At an age when I might finally be able to admit it's the mid-point, a close to the halfway average of the eventual last age of my two grandmothers, I see myself teetering on top of Mount Aging Gracefully. I am not steady, it's a balancing act, and I've never been to sure of my footing at high elevations. My skin is as confused as I am.
Several months ago I sat with a group of women all close in age, early to mid forties, and one 37 year old. She sat silently as we discussed this new found aging. I was truly shocked to discover that all those pretty freckles on my hands were actually age spots; the old gals enlightened me, but not my spots; those creams don't work they said. The 37 year old chimed in, "neither do the wrinkle creams, so I had Botox". We all stopped, looked and inspected. "See, my forehead used to look like that", pointing to my severely disfigured cranium, "but now it looks like this" and she gestured, Carol Merrill like, at her smooth yet immobile temple space. The forty year old crowd was without words, their not yet gray heads bobbing back and forth as if they were center court at Wimbledon, searching for vast differences in our foreheads. I smiled and crinkled up my skin to get a better look.
Only validating my theory that 37 was the perfect time to have children, I seem to have lost my tiny print eyesight at the precise time my girls have learned to read. Coincidence? I think not. No longer am I limited only to restaurants where I know the entire menu by heart, "what's this?" I say, gesturing at some mouse sized words under the header "primi". Kate reads, in her best Italian, every detail of the cappellacci di zuca and we move on to the wine list.
It does not seem that long ago when I would spend Sundays with my grandmother, dividing the morning paper and joking about my reading the wedding notices while she read the obituaries. Here I am now, somewhere between weddings and funerals, working on the crossword puzzle. It seems to me that my crossword puzzle years should be relatively skin issue free.
Many years ago, when Mimi was considering a face lift, I said no, assuring her that I really liked her wrinkles. I did, her face without them wouldn't have been her face at all. In my life, she had always been a bit lined, "Allyson, just look at this chicken neck, someday you won't think this is so beautiful!". Her face was wonderful, familiar and loved. The benefit to wrinkles, versus the pimple, is that there are very few "Good Lord, where did that come from?" mornings. Wrinkles sneak in where the pimple announces his arrival with gusto; wrinkles reflect happiness and experience, pimples reflect stress over finals and too many late nights at The Wheel.
The real buger is this: I thought I had conquered adolescence. Rarely am I without a date on Saturday night, and when poker night trumps sitting at home with a movie, I cherish the quiet. Long gone are the days when I felt self conscious, with snickering teenagers ready to mock my every move. Of course I do realize that with two seven year old girls in my home, the snickering will soon reappear, to some degree warranted as it's not infrequent that I show up at school with a large hole in my sweater or with my pants unzipped. But still, haven't I grown too old to worry about looking geeky? Isn't it time to embrace my inner geek?
There is no longer room for both adolescence and middle age on my pale freckled face, although I'm not really ready to commit to either. My days are spent fine tuning the balancing act, teetering with one foot on either side, a stop at the Clinique counter on the way to the Estee Lauder night cream. I'm simply confused, as is, apparently, my skin.