On Aging

Last week, I ran into an older woman – 70, maybe 75? – in the ladies room and commented on what beautiful skin she had. It glowed, truly, with just the right amount of weathering that announced to the world, I have been places. I have seen things. These lines contain wisdom; my face is a cartographer’s dream.

And she laughed as she washed her hands, saying she’d just had a Botox treatment the week prior. Right here, she said, pointing to the space between her eyebrows that furrows and deepens with age and time and focus. Can you tell?

I couldn’t, and I told her I couldn’t, and I didn’t want to ask why she’d done it, because really, those decisions are best left to justify within your inner circle. Botox or no Botox, hair coloring or natural, wax on, wax off, does it matter?

But, then, she added this, unprompted: I did it when I turned 70. I wanted to look happy. I was tired of looking like a cranky old woman, because I didn’t feel like a cranky old woman. I didn’t want to look younger. I just didn’t want to look mean anymore.

I’ve always been in the No!Plastic!Surgery! camp, and I’m forever clapping for the women who gray with grace and age with acceptance. But I haven’t yet woken to their wrinkles. I haven’t peered in the mirror and seen someone who looked cranky, or unlike myself. I haven’t walked a walk that creaks, or smiled a smile of crabbiness. I haven’t looked into eyes that are shadowed by a furrowed brow, like a store awning that keeps the rain from soaking the sidewalk beneath.

What if I want to feel the rain? What then?

Life is so funny this way. You stake your claim, paint your banner, picket your line and then you find yourself in the ladies’ room having a conversation that changes your mind about what it looks like on the other side.

Although I’ll never opt for cosmetic surgery myself, I no longer think of it as vain, not really. I no longer see the decision as one of pretentiousness, or desperation, or the result of a culture obsessed with youth.

I think, instead, that perhaps a woman just wants to look happy. More like herself, or more like her soul.

Perhaps she just wants to feel the rain.

Sometimes it takes more than two minutes of listening by the paper towels to change your mind.

But most of the time it doesn’t.

  • Interesting conversation and thoughts. I’d never thought of pastic surgery for those reasons, to look happy. I have to say I am over with you in the not me camp. Who knows what time will bring though. I am not worried about aging, not really, but I also probably don’t care for my skin in a way to help it age better either. I should.

    • My step kids are writing letters to their future selves as part of a Christmas project… they asked what I would have told the future me… taking better care of my skin was #5 on my list :)

  • I love this sentiment and understand this woman’s thought process. As a woman in her late 40’s, let’s say I have “dabbled” in some minor repairs. It isn’t something I shout from the roof tops but I am not ashamed either. 15 years ago I would have scoffed at the idea. 5 years ago I reconsidered! There was no specific catalyst or snarky comment that sent me running to the dermatologist. I don’t want to look young again and I certainly don’t want to appear as though I am TRYING too hard to do so. I just wanted to look a little more like the me I used to see in the mirror. The version of me who didn’t always look tired or sad or pensive. For me it is a subtle change that makes a difference… and maybe it isn’t a visible difference?

    Thank you for your thoughtful and inspired writing. I look forward to your posts!

  • Allowing yourself to change your mind about things you thought you knew is so important because we are always learning! I’ve always had a “you do you” attitude towards plastic surgery, which is similar to my attitude for other moms in general. It definitely a theme for me as a feminist to support other women even if they choose to do things I wouldn’t do.

  • A very good friend had plastic surgery several years ago – mainly around the eyes if I recall, because it was so well done and she still looked just like herself so I don’t really remember – but I do remember ragging on her for a while about it until one day I realized why not? It’s her face and I want her to be happy in her face, right? = )

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