14 March, 2013

mirror, mirror

there, in the mirror, stands a woman who is past her prime. this is something that i didn't think would bother me so much, what with all the feminist self-awareness stuff that i wholeheartedly subscribe to, but hot dog, i seem to be in the midst of a real life mid-life crisis.
symptoms - some serious navel-gazing. annoyingly so. i look and look and notice how my eyes are drooping and the smiley lines are no longer going away and the bed sheet wrinkles stay embossed on my arm skin for a long long time and instead of just shrugging, i get pissed off. because, damn it, it wasn't supposed to happen to me. because somehow i was supposed to get my very own temporal loophole and not grow old.

and yes, i realise i'm not old per se, but i am no longer young. i get more and more why people have children (or, maybe to be clearer, what use children serve in people's lives, beyond the purely practical considerations of bringing you another glass of wine when you can't get up) - when you have children, there is continuity, there is youth and your own silent slump into decrepitude is no longer quite as important. you have distractions: look, maddison is on "girls gone wild"(again)! behold, jayden has developed an oxycontin addiction! oh my, emma has won the lacrosse tournament! and so on... whereas i have merely the intellectual struggles of grad school to keep my mind's eye focused away from the slowly loosening collagen in my delicate under-eye area (as the industry calls it) and 'twould be good, if i wasn't surrounded by a group of 20-30 year olds whose firm bits and pieces make me reconsider my self-imposed anti-plastic surgery position.

now don't fret. it's unlikely that i will turn myself into a fully plasticized clone of the kardashian clan, but it's odd how much i'm feeling the slipping away of something good about myself. and as shallow as this is, it's true. i know there's more to me than a face and body but i still miss being me. i feel that the face i see in the mirror resembles me less and less and i wonder when my self-knowledge will catch up and i will see me again and not some lightly worn out stranger.

i always prided myself on a realistic self-respect and self-love, and that seems to be slipping along with my formerly firm bits. so, here's a question to all of you who are older than i am - when and how does one reach a zen-like state of acceptance?


Zhoen said...

Ignore the mirror, it lies. You may be past prime pretty years, but the real beauty is beneath, welling up. The real prime of your mind is closer to 40, and your heart at 50, the soul at any age at all.

Jessica Tandy was gorgeous forever.

the polish chick said...

thank you, zhoen. looks like i chose the perfect time to go back to school then!

and yes, all this i know. it's just frustrating to find myself so shallow suddenly.

Lucy said...

Wonderful post, funny and touching, so much I can recognise here.

Any Zen-like acceptance I achieve is occasional at best. I never had much beauty to pride myself on, was brought up with handsome-is-as-handsome-does-it's-what's-inside-that matters kind of values, consolidated by feminism, so I didn't think that the physical side of ageing would bother me too much.

But I'm rueful that I didn't appreciate enough that what Jane Austen called 'youth and a tolerable person' was an asset in itself, and one that wasn't going to last forever. But then you just don't, do you? As you say, it isn't going to happen to you, youth is just where you're at and that poignant awareness of its fleetingness and indeed its loveliness (sometimes anyway) is something you can only understand when its gone.

And simply the sense of life passing gets sad and scary, the regret for the loss of youth quickly turns into awareness of the shortness of life and the dwindling of remaining time.

But I'm happy that though I may be a bit sad about it sometimes, I'm not sour; I really do enjoy other people's youth, contact with lovely, bright young people brings me a lot of joy, and getting older means I don't feel intimidated and jealous of them like I did when I was young myself! And not having kids, I don't feel so tied up with it, which is less intense of course, but simpler.

And I am glad I'm fit and well, and free of some of the more tedious and troublesome aspects of being young.

A former student of mine, a lovely serene woman of perhaps 60 at the time, when I was getting them to practise the construction 'I wish I had...' said 'I wish I had always known how young I was; when I was 30 I worried I was getting older, then when I was 40 I wished I was 30, then at 50, 40 was young, and now...'

You're only 40, you're bloody young, just wait till you're 50!

the polish chick said...

lucy, thank you for a thoughtful response.

i suppose the thing that i ought to stress is that i am more angered at my shallow response to the loss of my youth than to the loss of my youth itself.

still, if we're sharing, and sharing is what this blog is all about, then it's got to be said that there are elements of both.

and yes, the biggest part of what i miss is the vista of endless possibility stretching out before me, which narrows as the years go by.

still, my life, overall, has been and continues to be wonderful.

Zhoen said...

Vanity is normal, fine as long as slightly eccentric. Or very eccentric. Which is to say, as long as you don't think magazine models are anything like normal.

the polish chick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the polish chick said...

yeah, even the magazine models don't look like magazine models. have you seen that brilliant dove commercial where they show how doctored they really are? it's horrifying.
and no, it's not as bad as all that. i was a pretty girl, but never a stunning beauty, which, i think, might have made things way harder for me now. as it is, i am really appreciating the strength of my body now more than ever, and that's definitely a good thing.


Geneviève Goggin said...

I can't stop thinking of a conversation I had with a good friend of mine on her 40th birthday. We were reminiscing over photos from our university years and she said she wished her 20 year old self had known how hot she was. We then wondered if we would be saying the same at 60 about our forties. My guess is yes. So from time to time, I remind myself that I look better now than I ever will. It helps as long as you don't think too much about the flip side of that statement (let's just believe that we will always be beautiful).

And yes, a little vanity is good. For what it's worth, I think you're a fine looking woman. You exude confidence and you take the time to dress nicely. Beats the Costco pants I've been living in (on account of the fact that all my other pants have mysteriously shrunk).

You are hot NOW, your 60 self is trying to tell you.

the polish chick said...

good point, g. i once read a wonderful erma bombeck essay to that very effect. and although it is a good point, it is still difficult sometimes to keep it in mind.

in our teens we pine for adulthood and larger breasts. in our twenties we hate bits and pieces of ourselves. in our thirties we are confident and happy, but miss our twenties' bodies. and on and on it goes...

Geneviève Goggin said...

Yes. I'm not saying I practice what I preach or anything.