When I was younger, I admired old women. Their faces and bodies had gone to pot, but they didn’t care. Or didn’t act like they cared. That was what I admired. There was no attempt to disguise the age. No spackle, no paint, just jowls swinging like a hammock in the wind, a general corrugation, a cover crop on the upper lip, you name it. And they didn’t care.
I knew that was something to aspire to. My first ten years of life, I had no awareness of my physical or sartorial shortcomings. Then, in my adolescence, my peers laid it out in excruciating detail and I was revealed in all my inadequacy. After that, I did care.
It might not have looked like it. I never did get locked into that trap of makeup and hair dye that women can’t extricate themselves from. But of course I cared. I had one or two things (two anyway) that worked out for me that I could play up, and some idea what my best angles were, and wanted to look nice in my clothes, although that project never really got off the ground either. If my belly stuck out, I tried to suck it back in.
But look at those old women! Smiling and laughing with their yellow teeth, not a care in the world! I wanted that sense of self-possession. They call it “letting yourself go.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Better than keeping yourself locked up. I wanted to feel what it was like on the other side of their faces.
Well, welcome to the other side of that face. It happens in a hurry. You think you’re on the morning commute and something distracts you while you’re running for the train and all of a sudden boom you’re on the way to Hogwarts. Now you’re inside of that old face, looking out.
First of all, it’s nice in here. Roomy. All those shits you used to give had a way of tightening things up. Now you can laugh yourself jiggly. You get to care about a lot more things once you don’t care what people think of you.
On this side of that face, things that used to be important aren’t anymore. They’re trivial. All that time you spent thinking you were too fat or too skinny is gone, replaced by “too close to dead.”
It never made much sense to mourn the loss of some version of beauty you never lived up to in the first place. Any discomfort in the transition goes away with the realization that there isn’t anything you can, or should, do about it. It gets filed away with the other things (not beer) that are a waste of time. Time, like collagen, is what there’s not so much of.
And here’s your old-lady ace-in-the-hole. That short-term memory thing? It finally kicks in on your behalf. From this side of my face, I forget what I look like. It totally slips my mind. Every now and then I get a sudden glimpse in a store window or I’m ambushed by a stealth mirror and I’m all Holy shit what happened there but then–right away, I forget about it.