In the annals of how time runs our lives, January was a banner month for me. Within a week, I received my first Social Security check and had my first facial. Social Security came first.
For some time, my husband had been gently suggesting that a monthly stipend from the Feds would help pay off my not-so-high (at least to me) credit card debt. This Vogue hippie chick protested strongly. However, after many 'kitchen table' discussions I resisted and caved in. Practicality won over vanity. And, after all, the money was mine.
The Feds online procedure went surprisingly fast. So fast, it never dawned on me that when I clicked "send" I was, at that moment, admitting to being old. Old! Not "getting old," but Old. Cozy sentiments like "you're not getting older, you're getting better" were now passé.
Picturing myself striding on a catwalk of fabulous women of an uncertain age helped, but not enough. Though I felt honored to join the ranks of Helen Mirren, Joan Collins, Joanna Lumley and Hilary Clinton, after I hit "send," all I could hear in my head was that radio ad telling me to "look into pre-paid funerals now." Then came the facial.
As the Feds were whirring my data through their time machine, G and I were crossing the Atlantic to England on the QM2. We were planning to return to Ireland anyway, and the CUNARD 'special offer' cost as much as a plane ticket. I figured January's stipend would cover one ticket. February's something else, and so on 'till I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Cunard wants to keep passengers happy. So they rewarded each of us a two-hundred dollar voucher, to be spent on board any way we liked. G was up for a massage, and suggested I get one as well.
However, massages make me nervous. I obsess on "what if?" What if something goes amiss in that small, scented, candlelit chamber? What if the door locks behind me and I'm stuck in there forever? Having heard all this before, G suggests a facial. So off I go to Canyon Ranch, where the room was indeed small, very nice, scented and I could keep my clothes on.
When I told the clinician this was my first time, I watched her eyes widen as she stifled a gasp. Doesn't every woman of uncertain age get facials? Bearing this in mind, Marta vowed to be gentle, and indeed she was.
After a plethora of luscious creams, brisk exfolients and what felt like tiny, tickly whiskbrooms whizzing 'ore my face, she applied a scented mask, dimmed the lights and let me alone for about twenty minutes.
Under white linens of a high thread count, I found myself enjoying the new-age music, nice smells and the dark. So much so, that when Marta returned to remove the mask and apply cream into my newly-relaxed, well-massaged face, I was gob smacked when she handed me a mirror to see the results. My face as round and as pink as a baby's!
That pink face wasn't my face. It certainly wasn't the face I had when I was a baby. Yet Marta was clearly pleased at the results and she babbled on and on about how young I looked. But when I asked for the light to be turned up so I could take a good look, all I could think of was, something terrible happened to render my face so pink, round and characterless.
Walking back to our stateroom, I recalled Marta mentioning collagen, whilst massaging my face with a sweet smelling cream she said was from Switzerland! Yet I was so 'blissed-out' all I could think was: "Isn't Switzerland wonderful?"
G said I indeed looked younger but unformed. Where had my cheekbones gone? Under the pink, of course. So after a shower and a sleep I looked more like myself in the morning.
Now you well may ask, what has SS got to do with a facial? Lots. One rewards age by putting a few well-earned coffers in your pocket, whilst the other recognizes age by trying to dispel it.
My check from the Feds is a well-earned present, acknowledging all those lousy jobs I had when I was younger. Like being a substitute teacher in a series of dangerous public high schools where boys wore guns, and girls wore razor blades. While the facial is a band-aid trying to cover up the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune called Life. I don't need another one.
My face is just fine, provided I keep applying creams a lot, sleeping a lot, walking a lot, working a lot and having sex a lot. It isn't pink. It isn't round. But it's mine. Between all this and the monthly stipend for the rest of my days, I'll be just fine.