Me. In an old sweatshirt covered in paint. No makeup. Hair still wet.
My bathroom mirror is the mirror I use most often. I don’t have a full-length mirror anywhere in the house. It’s the mirror I use to put on makeup, to check my hair, to gauge the way I look on any given day.
I think it may be a little on the kind side.
How else can I explain all the different and sometimes shocking glimpses I get of myself when I’m out and about? There’s the quick view I get of my profile as I walk by a shop window: who is that old woman? Or the view of my face and jawline when I’m sitting in the chair as I get my hair cut, with the sun streaming in on my left – oh heavens, I have to look away. Especially when the young woman cutting my hair has the flawless, tight skin of a twenty-something.
Or yesterday. I was in Lowe’s with no makeup on, and happened to catch my reflection in one of the bathroom mirrors that was on display. The overhead lighting at Lowe’s isn’t at all kind. My skin looked saggy, I had circles under my eyes. My jowl line seemed to be heading for the floor.
I was so shocked at the stranger who was looking back at me that I quickly moved away to another part of the store.
Are all these people me? How can I look so starkly different from the woman who looks back at me from the bathroom mirror? I feel like I’m trapped in some bizarre funhouse that leaves me unable to recognize the true me.
I call Don in a panic. And he says the usual things, that I look beautiful, that those glimpses I’ve been getting aren’t the way I really look. But he loves me and he sees me through love’s eyes. And I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong.
As much as I write about being ‘seasoned’ – my positive word for aging – I have real trouble with it sometimes. I’m 61. I tell myself that 61 is no longer what it was a generation ago. And though I have a few aches and pains, I don’t feel 61. I feel like I’m still in my forties.
My outside doesn’t match the way I feel inside. And I find it depressing.
How do we come to terms with that? How do I let myself age in a positive way? How do I accept the fact that I no longer look the way I did in my forties or in my fifties?
I’m going to be totally honest here: I miss the way I used to look.
I was a late bloomer who felt awkward and unattractive for many years until I hit my thirties and then I blossomed. I came into my own. I liked the way that Claudia looked.
I’m not so crazy about the present day Claudia’s reflection in the mirror.
Of course, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to slap some makeup on before I go out in public. But even makeup doesn’t go on the way it used to. And my coloring is different. My dark brown hair is now a mix of brown and gray, making my pale skin look even paler.
Look. I basically eschew the idea of plastic surgery, of fillers, of botox, of implants. Most of the time, they look ridiculous and, I think, draw attention to the fact that someone is trying to cover up the signs of aging, rather than successfully disguising them. And then, that’s all I see. I study the overly smooth, shiny skin on the cheekbone that doesn’t match the neck, or the way that person looks almost unrecognizable with skin pulled this way and that. I wouldn’t go under the knife, couldn’t afford to even if I wanted to, but I get it. I understand wanting to tweak things, to tighten up a sagging jowl line, to have the high, full cheekbones of yore, to feel young again. I understand wanting to see the me I know in the mirror, not the stranger who’s looking back at me.
It’s a challenge, isn’t it? How to age, to season, with grace and style and a modicum of class? That’s what I aim for. I want to accept who I am at this stage of my life, yet I don’t want to give up caring about the way I look. But I don’t want to care so much that I become unhappy with who I am now. Does that make sense?
That’s where I am today.
I’m going to be writing the occasional post on the aging/seasoning process. Heck, I’m in the midst of it, why not explore it? Maybe I’ll put them all together in a book someday.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, my friends.