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The Fun of Aging

By Cora Ann Metz


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Since I was six years old, the aging process has always been a bone of contention with me.  Back then, I harbored amusing concepts about growing old.  My childhood naiveté led me to believe that at age 16, I would be a mature adult, at 21, I would be middle age, and at age 33 I would qualify for Social Security.
            But over the years, things changed drastically as I resisted coming to my senses.  Now that I've reached 39...well, OK, a bit on the other side of 39, I don't actually think I'm over the hill yet.  Though I resigned myself to altering my diet with healthier foods and accepting the inevitable wrinkles and the accompanying graying hair, I had been going through phases of denial.  I tuned out anyone touting the benefits of “aging gracefully.”  Truth be told, I didn’t want to age gracefully.    Hell, I just didn't want to age at all.

            Like many others at this crossroad in life, I had begun to take drastic steps to try to stave off the ravages of growing old, tackling the first signs, which usually materialize in the face.  Seemingly overnight, thousands of tiny wrinkles took their toll, brazenly taking up immediate residence in my face.  In shock from skin which took on the leathery texture of a well-broken-in baseball glove, I craved a quick fix to help me recapture that "youthful appearance." 

The media hype touting the "guaranteed" results of the wrinkle-fighting wonder drugs sucked me in.  But Botox was never an option since sticking poison into my face to freeze my wrinkles into smooth skin is just plain stupid.  Besides, I didn’t want to look like a backroom reject from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  Cleansers, lotions, day moisturizers and night creams loaded with Vitamin A, retinol, glycolic and fruit acids and an array of hard-to-pronounce chemicals became my best friends.  I tried them all in varying degrees of potency.  After months of use, these wonder creams failed to lead me to that fugitive fountain of youth.  Instead they left me and my wrinkles at a dry, abandoned well.  The only "wonder" I experienced was why I bought them in the first place. 

I have to admit that as my facial skin got much, much smoother, the wrinkles got much, much smarter.  This “alien life form” created sprawling subdivisions in my neck.  So from the neck up, I resorted to camouflaging with large fashionable scarves, dark glasses, and turtle-neck sweaters which I wore even in the summer heat.  Being a hardhead, I hadn’t yet realized that I couldn’t turn back the hands of time, but I pressed on with my quest for youthfulness.

            The next culprit:  my hair.  Pulling out the gray hairs only made matters worse.  More of those gray devils left me with a sore scalp and grew back at the speed of weeds after a spring shower.  So, I counterattacked.  I enlisted the aid of Lady Clairol and shocked my slowly graying mane with a jet-black dye job, thinking that this stark color would knock off a couple of years and allow me to join the fleeting youthful ranks once again.  After the process, I looked in my mirror, expecting to see another beautiful version of Halle Berry.  But staring back at me was this individual with an uncanny resemblance to Lily Munster.  I added wide-brimmed hats to my growing pile of fashion accessories for idiots fighting a losing battle with Father Time.

It helps to have well-meaning friends when you're suffering through any crisis. Plus they're cheaper than a therapist.  Mine tried to convince me that my gray strands made me look mature, seasoned, and distinguished like Lena Horne.  To me, I looked wretched, threadbare and seedy like the Ruth Buzzy’s Gladys character, the little old lady on “Laugh In.”

Next up:  shoes.  Wearing six-inch heels everyday posed no problem for me or my feet---when I was 20.  But now, I pay the piper dearly.  Wearing heels higher than two inches produces excruciating pain, which rockets up from my toes to my hips, and I end up limping pitifully, wishing for a cane or even a sturdy stick.  Now, I've resorted to carrying a pair of Nikes in my tote bag for feet emergencies.

As a teen, gaining weight was never an issue with me.  I used to eat as much of anything I wanted to, at any time of the day or night, with no worry of risk to my young, fit, cholesterol-fighting body.  Recently, I decided to test the waters of my "mature" appetite.   At a local pizza hub, I ordered a special topped with everything except anchovies (I hate those hairy little things.)  Later, I snacked on a jumbo order of greasy fries and a large root beer.  Um, um! I finished off this "teenage gourmet meal" with a double chocolate malt.  But a few hours later, my body fought back, punishing me with an unhealthy level of pent-up gas.   Every time I moved, I unwillingly "notified" anyone downwind and within earshot of my delicate condition. After suffering embarrassment from the scowls and frowns of passers-by, I prayed I wouldn't sneeze before I could get home and save myself from further humiliation.

            Yielding to the inevitable/yielding to this bittersweet stage, I've reached some level of acceptance with myself, coming to grips with the fact that aging isn't necessarily a death sentence.  It's more like losing my favorite balloon to a gentle, yet strong wind.  And like my balloon, my youth will never come back/ain’t ever coming back, so I’ve finally kissed it goodbye.  AAHHHHRGH!

Now, I wear fashionable clothes and stylish shoes with sensible heels.  I try to eat healthy, tasty foods.  But occasionally, I still treat myself to a juicy hamburger with a root beer, a banana split or even a chocolate malt but not all in one sitting.  Though Father Time is winning, I sometimes forego wearing one of my harem scarves, a burka or one of my special jumbo Kentucky Derby hats and proudly let my gray and even my wrinkles show; that is until 30-somethings start to call me "ma'am."  I know they mean well, but I could slap them for that.  And yes, I'm proud of my perennial age of "39."  Besides, who wants to be six again these days?

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