Farewell, Smooth Skin

It is time to embrace my mediocrity. I have thought long and hard about my decision, and have determined that my need to vie on the sexual-political battlefield no longer serves any purpose; that it is, indeed, not only outmoded, but adolescent. As I slide down the slippery slope of middle-age (that is, if I live to be 96), I look back at a long and hard struggle against a pedestrian physicality: A face that never quite reached beautiful and an athletic body that, while talented, was not in the major leagues.

As a moderately attractive woman whose heyday took place in the pre-AIDS fun years, I had my share of lovers (mostly within short-lived monogamous relationships, but not always). I worked my way through the labyrinth of the early 80’s at Danceteria, The Tunnel and Studio 54, not uncommonly through a weekend haze of various chemical accoutrements. I was a high-functioning dreamer with a bad attitude, and with an upbringing just authoritarian enough to force me to hide the sharp edges and stay on the somewhat straight and narrow, notwithstanding a rebellious and twisted spirit.

Now, with my 48th birthday only days away, I’ve resolved to give up on the dream of pretty, slim and desirable, and just be. And it’s about time. Always I have lived just shy of beauty, the kind of beauty that is demanded of women in order to be seen as, well, beautiful. And being on that you-can-have-it-all cusp, I couldn’t help but try to elevate my perceived value to the highest and most valued category. I just couldn’t quite get there. Sure I turned my share of heads back in the day, and still do on rare occasion, but mostly I now exist among the largely invisible middle-aged women who walk the city streets wondering how the hell they got to be middle-aged so damn quickly. I’m now certain that it would have been an easier row to have been hopelessly unattractive.

Menopausal angst grips many of my peers in ways uncannily similar to how PMS screwed with us in our teens. Still we are sexual beasts but without the pert breasts, intelligent thinkers with reading glasses now perched on our noses. Hair color hides the gray, Botox erases the deepening wrinkles and exercise doesn’t produce nearly the results it once did. I won’t speak for all of my maturing sisters, but aging sucks the big one, and I for one must give up trying to remain in the land of youth.  It’s time-consuming and moreso, crazy-making. 

The mainstay of my need to linger in the competition far beyond my time has long been my on-and-off lover of a hundred years who, at 12 years my junior, is still a sight to behold. With a stunning face, beautiful physique, and a personality to match it all, I compare myself to others he has played with over the years. Bottom line: they were drop-dead gorgeous. Thankfully, his depth and desire to live a higher truth has allowed him to love me for lots of other reason.                                                                                                                             

The Desiderata, a remarkable writing found in a church in the 1600’s, pleads with us to “take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” Easier said than done. Graceful is not my forte, and I’m not known for taking any counsel “kindly.” But now I come to this crossroads, looking in the unforgiving silvering of the mirror, and recognize that it is time to, well, grow up.  I’m not 20 anymore and I need to stop thinking that I can pull off a mini-skirt, though my legs still hold a candle. I can no longer run a seven-minute mile and never will again. The slightly sagging skin under my neck is there to stay, and I have to come to terms with the fact that it will continue its sagging ways henceforth. 

Yes, I know the benefits of age: The wisdom, the settling in, the lovely little things you appreciate more; and that’s all well and good. I understand that intellectually. But the nagging emotional reality of leaving behind youth, I must admit, has me distressed. I don’t want to be wrinkled and gray, nor far-sighted, nor ache-y after a three-mile walk. I am blessed with good health and I don’t take that for granted.  But is it too much to ask to stay firm and smooth and raven-haired, to turn a few young heads based solely on shallow physicality for just a while longer? Unfortunately, after asking the ether umpteen times, the answer still comes back a resonant yes

So, with a tear, well actually, sobbing and kicking, I close the door to the past and embrace, bitterly, my future world replete, I’m sure, with age spots and spider veins.

I know I shouldn’t be quite so fearful or negative about it, but I can’t help it. I was once almost-beautiful. Now I have to focus almost exclusively on the “inside kind of beauty” which is, of course, of far more lasting consequence, but societally-speaking, useless as hell. And I’ll always wonder what-if–what-if I had succeeded in ascending to that plateau, had been a trophy wife, and had been truly physically beautiful with all the ease of life that accompanies that designation. Sure, everyone has issues and problems. But I’d just like to know what beautiful feels like.

 Next life, perhaps.

Reprinted with permission by author. Maria Cavino � 2006

About the Author:

Maria Cavino is a freelance writer/editor living in New York City. Her passions include taiji, chocolate, thunderstorms and radical politics.

You can reach her at MariaCavino@aol.com


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