I often forget my age. At last count, I’m fifty-five. There are many things I love about this time of my life. Freedom, security, and a high quality of living are a few. I don’t love the cloak of invisibility society places around mid-life women. And the dark circles under my eyes. I hate those.
But change is here and there’s never been a better time for middle-aged women. We are having a moment. Celebrities Paulina Porizkova, Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Watts, and many others prove that older women are vital and sexy. In many ways, being in our fifties is liberating. Exciting. Full of possibilities. But I struggle with the changes time has made to my face.
I’ve never considered myself pretty. Attractive, even sexy, but not pretty. I’m vain, nonetheless. Watching my mother, both pretty and sexy, primping in the mirror etched lessons in my psyche time hasn’t worn away. Unlike my face. I want to feel attractive again, not invisible.
“You look tired.” I hear that often these days. This insult wrapped in concern is infuriating. Most of the time, I’m not tired. I’m one of the most energetic people I know which makes it frustrating my outward appearance doesn’t match my energy. Even more annoying? The comments are about my appearance and not my actions. But damn it, I do look tired.
I blame the dark circles under my eyes. The half-moon bruises and puffiness beneath them make it look like I’ve been on an all-night bender. Picture Lurch from The Addams Family. Now imagine he had a little sister. That’s me. I’ve tried color correctors and concealers. Dabbed on potions containing caffeine and other illuminating elixirs hoping one will be the magic wand to erase this frustrating result of aging.
Recently, I gathered for photos at my daughter’s wedding shower. Her friend took a dizzying number of pictures in a matter of seconds. I looked at the pictures and joked my lips resembled Mitch McConnell’s. I know they look fuller with my mouth closed, in a prim smile. To hell with that, I like photos of me mid-laugh. My head tilted back; mouth open wide, happy.
Several of my friends stopped coloring their hair, joining the Silver Sisters Club. They encourage me to cut my medium-length hair. I look at their sassy pixie cuts and easy routines and wish I could do it. Oh, the money I would save not getting mine colored every six weeks. The time I’d gain not blow-drying my curly locks into submission. But I want my hair longer, even if it’s usually pulled up in a ponytail. I enjoy the fullness of it around my face when it’s blown out and the bounce of my curls when I leave it natural.
An army of skincare sits in my medicine cabinet. Bottles stand at attention like little soldiers called to action in the war between vanity and age. I’m diligent with my skincare rituals. As a result, my skin has never looked better. The large pores and pimples I battled most of my life replaced with dewy and healthy skin that glows according to my dermatologist. I think my face looks pretty good except for the marionette lines framing my mouth. And the elevens between my eyes. And the dark circles.
Younger me thought I was impervious to the ravages of time. The realization this shit demands barbaric tools has replaced my naivete. Acids, a microcurrent device, and a tool called a gua sha are all called into action attempting to reduce the Dali-esque quality of my face.
I haven’t read Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, but I understand the sentiment. On Zoom calls, I catch myself pulling a hand across my neck, a transparent effort to stretch the wrinkles carved in the middle. I’d wear turtlenecks but being middle-aged has made me hot-natured. And they make my boobs look saggy.
Once, I walked through Macy’s, past racks of soft fabrics, elastic waists, and loose necklines for women of a certain age. I wondered why anyone would buy these when a few steps away were fitted clothes and high heels. Now, I get the appeal as my creaky shoulders make pulling tops over my head more difficult. The high heels? Only if they have hidden support so my back won’t ache after standing for more than thirty minutes.
I’ve begun buying things in brighter colors, wearing makeup more often, and adding necklaces and bracelets to casual outfits. I tuck in tops, menopot be damned. I know I’m not fooling anyone, but these small things make me feel better. I feel I’m on a precipice, between giving a damn and not as I try aging on my terms.
But I’ll still take recommendations on erasing dark circles.