Every day I carefully sift through my closet to put together an outfit that’s coordinated, spiffy & “interesting.” I sigh about being on old lady, but I dress it up anyway. I fix my hair (wear it front or back?), I dress for the weather (long sleeves in New Mexico can be too much at any given time, even midwinter, given our 360 days of sunshine), I select footwear: shoes or can I still get away with sandals? I dig out makeup (a bit of eyeliner to paint under the epicanthic folds gravity is kindly manifesting for me), I bring in the magic 10x mirror & sit it in front of the light-filled window & pick at the salt n pepper facial hairs determinedly darkening my complexion (oh to be fair! But then, I never was in this lifetime.) I defuzz by degrees after the initial shudder at the ever-visible moustache line.
I tried whitening my teeth & that worked pretty well, tho expensive & sensitizing to gums. I try to walk each day after stretching out on the yoga mat through a warm-up routine tho I never quite get to full count on anything abdominal. I use three-pound hand weights when I walk – got biceps? I do! But who sees these? I can’t walk around all day flexing like some gym rat checking the bod in a hundred mirrors. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to, though. This is my first time in life with real biceps, after all.
From a distance, I look pretty good. It’s only up close & when I smile that you see the parentheses of wrinkles crinkling everywhere. My throat has a kind of sun-ray pattern to it which I find interesting, but which keeps me from wearing necklaces I once loved, as I don’t want to call attention there. And as I smile & the wrinkles appear & the collagen-depleted skin rearranges, guess what emerges from the little valleys between the crinkles, like some 3D kiddie pop-up book? More hairs.
I have read that hearing is the last sense to go in the body. But I have news for you – it’s Vanity. What’s the last thing done to the body? The undertaker puts make-up on you! Right? And as we age, our ears begin to once more grow (they also [OMG] clump bunches of hair). Our noses become visible from space. Our triceps assume the consistency of slackly drooping clotheslines. Our necks crepe up, our eyebrows figure it’s time to finally meet one another across the nose bridge…on & on. We should probably light candles to the great god Gravity, but Gravity, having brushed every appendages down in a bland assurance that nothing is where it started, has left the building & is out somewhere holding down trees & cars & waiting for apples to fall.
I see my mother’s hands when I look down at them typing. I see my Mom’s hair, the little waves all about. She used to put a touch of olive oil in hers for shine & control. I use a kind of sticky power-gel in a vain attempt at total control. We lived by the ocean & beach hair is a phenomenon of itself. Before I left Delaware, I started seeing t-shirts saying “Beach Hair, Don’t Care!” so I know it’s not a private matter any longer. Now it’s advertising.
So, after all is said & done, all the zipping up & pulling down, all the blow drying & insertion of earrings, the careful selections & accoutrements of fashionable accessories, I make sure I stand far enough back from the mirror that the details blur out a bit. I tell myself, “Just look at how beautiful you are!” And I walk, loose-limbed, straight-backed, smiling my face into its road map & head out. Today I wore a mostly red tie-dye shirt, a red hoodie vest, a red & purple scarf, carried a flowered Laura Ashley bag & wore lipstick. It paid off!
In the Wal-Mart, as I headed for the SmartPop white cheddar mini-bags – my latest sugar avoidance go-to (tho to an Italian, cheddar roughly equals chocolate) – I heard a voice behind me say, “I love your clothes!” And I turned, beaming, to the four-year-old fella holding to granma’s shopping cart to say, “Thank you, dear!”