January 20, 2011 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Aging has its costs, and its benefits

 

Last Sunday, 11-year-old Sam and I cuddled on the couch perusing the newspaper. The morning sunlight streamed through the window behind us. Sam sat up, stretched and craned his neck looking at the back of my head. He frowned.

“Uh oh,” he said. “Gray hair – lots of it.”

He proceeded to yank out a strand and lay it on the sofa pillow next to me. Sam was wrong. It wasn’t a gray hair. Instead, it shone snow white against its burgundy backdrop.

I shrugged. “So I’ve got a white hair. It’s no big deal.”

My son then proceeded to yank out more than a dozen of those snowy beauties, carefully arranging the evidence on the pillow in front of me.

“Stop!” I said, rubbing my head.

He obliged but as he left the room he shook his head and said, “You need to do something about that.”

Now, gray hair isn’t always a sign of approaching antiquity. My father’s jet black locks were liberally laced with silver by age 24. My three older siblings all grayed early – and often.

With a birthday approaching that leaves me wondering if I can still claim mid-40s, I guess it’s time for me to be showing my age.

Or is it? After all, I’ve been energetically combating other signs of aging for quite awhile. When I was in my 30s my best friend queried, “What kind of moisturizer do you use?”

“Moisturizer?” I asked. She proceeded to educate me about Retin-A, wrinkle prevention and pre-emptive strikes against frown lines.

My bathroom cupboard reveals I’ve followed her advice. It’s stocked with products featuring words like “advanced anti-aging,” “regenerating,” “antioxidant,” and “ultra-lift.”

As I peered at my face under the harsh bathroom lights, I think the investment has paid off. The fine lines around my eyes have stayed fine, the dreaded frown crease hasn’t yet appeared and the parentheses around my mouth are still mere suggestions, instead of scored indentations.

Apparently, as one ages certain things require plumping which explains while my lipstick label identifies “plumping action,” and my mascara reads, “plump and healthy.”

Other areas require shrinking – hence control-top pantyhose and what my mother called girdles. These items are now marketed as “shapewear” or “slimming foundation garments.” They do slim because just wrestling oneself into such garments produces a quite a workout.

And then there are lifting issues. When that same friend inquired how long it had been since I’d purchased a new bra, I hesitated to reveal the truth.

Finally, I replied, “Well. Last week I donated my cotton nursing bras to the Goodwill.”

She sighed. Off the mall we went. Forty-two dollars later, I discovered lifting isn’t cheap.

In fact, all of this prevention adds up. I used to remove my makeup with baby oil and wash my face with Noxema. A quick swab of witch hazel around problem areas and I was good to go.

Currently, I spend about $50 to do what used to be accomplished for under $5.

And now Sam says I must “do something” about my hair. But why? Aren’t all of these pricey products simply delaying the inevitable?

In addition, I’m quite sure those white hairs can be directly traced to my teenage sons. Perhaps, they should contribute to the cost of coloring them?

But maybe instead of resisting signs of aging, I should embrace them. It isn’t all bad news. After all, I’m in better shape in my mid-40s than I ever was in my mid-30s. I finally have time to exercise and money to buy healthier foods. That healthier lifestyle includes my mental health, too.

I’m more confident, less judgmental and better able to speak up for myself than I would have dreamed possible 10 years ago. I say yes to what I want, and no to what others want me to want with increasing alacrity. You can’t buy that at the mall or beauty salon.

As I readied myself for my day, I looked for telltale evidence of advancing age in my hairbrush. I found no trace of snow white tresses. Evidently, Sam had efficiently done Miss Clairol’s work.

Or maybe my follicles got the message that I’m still mid-40-ish for a few more weeks.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists.


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