Vanitas Vanitas: Aging Sucks if You’re Poor. I’m So Over It.

I had a lunch date today with a dear old friend, my cherished buddy Kat. We got to know each other because our daughters both went to the same pre-school when they were three, so that’s twenty-nine years. We always swear to get together more often, but it’s often a couple of years between lunches. It doesn’t matter: we order a glass of wine and get down.

When I was getting ready for lunch, blow drying my hair whilst looking in the high magnification mirror, my unadorned blown up face appalled me. It seemed as if my wrinkles ran like ravines. Because I feel as optimistic and and scared when I wake up every morning as I did when I was twenty-five it’s always horrible to see that I don’t look that way.

My mother was, barring plastic surgery, a woman who took care of herself. The bucks she spent at the Erno Lazlo and Clarins counters at Holt Renfrew could have annually, fed a family of four. Actually, she wanted plastic surgery. In her early seventies she was frustrated with the hereditary Leyland tummy and plumped for liposuction. She did her research into the best plastic surgeons in Ottawa and made an appointment. The man said something like: “At your age, Mrs. McArthur, this procedure might pose a health risk. I won’t do it.”

She was furious. When she got home she said: “Ian, give me the Yellow Pages. I’m going to find a Quack.” She chose the cheesiest plastic surgeon she could conjure and made an appointment. He said:  “At your age, Mrs. McArthur, this procedure might pose a health risk. I won’t do it.” Her mother and her sister were even more focussed on vanity — thinness, grooming, fashion — they were judgmental. And razor thin.

I’m my mother’s daughter. When I was working I dropped hundred dollar bills like gum wrappers for a genius colorist and cutter, regular facials and manicures. I waxed places I never knew needed to be waxed. I never left the house unless I was in full, flawless makeup.

Today I stroked on some drugstore mascara, some Benetint blush and some lipstick. Done.

After we’d hugged and ordered our wine Kat showed me the dressing on her ankle and said that because of some surgery that took her off her feet for a week  she’d decided to sort through that box of old photos we all own. She pulled this one out and said: “Remember that Halloween party at the Jensik’s and how you guys came over to our place beforehand?” I hadn’t until she slipped me this photo (Click on it for a bigger view.)

That djellaba Lou’d bought in Morocco was barely five years old . It still hangs in the spare room closet emanating scents of the souk and the camels, But what the Sam Hill was I dressed up as with that fur hat and fringed vest? A sherpa, maybe?

But what took a little bit of my heart was how young I looked. No wrinkles. I could still wear contacts back then. I was sincerely surprised at how pretty (for me) I look in this picture.It was some kinda frisson.

And this to the background, as Lou showed up as the lunch wore down, to have Kat call him “Handsome!” twice and the waitress three times. Oh well, he’s ten years older than I, better looking at birth, and wrinkles on a guy don’t count. Icing on cake: I got a message from an old friend saying “Tell Lou he looks great!” Fame through apron modelling.

Well, I color my hair myself now and it costs ten bucks. Drugstore brand creams have been proved at least as proficient as the ones costing twenty times more at the Neiman-Marcus cosmetic counter. My figure hasn’t changed much (while clothed) from that in Kat’s snap. I need to rob a bank for dental work, but I’ll figure that out next week.

But after getting a bit misty seeing the photo of that long-ago me, quashing the vanity and constant upkeep in my blood from my female Leyland ancestors, I’m fine with myself. I was a beauty in my twenties and that isn’t happening again. Bring on the Aveeno, the Garnier, the Olay, the ROC — whatever’s on sale at Walgreens.

It seems like a betrayal of Mummy, Nana and Auntie Frankie, but don’t cry for me Erno Lazlo, spas in Bali and Brazilian plastic surgeons. I’ll be fine.



Filed under Body, History

5 responses to “Vanitas Vanitas: Aging Sucks if You’re Poor. I’m So Over It.

  1. Patty

    I’m surprised every morning, (I mean really surprised) every time I pass a mirror and look closely (that’s why I don’t wear glasses at home). Yesterday I spent the afternoon window shopping with my 5 yr old granddaughter, (a slim reed of beauty), and finally stopped looking in the windows, they were too reflective…isn’t it funny when that paycheck comes weekly, beauty products from Neiman are sooo worth it; yet down deep in our subconscious we know they are all made the same wherever they are sold. Goodbye Estee, hello Aveeno…. You are still a beauty, age will never change that!

    • Yes, deep in our hearts we know the good drugstore/Target brands work just as well. But there’s something about being at a swell department store beauty counter being seriously waited upon. Oh well, been there, done that, bought the t shirt.

      By the way, my Dear, I kind of hate the way you’re the kind of always Pretty Woman who’s improved with age, unlike me. But as someone famous (Oscar Wilde?) once said: By the age of forty you have the face you deserve.” Your face is smooth, glowing and beautiful. Mine? Not so much.

  2. kim shook

    I’ve been a butterball almost all of my life, so I never felt attractive. But at least I could pride myself on my peaches and cream skin. Now when I look in the magnifying glass, all I see is a horror show of lines and PORES! I try to recover by assuring myself that NO ONE sees me that close up. After all, people don’t have 15X eyes.

    A friend of my mother’s (the lady was in her mid seventies) told Momma that she was leaning over a mirror that was flat on a counter (can’t think why) and was appalled to realize that that was the view that her husband saw WHEN SHE WAS ON TOP. Thinking of that story always cheers me right up.

  3. Liz

    I think you are beautiful, Maggie.

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