This morning I was reading the news when I ran across a small item with a headline that read something along these lines: “Heather Locklear and her daughter look like sisters.” From glancing at the photo that appeared under the headline I could clearly see that this was, at best, a mild exaggeration and I clicked to read the text of the note. It basically said that Ms. Locklear (51 years old) and her daughter, Ava Sambora (all of fifteen,) look like they could be sisters because Ms. Locklear looks AMAZING for her age. If I had the ability to arch a brow, I would have done it.
Granted, Ms. Locklear looked really good in the photograph, and had I not been wearing glasses, I would have probably airbrushed her with my poor vision to the point where I could agree with the headline. However…like sisters????? Ms. Locklear’s hairstyle, outfit, shoes and makeup certainly resembled the youthful style her daughter was proudly displaying, but…like sisters????? No, not by a mile. Not really. Not likely.
I am, by no means, giving up on staying as healthy as I can, but I will confess to you that not even a tub of facial cream applied assiduously every night and morning will prevent the next stage of my life from happening. You know what will prevent it??? Sudden, irrevocable, fulminating death…I prefer the wrinkly, gray-haired, sagging option. At the age of forty-eight, my chances of “dying young” are long gone. My dad (who is in his 80s) would say I died “young” if I abruptly kicked the bucket, but my kids wouldn’t. It’s all relative, isn’t it?
Remember when “dying young” was a tragedy? When we heard of someone passing away in their teens, twenties or thirties, we used to say “oh, but he/she was so YOUNG!!!” People nowadays act like dying old is something to be ashamed of; worse yet, people nowadays act like dying LOOKING ONE’S AGE is something utterly embarrassing. Of course, we all feel a little flattered when someone acts surprised that we have grown children, but we know a kindness when we hear one. We KNOW that, when we get home and look in the mirror, our neck will say “yeah, you’re in your late forties and unless you wear a scarf year-round, you won’t be able to fool anyone. Besides…did you look at your hands???? What about those KNEES!!!???”
If you have the means, resources, power and enthusiasm to try to shape your forty-something body into a reasonable facsimile of its younger self, kudos to you. I can safely and honestly tell you that I wouldn’t. A) I am afraid of needles, B) it costs a lot of TIME that I don’t really want to dedicate to such endeavors, and C) I still know my age regardless of how much I try to convince myself that the loud clacking, creaking and whining are not being issued by different parts of my body. My kids know my age; they have been looking at me and watching me age for the past two decades. Like an apple or a mushroom left out on the counter, I have been slowly drying out and shriveling…I’ve not really rotted yet, and -at least I don’t think so- I don’t smell funny.
What am I trying to say? Aging is not a sin. Aging is not a tragedy. Aging, in my case, is the bargain I made with the Universe when TGG was born, and the bargain I renewed when J was born: “Please, if you let me finish this task that I am setting for myself, I won’t complain about what it does to this young body I am offering up in sacrifice.” The day I found out I was pregnant with TGG, I could still sleep on my back without pinching any roaming parts of my body. Nearly 22 years later, I turn in bed and I have to shift things into a more comfortable place. Horrible, huh??? Breastfeeding J for four years didn’t help matters either, and peri-menopause has been the most recent insult. (Another interesting article today stated that French researchers have concluded that women really DON’T need brassieres, that -left to nature- our bodies develop sufficient muscle to support our breasts properly. These French researchers have obviously not seen me jogging along to the Wii. They’d BEG me to put a bra on!)
I’m not saying give up. I’m not saying willingly turn into a fluffier, saggier, wrinklier, more gray-haired, older version of yourself. What I’m saying is that, if you’re lucky, that is what you’ll become, and your children will be there, witnessing it and -hopefully- taking in the work you’re putting into them. I also read today (it was a slow morning chore-wise, ok? I did a lot of clicking and reading as I sipped that second cup of coffee that -ultimately- was not a very good idea) about a mom-blogger who wishes someone had told her that parenting doesn’t get easier with time. I don’t know under what rock she spent her pregnancies, but wherever that was the echoes of “just wait ’til the kid” didn’t reach her. I got the full version, and I’m grateful for the unvarnished, undecorated account of puke, constipation, night terrors, tantrums, falls, calls from the principal, etc., etc., etc. that was chorused at me by every group of experienced mothers I ever encountered when I needed it most. I’m only sorry (and yet not) that none of those mothers had a disabled kid because, and this is the honest truth, some of this ignorance that enveloped me has given me much needed hubris, even when it turned around and spit me in the eye.
So…to re-cap: instead of fighting the pointless battle of trying to delude myself into believing I could be my children’s sibling, I’m surrendering to the reality of being their mother, and looking it. I commend Ms. Locklear for, even though she no longer looks as much as herself as she used to, fighting the good fight, and putting herself out there for our perusal. In a sea of middle-aged women who look more and more like each other (because they chose their noses, lips, cheeks, hair color, foreheads and breasts from a book in the doctors’ offices,) I stick out like a run-of-the-mill big toe…the kind that gets a pedicure at home.
I’m good with that. I know how old my knees are, and my newest and oldest scars, and -because we’ve laughed about some of my most catastrophically ridiculous accidents- my kids know it, too. Yeah, they’re cool with the fact that I saw Star Wars at the theater, before George Lucas messed with it to make it “better,” and that I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. Come morning I’ll still (STILL!) be trying to get my toes and fingers to touch (don’t even go there,) and it will require the help of the Tin Man’s can of oil, but Ms. Lauren Bacall said it best, and this is why it hangs in the entryway of our home: I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.