I’m 42 years old. And I look, well, 42 years old.
As much as I’d like to delude myself into thinking that my body looks like it did when I was 21, sometimes, you just have to face facts. At some point, you have to look in that mirror and realize that the gray hair is here to stay, those wrinkles are actually a permanent part of your face, and as much as they tell you that C-section scar will fade, that ain’t exactly the truth. At some point, you have to give up the farce: The party’s over, babe. Welcome to the Over-40 Club, my dear.
Sigh. I just don’t want to accept that the party is over. Do I have to?
My first inkling that my body was no longer bootylicious came from a conversation with my then-3-year-old son. I had just gotten out of the shower, and he came walking in right after I got out and before I’d had a chance to towel up. The conversation went more or less like this:
3-year-old: Mommy! Your body is smiling at me!
Me: Um, excuse me?
3-year-old: Can’t you see the smiley face on your body?
Me, still baffled: Huh?
3-year-old, exasperated: Two eyes, a nose and a smile! And a beard, too!
Nothing like the wisdom and honesty of a child to make you realize that that C-section scar really does kind of look like a smile. (And to those who also bear the C-section badge of courage: You will now never look at yourself in the mirror the same. Smile and welcome to the club, ladies.)
Over the past few years, I’ve grudgingly admitted that a little hair color isn’t necessarily a bad thing and that concealer just doesn’t do the trick that it used to for crow’s feet. I’ve acquiesced to my abdominal muscles and realized that the only six-pack I’m ever going to have on my person is my favorite beer. And as much as it galls me to say so, I just do not have the calorie-burning power I used to and have accepted running as my means to justify my eating and drinking habits. With each little battle lost, I’ve sighed and just quietly accepted my new fate.
I was in a bar recently with a group of friends celebrating a birthday. Because it was Saturday night, I took it as an opportunity to get gussied up (read: wash my hair, apply extra makeup, and use hairspray). Fancy hair, fun dress, bright red lipstick. The works. I armed myself with my teeny-tiny, non-Mom purse, my ID, and a tube of lipstick, and out I went.
When I got to the bar, I felt like I had walked into a time machine. The bar was loaded with young, vibrant, über-sexy people. When had everyone gotten so damned young? When did dresses get so damned short? When did heels become platform, spike, and death-defying? As I stood there, in the sea of young, beautiful people, I wondered two things: What was I thinking wearing a red flower in my hair, and when the hell did I get so old?
Suffice it to say, no one asked me for my ID. Or my phone number.
Later that evening, in a somewhat confusing conversation, I was told that I looked great “for my age.” Gee, thanks, I think? Hearing that phrase made me realize that perhaps the jig was up: Those kids may have looked young to me, but in an interesting turn of events, I looked old to them. I guess I’m officially a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the Over-40 Club — so can I get 10% off around town with my new card?
In thinking about the loss of my youthful glow, my first instinct was to have a pity party. I wanted to sit in a corner and cry over the loss of my glossy hair, my taut skin, and the ability to be carded the minute I tried to get into a bar. I wanted to rue the road map of veins on my thighs, my soft as a marshmallow abs, and the no-longer-easily-concealed dark circles under my eyes. I wanted to turn back time, for just one night, and have my 21-year-old body back.
Sigh. Bitch, please. Pity party is over. Snap the hell out of it, would you?
Those varicose veins are a product of working long days and nights as a nurse. I saved lives with those legs. Those purplish-blue roads up and down your legs were paved with compassion and hard work.
Those marshmallow abs are a product of producing real, live humans. Humans came out of me. I grew actual people. And now I get to eat s’mores with them (come on, I had to throw a marshmallow joke in there — weak, I know).
Those crow’s feet are a result of a life lived laughing and smiling. I am surrounded by people who make me laugh so hard that I almost pee my pants on a daily basis. They don’t call them laugh lines for nothing — in fact, I should pity those who don’t have wrinkles. Clearly, they aren’t in on the good jokes around them. Or their kids are not comedic geniuses like my darlings.
And that C-section smile, er, scar? Just a daily, quite literal, reminder to smile at the body I’ve been given. To smile and be grateful that it has grown two babies, completed six marathons, and consistently does what I ask of it every day. To smile that these legs have carried me around the world and back, and they always bring me home to the man who is blinded by my beauty at any age.
I will smile daily at my body, and I will try to smile at every aging milestone. (I do, however, reserve the right to frown at gray eyebrow hairs. I mean, can we get a freaking break, Mother Nature? Leave my brows alone.) And truth be told, when those young ladies from the bar get to be my age, I will buy them a drink to ease the pain of realizing they have to grow old too. It ain’t all bad.