It's a doozy, a four champagne'glass night, a long stare at a picture of myself in sodden self absorption and pity to wonder what the hell is happening to my face? My lip is apparently lopsided? When did this happen? My chin is softening. If I begin to get jowls for the love of God, I will use every instrument of torture Sir Doctor has at his/her dispense, and lay before their steely paws my full frontal plea: make this a face I recognize.
A strange thing is happening: I don't recognize myself lately. I stopped dying my hair after being blonde, BLONDE Blonde since 20yrs., after running like watercolor from Tow Headed as a child, to a blonde adolescent, to dirty blonde, to my pregnancy mud. The dying began along with a few years of hellish self absporption where I can only claimed to have piled the pain and suffering of my youth into a fernetic grip onto my looks: here was something I could depend on to my make me feel good. I went through a determination to buy breast implants, which thank god I was too poor for because Mr. Curry adores my breasts, and I love them quite fine, and would be miserable now if I had implants. I had fake nails for years- going for the whole Baywatch Slut look, achieved through careful observation of Playboy magazine and my imagination. I had a pre-packaged look that worked quite fine for garnerning attention from men: the Nails, the Hair, the Boobs, the Butt, the Tight Clothing, the Makeup, the Tan. No, Daddy wasn't there. If it wasn't obvious enough already.
I had spent my childhood not only miserable, but also firmly convinced I was totally and completely ugly. I had a round face, fat cheeks with dark splatterings of freckles, a small mouth and nose and eyes (which I found sadly lacking, compared to my sister and cousin's larger features) hair as limp as wet cotton candy, and absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever. Unfortunately my mother had none either, and so I was the product of many a bad idea, for hair and for fashion. The hair cut my mother gave me as a pre-teen still haunts me.
My best friend Julie was so beautiful, so widely acknowledged as beautiful, and to make matters worse, we were of a same egg: freckles, blue eyes, blonde hair, thin, same body type- only she was like the animae uber-version, while I was the farm girl version: hard working, durable, maybe cute, to some adults and dogs. This is honestly how I saw myself, and is very sad, while also being funny, in a kind of manic i'm-on-the-brink-of-losing-it-way. Julie's eyes were bigger, her face slimmer, her hair obedient, her freckles quieter, and she had fashion sense, (as did her mother) money, and a very keen eye for what was acceptable or desirable. You'd think I would have learned a thing or two from Julie, but somehow her magical knowledge of how to be beautiful slipped through my fingers, and I could only watch in admiration as she made her hair perfect, applied makeup, and sauntered into a room with the complete knowledge that every man and boy thought she was a knockout.
Boys teased me, called me ugly, I could barely shop for clothes without breaking into a hot, unnatractive sweat of anxiety, convinced I was fat, ugly, and doomed to never know the power of a beautiful girl- like my cousin, my sister, my best friend, my mother! for Christsakes! My Grandmother was beautiful! What had happened to me? Unfair. I was being abused, emotionally and physically, and my focus remained like a bulldog on my looks, and the despair I felt over their failure.
Then fifteen. My breasts bloomed, my legs lengthened, my waist curved into a tiny, hour glass nook, my freckles quieted, my hair grew out, my face lost it's baby fat, and there was a miracle: boys. wanted. me. The same boys who had ignored me completely before now could not take their eyes of me in my tight Levi jeans, my tee shirts, my blue eyeliner. I was hot. I was in heaven. I used all my considerable imagination and industry and formulated both a personality (highly sexualized but innocent, intelligent but niave, loving and overly trusting, forgiving, sweet and rock n roll) and a look (tight Levi's,white tight tee, boots, makeup, body oil, smile and eyes) that became garanteed to catch the eye of any guy and keep his interest. I flirted, I attracted, I kissed, and finally and inevitably, I had sex at fifteen. At least he was kind, and a friend. That's the best that can be said about that.
We are all adults here. Of course we know now- grown, many of us with children of our own, sexual partners in our past, our relationship failures and success clear- we know now that no matter our age, we carry our past inside. What we do with that past, bury it, roll in it, fear it, learn from it, it up to us, but it remains. Those years of ugly, ugly, ugly are firmly rooted in my mind, my cellular makeup, the electronic code my brain lights when my eye falls on my thigh, or catches my reflection in the mirror.
So the hair has gone from blonde to whatever it is now- a light brown with blonde- and I've had children, and a hard life, and a serious tendency toward binging on sugars and carbs. ( sorry body, so sorry. ) And now suddenly this last year, when I look in the mirror, or see pictures of myself, I am transported back to that young girl who did not like what she saw in the mirror.
I have never felt particularly afraid of aging, but now I realize it was aging as I saw it: wrinkles, fine. Undereye sag? OK. But I never considered my chin going soggy on me. My jawline melting. Jowls? JOWLS, for the love of God!! Who can handle that? And the lines from my nose to my mouth are becoming very uncool. Very UNCOOL, you hear that, face!? I'm terribly ashamed to admit I've become one of those women who pull the skin up on their face in the mirror.
All my suffering as a child, the depth of intellectual thought I have enganged in my twenties and thirties, the countless novels and books I have read, the college, the motherhood, marriage, deaths, disease, surgeries! And still, this face is taking center stage. My ego is seriously concerned. Do I want to look 20? No. Do I want to avoid all signs of aging? No. Can I handle not recognizing my face in the mirror. Well, yes, I can handle it, but not so well so far.
I think about Stephanie Nielson. Do you know the amazing Stephanie? Nie Nie, of the NieNie Dialogues? Well six months ago she, along with her husband Christian, was in a plane crash, where she was burnt over 80% of her body. They both survived, and she is now recovering from home- a new home, where they had to move to be closer to family. Their four children are being cared for by Nie's sisters. Stephanie's face was badly burnt. What she will look like? I have no idea. I've met a burn victim before, here in San Diego, who was burnt in one of our infamous and terrible fires. Her face was very distorted and shiny with scar, and she was very young. Nie is very young, younger than I am, and she is? was? the type of girl who loved pretty. And you know, there was nothing shallow about Nie, Mormon, mother of four, devoted mommy, but she loved interior design, makeup, clothing, hair- she was always in full face makeup, hair done, earrings on, looking so beautiful. How will she reconcile the face she sees in the mirror with the face she remembers?
Mr. Curry is the most loving husband you could imagine. He is always telling me I'm beautiful, and I know he means it, but this isn't about him, or my marriage. It's about fearing the loss of something that has been a crutch, a solace, and truthfully, a thing of joy, after a childhood where any of those things were rare or impossible. But how could I ever find the heart to really complain when my love looks at me like this?
I rarely post 'questions' toward you all, but this time, I'd really like to hear what your own experiences with your face are, as you age.