Bette Davis once said “Old age is no place for sissies,” and man, was she right.
This week, I had to renew my passport so I was up early to avoid the lines at the post office. I was in workout clothes and not vain enough to put on a full face of makeup so early in the morning for the photo, so I just dabbed some eyeliner and lip gloss on before running out the door.
When I went to get my passport photo taken at CVS, I stood in front of the white screen and started primping my hair. The CVS lady– who seemed friendly enough– gave me the passport photo rules: I couldn’t smile and had to have both ears showing — which made my hair flat and mousey looking.
That was the least of my problems.
She took two shots, downloaded them and showed them to me on a computer monitor. Horrifying. I looked like someone had beat the crap out of me. I looked VERY tired and one eye was a lot bigger than the other. Like a cyclops.
“Oh no!” I shrieked. The CVS lady looked at the screen and then to me.
“Yeah, we should take that again,” she said with a pained look. I was both relieved to have a second chance, and annoyed that she so quickly confirmed the picture was ghastly.
I stood again against the white background and tried to pinch my cheeks and smooth out all the lines on my face that had glared at me from the screen. We tried SIX more times. Each time, CVS lady looked at me with a wincing expression and shook her head.
Here I was, thinking I looked ok when I left the house. I glanced in the mirror in the dim light of my bedroom, but I guess not close enough. Sure, I was up til one-am watching Orange is the New Black and reading my book club book, but I didn’t feel as tired as I looked.
“I don’t think it’s going to get better than that,” she said flatly after the 6th attempt. (She seemed less friendly to me now.)
” I guess I should have worn more make up,” I said sheepishly as she printed the photos.
“Yeah, you need a lot of makeup,” CVS lady said. Maybe she didn’t say exactly that, but that’s what I heard at the moment.
For so many years, I could just get up and greet the day with little effort and still feel like I was putting my best face forward. Not anymore.
Aging has taken its toll.
I had heard that after 40, our bodies start deteriorating at a more rapid rate. I noticed it first when it was taking me too long to read books. I had always had 20/20 vision so it didn’t occur to me for months that I was squinting and having to reread sentences because my eyesight was weakening.
I now have prescription reading glasses that I only wear when reading and sitting at the computer because I’m still self-conscious about them. I can no longer read any writing on medicine bottles, they’re just printing it too damn small.
There are further indignities I’ve observed as birthdays come and go. Despite lots of exercise and walking my whole life, my feet hurt on a regular basis. Food gets stuck in my teeth, forcing me to suck on them like a grandpa. My bedtime routine requires so many steps, I often can’t make it through them all: wash face, brush teeth, floss, slather night cream, apply eye cream, moisturize hands, adjust pillows to avoid lower back pain.
And I’m a healthy person!!
My 42-year-old athletic cousin just discovered he has a hernia and can’t figure out for the life of him what he might have done to get it. Lifting a suitcase? Weird stretching at the gym?
An exasperated friend just told me she can’t find the right bra size because her boobs have become completely lopsided. One has humiliatingly descended at a more alarming rate than the other.
I know we should consider ourselves lucky if these are our worst complaints. And I do appreciate my good health. But don’t underestimate the damaging effect physical aging has on our fragile egos.
Who wants to admit we have weaknesses, exactly at the time when we’re finally becoming comfortable with who we are?
Alas, I only have to look at that passport photo for the next 10 years. I guess the bright side is, in 10 years, I’ll look at that photo and think I look young!