprawling subdivisions in my neck. In addition to wearing large dark glasses to shield my eyes from the sun punishing rays,So, I resorted camouflaging my neck area with large fashionable scarves and turtle-neck sweaters, which I wore even during the summer heat. Being a hard head, I hadn’t yet realized that I couldn’t turn back the hands of time, but I pressed on with my quest for youthfulness.
The next culprit was my hair. Pulling out the gray hairs only made matters worse. More of those gray devils left me with a sore scalp and many grew back at the speed of weeds after a spring shower. So, I counter attacked. I enlisted the aid of Lady Clairol and shocked my slowly graying mane with a jet-black dye job, thinking that this stark color would knock off a couple of years and allow me to join the fleeting youthful ranks once again. After the process, I looked in my mirror, expecting to see another beautiful version of Halle Berry. But staring back at me was this individual with an uncanny resemblance to Lily Munster. I added wide-brimmed hats to my growing pile of fashion accessories for idiots fighting a losing battle with Father Time.
It helps to have well-meaning friends when you’re suffering through any crisis. Plus they’re cheaper than a therapist. Mine tried to convince me that my gray strands made me look mature, seasoned, and distinguished like Lena Horne. To me, I looked wretched, threadbare and seedy like the Ruth Buzzy’s Gladys character, the little old lady on “Laugh In.”
Next up: shoes. Wearing six-inch heels every day posed no problem for me or my feet—when I was 20. But now, I pay the piper dearly. Wearing heels higher than two inches produces excruciating pain, which rockets up from my toes to my hips, and I end up limping pitifully like a zombie, wishing for a cane or even a sturdy stick to help me keep my balance. Now, I’ve resorted to carrying a pair of Nike walking shoes in my tote bag for feet emergencies.
As a teen, gaining weight was never an issue with me. I used to eat as much of anything I wanted to, at any time of the day or night, with no worry of risk to my young, fit, cholesterol-fighting body. Recently, I decided to test the waters of my “mature” appetite. At a local pizza hangout, I ordered a special topped with everything except anchovies (I hate those hairy little things.) Later, I snacked on a jumbo order of greasy fries and a large root beer. Um, um, um! I finished off this “teenage gourmet meal” with a double chocolate malt. But a few hours later, my body fought back, punishing me with an unhealthy level of pent-up gas. Every time I moved, I unwillingly “notified” anyone downwind and within earshot of my delicate condition. After suffering humiliating scowls and frowns from other pedestrians, I prayed I could save myself from further embarrassment and wouldn’t sneeze before I could get home.
Yielding to this inevitable, bittersweet stage of my life, I’ve reached some level of acceptance with myself. I’ve come to grips with the fact that aging isn’t necessarily a death sentence. It’s more like losing my favorite balloon to a gentle, yet persistent wind. And like my balloon, my youth will never come back, so I’ve finally kissed it goodbye. AAHHHHRGGH!
Now, I wear fashionable clothes and stylish shoes with sensible heels. I try to eat healthy, yet tasty foods. But occasionally, I still treat myself to a juicy hamburger with a root beer, a banana split or even a chocolate malt but not all at one sitting. Though Father Time is winning, I sometimes forego wearing one of my harem scarves, a hoodie or one of my special jumbo Kentucky Derby hats and proudly let my gray and even my wrinkles show; that is until 30-somethings start to call me “ma’am.” I know they mean well, but I could slap them for being so courteous. And yes, I’m proud of my perennial age of “39.” Besides, who wants to be six years old again these days?