I’m so close to 40 I can smell the wine on her breath; near enough to reach out and stroke her stray chin hair.
I’m at the age when we begin to placate one another with lines like, “you’re only as old as you feel.” I’m at the age when Susan Sarandon quotes begin to resonate; when I’m told I should stop obsessing over my appearance, and be confident in my own skin, and in the woman I’ve become.
I’m “aging gracefully.” I’m over the hill, but I’m “picking up speed.”
When I crest the hill I’ll look around and realize that I’m at the top of my game, I’m who I was meant to be. I’m self-assured. I’m poised. I’m intelligent.
I’m still waiting.
Am I aging gracefully? Two days ago I tripped over my dog and wrenched my back. I’ve been hobbling and gasping around the house, ever since. Advil and Robaxacet rattle around in my pocket like spare change, and I’ve spent more time with my acupuncturist, chiropractor and massage therapist than I have my own husband.
Aging is hard, it’s painful and it’s expensive. There was a time when I would go to the salon for fun. Now I go to the salon to camouflage my grey. I’m earning more than I ever have, but spending more on serums and hair removal — for my face.
I’m digging in to my thirties, (whitened) tooth and (manicured) nail. At some point, I’m told I’ll be confident enough to let go of the eroding bank of my youth and just slide right into the babbling brook beneath, but I figure I can hold on a little longer. I’ve got this.
As long as I don’t look ahead. Or in the rearview.
I recall a telephone conversation that took place about a month after I became a mom. I was talking to my sister, and was near tears. My life had been cataclysmically altered by this bawling, needy, swaddled thing. Everyone was shouting at me, “BE GRATEFUL! ENJOY! YOU’RE SO LUCKY,” when all I really wanted to do was sleep.
“I just miss it,” I said to her. “I miss being able to drink a whole cup of coffee before it gets cold, or to sit down and read more than one page at a time. I love my baby, but I miss my life!”
She laughed at me. She laughed, and she laughed, and then she laughed some more. Then she said: “Danna, just forget about your old life. Just forget it. It never happened. If you don’t forget it, you’ll go insane.”
It was tough, but I managed. I managed to forget what time to myself felt like. Then, when those brief golden moments occurred, they were unexpected, and glorious.
Vegans have to forget bacon. They can’t spend a lifetime picking through their chickpeas and tempeh and thinking back to the last charcuterie tray they ate.
So, they forget. And then, one day, they’ll sit down, chase a slice of vegan cheesecake with a glass of vegan wine, and realize that it is possible to find new, delicious things to eat. They’ll find that life is still worth living, even without bacon and dairy cheese.
Such as it must be with aging.
I have to forget the woman I was. I have to stop standing in front of the mirror and remembering how I used to look. I need to stop thinking about the calories that I used to be able to consume without consequence, and how late I used to be able to stay up at night without nodding off into my cup of herbal tea.
That girl with the flat tummy and the great ass? She was a character in a TV show that I used to watch. I think of her with fondness, but her show was cancelled a long time ago, and there’s never going to be a reboot.
And soon, I hope, if I forget for long enough, I’ll find that grace that comes with age — that confidence and poise they say is headed my way.