You learn a lot of things from informercials. Especially ones you see in the ungodly hours of the morning, when you’re sitting in a waiting room with an uncomfortably full bladder and an 8-pound baby bouncing on it, just hoping your turn for the ultrasound machine comes up before you piss your pants. (Really, who the fuck tells a woman going into their 40th week of pregnancy to drink a litre of water and not pee for an hour before they smear cold jelly on your stomach and proceed to jab you in the bladder over and over again? Sadists, that’s who. Fucking sadists. I’m lucky if a mouthful of juice doesn’t send me running to the toilet, let alone an entire litre.)
But I digress.
So there I am, asscrack of 8am, yawning my way to a chair in the waiting room and hoping I can manage to be a big girl and hold my pee long enough to get this over with, when on Peachtree TV pops up an infomercial for some company called Youthology. A fairly attractive blonde who reminded me of Tea Leoni begins talking very seriously to me about how age, lifestyle and the sun are going to gang up and rape my face like it just dropped the soap in the prison showers. I’ll get crow’s feet, laugh lines, saggy dark circles under my eyes. I’ll look years older than I actually am.
But maybe I’m in my mid-20s to mid-30s and I’m unconcerned with the effects aging has on my skin. That’s fine, she tells me, and the sort of dismissal that’s in her tone I usually reserve for big-eyed children trying to steal my chocolate. If I’m unconcerned with lines, crow’s feet, and becoming a wrinkled, dried up old prune, then I can just ignore the next half hour of television, because she’s going to talk to everyone who’s not me.
If I could change the channel, sweetheart, I would. But this is the Ultrasound waiting area TV, and I don’t want to ask for the remote, since I’m sitting on a baby sitting on my bladder, and I’m afraid I might piss my pants if I stand up before I’m called in.
And for the next 1/3 of the program (approximately 10 minutes until I’m called in), I watch this Tea Leoni lookalike and a so-called doctor stiffer than a 30-hour erection talk about this miracle skin serum they’ve developed that can virtually erase all signs that you’re a wrinkly shrewish spinster crone, at least around the eyes, within 90 seconds of application. They continue to insist there’s no camera tricks, and all the shots they keep on screen are in real time. Look years younger! Magically erase all signs that hard drug use and endless nights of drinking have ravaged your eyes in a minute and a half! Glamour! Pretty! Beauty! Age is bad! Age bad!
Age is bad.
And that’s the prevalent theme running through our Western commercials, magazine ads, movies, billboards, reality TV and glitterati gatherings like the Oscars. Age is bad, especially if you’re a woman. Any lines on your face will detract from your sexual attractiveness, and if you don’t sweat the jagged cracks running through your skin, no one’s going to want to hire you, no one’s going to want to fuck you, and no one’s going to want to marry you and give you babies.
And it’s all a crock of shit.
Folks, I’m 29 (or will be in a week), so maybe I don’t have the years under my belt to really comment first-hand on this. But I found my first grey hairs this year. And not just one. No. A whole fucking colony of them, creeping in under my bangs and at the nape of my neck. My husband has had silver lightly sprinkled through his hair, and he has for years. He, currently, has more of an aging crisis than I do (which he claims is because I haven’t hit 30 yet): he insists he’s 28. And he’s been insisting this for 5 of the 7 years we’ve been married. At first it was cute, then it was annoying. Now I just ignore him when he starts talking about how he’s only 28. It’s easier that way.
My mother started going grey in her late 20s; so did my grandmother. Mom’s in her mid 40s and, under the dye and highlights, isn’t even half-grey yet. Nan’s solid white now, but she’s in her mid-70s; she didn’t hit completely grey til her late 50s/early 60s.
So I think I’m good to be a brunette without chemical help for awhile yet.
But I also have two kids. I have two kids who are under the age of 5. I have two kids who are under the age of 5 who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am having a third kid, who by all accounts is a girl and, if you haven’t heard me say it already, girls in my family tend to be fucking evil incarnate. I should know: I was one of them.
And I married Rick.
And stayed married to him for 7 years.
I’ve earned every single one of these grey hairs.
As my kids grow up, stress is going to leech more of the melanin out of my hair. Laughing with my husband (or at my husband, same thing, really) is going to give me lines around my lips and eyes. Playing with the children outside, smiling at their antics, or even yelling at their misbehaviours… all of these things are going to take their toll on my skin and face. I’m going to get more grey hairs. I’m going to have laugh lines. I’m going to have crow’s feet. Sitting with them when they’re sick, or waiting up for them to come home from their first school dance… these things are all going to give me dark baggy circles under my eyes.
So I feel sorry for you, Ms. Tea Leoni Lookalike. I really do. When you talk about how “maybe I don’t care about the effects aging will have on me”, you sound so snooty. Like there’s something wrong with me for wanting to age gracefully. Why should I feel bad for not seeing anything amiss with wearing the history of my family, my husband, my children, all the good times and bad, on my face like a badge of honor?
Of course, this is all conjecture. I’m only 29, after all. By the time I start going quickly and solidly grey, I might care. I might have a small pharmacy of anti-aging, age-defying and youthology products in my bathroom. I might care about laugh lines and crow’s feet. I might be frying the shit out of my hair every six weeks to frantically cover the invading grey.
But I doubt it.
I intend to age, gracefully or otherwise.
If I have to kick and scream to do it.