Not a Pretty Picture

I am repulsed by the hair on the back of my hand. It stands up, points in different directions, and grows along cracks and crevasses reminiscent of desert. I used to think they looked good, the backs of my hands, especially when they were tan. I loved how my sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring shone next to the brown of my smooth skin. Now I understand why Madonna wears driving gloves all the time; we are the same age. When I was young, there were television commercials about liver spots, and how to hide them and what creams to rub on them so they will fade.  Now I could endorse the product if I could find it. I have a brown spot under my right eye that looks like smudged mascara. Except it’s permanent. Or whatever permanent means at this age.

There is so much that is distasteful about aging. Like smells–I have had to change my deodorant twice recently because it no longer did its job. Pee–I know why adult diapers will outsell baby diapers in Japan by the year 2020 (I will be 62 then). Hair–where it suddenly grows, how much of it there is. I now have a mustache and while, granted, it is very light, I tried to get rid of it and instead stimulated the world’s biggest cold sore. Pretty. My entire digestive system is an issue. I can no longer tolerate dairy. Diarrhea. Gluten. Gives me ridiculous heart burn. I have trouble swallowing, not swallowing actually but getting the food to keep moving down the esophagus. It keeps getting stuck which either hurts like hell, or makes me vomit.  Or both. So pretty.

Not that I can actually see. I had 20/15 vision for most of my life. Now I have reading glasses all over the house, within reach of my desk, my bed, my couch. There are glasses for distance in the glove box of my car, and in my purse.  I cannot drive without them. But I cannot walk with them on. I have prescription sunglasses which I keep on a chain to wear around my neck so I don’t lose them. I put ear buds in the other day, plugged into my computer, streaming BBC3 radio. I could barely hear from the left side. I switched them around to see if it was the headphones, but no, it was me. And pain. In my hands, my hips, my knees.  Arthritis, I guess. But knowing what to call it doesn’t make it easier to live with.  And there is only so much advil one can take.

My horoscope said recently “What comes to the surface now isn’t necessarily pretty, but you’re not a contestant in a beauty contest.”  Get out! I’m not? Yet even as self-aware as I am, there was a painful moment when I realized that even though I have ever thought of myself as attractive, no stranger will ever give me a second look again. No matter what I wear, or how much money I spend on highlights. 

Hopefully for you, like me, that moment is closely followed by the one where I realized I don’t care. Well, ok maybe a little.  But I recognized, with the wisdom one can only gain with experience, that a lot went into earning those age spots,  those wrinkles around my eyes and on the back of my once-smooth hands.  What matters now and really, ever, is not how I appear but how I am.  And knowing with certitude that the people I love think I am beautiful and not repulsive at all.

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