You just never think it will happen to you. Then, one day you are caught. Transfixed. A deer in the headlights. You stare in horror as comprehension (and a wrinkle) slowly dawns. You are aging.
If there is anything to be learned from growing older it is that we really do remain young at heart in at least one area: arrogance. Growing older is what is going to happen to “other people.”
We all secretly believe it will never happen to us. I guarantee there isn’t an 18-year-old on earth who can really feel in their heart that they will ever be over 40 — or 90.
I recall being around 14 when a friend of the family (a wise old sage of about 30) said to me in all sincerity “enjoy your youth kid, it goes by so fast.”
I distinctly remember rolling my eyes and thinking “as if.” Growing up — and older — can’t come fast enough at that age.
Just as I had no use for the wisdom or life experiences of my elders (even if my elders were just a decade or so ahead of me in the game of life), so too did I have no use for the idea that I would ever truly join their ranks.
It is the ultimate hubris of youth that we truly do think we are going to stay whatever age we are currently experiencing just about forever.
I, for example, am 28. I feel 28. If forced to answer quickly I would say I was 28. Not in an outright lie, exactly (although it certainly is) but rather because that’s how old I feel.
Twenty-eight is the age at which I married and started a family. After that, everything’s kind of a blur. A beloved and blessed blur, mind you, but a blur nonetheless.
This should help explain how most of the time I wander through life thinking and believing that I not only am 28 but look it. Then one day recently I looked in a mirror sited close to bright daylight and I just about fell over. Who did that to my face?
Now, I’m not hideous, mind you. If it isn’t too conceited to say so, I’m hardly a gargoyle. Mothers don’t shield their babies’ eyes from the sight of me. Little children don’t scream and run away in fear.
No longer 28
Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that I am no longer 28. It’s my face. It’s definitely me — just different. A bit more defined in some places, a bit less defined in others.
Why didn’t someone warm me how the entire landscape — the texture — of your skin changes? Or maybe they did and I was too busy being young listen?
It’s like my face looked one way from age 16 or so until, well, yesterday. Suddenly things started to make a whole lot of sense. Cashiers who no longer asked for my identification when I purchased “adult beverages.”
The young people these days seeming so much more polite than just a few years ago (I realize now it was simply the inclusion of a few more “ma’ams” into their conversations).
Then there is the fact that my daughter kept bringing all her questions about early pioneer life to me. (If it is any consolation she takes all first-hand dinosaur questions to her father. Naturally, because he’s older).
Here’s the rub
If I seem to be taking my aging in stride, with a healthy sense of humor and a dose of Zen. That’s a lie. I’m not taking this well at all.
In fact, I find myself getting angrier every day as I fiddle with just the right false-advertised anti-aging cream or lotion in the literally vain hope of keeping myself looking like “me.” Or, at least, the me I could be if I could just be 18, or 28, again.
In weaker moments, I succumb to age rage. This is a sense of frustration and betrayal that this growing older thing had the audacity to happen to me.
I don’t know this new me. We are still getting used to each other and frankly, she’s kind of a pill. Higher maintenance, finicky skin.
Whereas I used to just roll out of bed, scrunch my hair and throw on some makeup, this new me takes forever to get ready in the morning.
One key thing
What I am learning, however, is one key thing. I am beginning to have the strong suspicion that even as I begrudge new-me her 40-year-old face, her 80-year-old face will, Lord willing, look back on the silliness of this vanity and laugh.