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I had a birthday recently—my 56th.
Not a milestone. No zero in it. Not at all traumatic—even though I am now officially closer to 60 than 50. All-in-all, it was a fine birthday.
Celebrating another year of my life reminded me of something kind of funny that happened to me a few months ago . . .
It was a rainy day. Shopping was on my agenda—the kind of shopping that would have me in and out of the car all day. I got up, got dressed, styled my hair then got sidetracked by little tasks around the house. When it was time to leave, I realized I hadn’t put on any make-up. I honestly can’t remember the last time I went anywhere without at least a little bit of make-up on, but something about the rain made me feel protected—like everyone would be too preoccupied with trying to stay dry to notice my facial nakedness.
In and out of stores, umbrella up, umbrella down, the day went well. People interacted with me as they normally do, you know—no one shrieking in horror at my unpainted face. Even the people at the produce market, who know me and see me every week, didn’t seem surprised to see me undone. Every now and then I caught my reflection in a mirror and was momentarily surprised to see the circles under my eyes and the lack of natural pigment in my lashes, brows and lips. (When had that happened, anyway?) But I gave myself a mental pep-talk, saying the fluorescent lighting was making it all look worse than it really was.
I was actually feeling empowered by my day of no-make-up bravery: that is until I stepped up to the register at a Ross store. The cute, young cashier greeted me and asked if I had a Ross credit card. I said no.
“You’ll be using our Tuesday Club discount, though, right?” She asked.
It took a few seconds for me to process what she had said. Then, fighting back a wave of nausea, I managed to choke out the words, “Is that your senior discount?”
“Yes!” She enthusiastically chirped, “For people 55 and over.”
“Well, I am 55,” I stammered. “So yes, I guess I will.”
(Is it just me, or is this the kind of discount that should be requested by the customer—not suggested to the customer?)
She rang up my small purchase and congratulated me on saving $1.49!
(Wow! This must be my lucky day! I saved a whopping one dollar and forty nine cents!! I’ll put it toward my next bottle of Geritol . . . grrr!)
I left the store feeling bruised. I opened my umbrella, wishing it could shield me not just from the rain, but also from the ravages of time and from the thoughtless words of the young and perky.
I pouted as I got into the car and stared out through the rain-streaked windshield.
I said to myself, “How could she? How could she be so rude as to suggest that I look like I’m over 55?”
And then the absurdity of what I’d just said dawned on me and I burst out laughing.
If I don’t want people to think I look 55—my actual age—then how old do I want them to think I look?
47? 35? 29? 18?
Seriously, would I really want to look the same age as one of my daughters?
Why should I view it as a bad thing to look like I’ve lived a while?
Sure, I have crow’s feet: that just shows that I smile a lot and I laugh a lot.
And yes, I have some lines on my forehead: merely evidence that I’m blessed to have people in my life I love enough to worry about.
True, my jawline is losing a bit of definition, but that just makes me look softer, more nurturing and more approachable.
And the pigment that has vanished from my face and hair and lashes isn’t really gone—it’s just been relocated. Though the years have made my outward colors fade a bit, the living I’ve done during those years has caused my inward colors to grow richer.
The older I get, the more I learn, the more beautiful memories I have, the more perspective I have on life, the more ability I have to love deeply and without reservation.
I know that my heart is a lovelier, more colorful and more resilient place than it was in my youth, and that is a welcome change that only the ups and downs of living life could have produced.
So . . .
Does this new grace for my aging face mean I’ll be greeting the world make-up-free from now on?
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