My hands are starting to look more and more like my mother’s. It recently occurred to me that those little freckles on my hands might not be freckles at all. Oh the horror!
I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and was shocked to see a 40-something woman staring back at me. This happens every morning, and the soundtrack that goes with it – the soundtrack of screaming, whining children who have the nerve to remind me that I’m 41, not 21, and a mother now to boot! It’s particularly unnerving after a night of dreaming I’m 20 again. I would like to throw the covers back over my head and say, “go away! I’m not your mother!” But I don’t.
I don’t have any wrinkles yet – just three deeply furrowed lines across my forehead, lending a certain likeness to Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants. They are like a daily advertisement for my previously well-hidden anxiety: worrier! worrier! And so the day came when it suddenly seemed pertinent to have bangs again. Cheaper than Botox. Less painful too, and without that look of perpetual surprise. Besides, how can I cock a mischievious eyebrow that won’t move?
My dad says it’s the oily skin he’s passed down to me, that keeps the wrinkles at bay. In truth – at 61 – he is remarkably youthful looking. Except for that other genetic gift he’s given me – the gift of premature gray. Totally gray at 30, he was. My mother, being blonde, would catch up to him within a decade. Thank you Mom and Dad, and thank you L’Oreal, for preserving my brunette locks for the last ten years. Hey – I’m not vain – I just don’t want to look old. Not yet.
It’s true what they say – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I don’t know whether it was my insecurities, or the fashion of the time, that kept me well-covered in my teens and early 20s. Everything was boxy, baggy or loose. The provocative way teens dress today – that was certainly not “our” style back then. Proms of the 80’s – Gunne Sax; proms today – Fredericks of Hollywood. Nonetheless, in retrospect, I had every reason to show off what I had, but never the nerve.
Now I’m 41, with 41 year old hands, San Andreas faultlines in my forehead you could see from the moon and… stretch marks. Stretch marks aren’t so bad – they are what we mothers would like to think of as our hard-won battle scars, or, silvery badges of honor. I can live with them, and the stubborn gray hairs that won’t take the hint.
Perhaps the most shocking change of all was my chest. Did you know that breasts have their very own process of evolution? Neither did I. The mean girls in 7th grade had a nickname for me and my breasts – an alliterative phrase that did its best to make a virtual child feel badly for a lack of what still had plenty of time to grow. And grow they did. Well, with a little help from Ortho Novum 777. After I got over that “if those girls could see me now” feeling, I started to hate the full cup size I’d gained – for the monthly painful swelling and the self-consciousness I felt. Years later, I stopped the “pill-juice” as my sorority sisters used to call it, and happily greeted my smaller breasts.
Pregnancy would change all that. It was like pill-juice times 10. And what happens two days after birth, my friends? Forget it. I had a pair of melons that no bra could contain. These things defied everything but gravity. But, two breastfed children later, and evolution struck again – presumably for the last time, since I fail to see what natural direction is left. One day I swear I woke up and wondered what the hell happened to my breasts? No longer full and “perky,” they resembled two golf balls suspended in a pair of tube socks.
What IS the preoccupation with breasts? Men, women, even children. Ava tries to put on my bras sometimes and it’s funny even if it isn’t much larger than her small torso. She wonders when she’ll get them. I tell her, when you’re old enough. In good time.