These days, you'll rarely find me waiting on line to get into a bar or a nightclub. Carpool lines. Sidelines. The self-check line at the grocery store. Oh yeah, that's my scene. Recently, though, the hubs and I were having a little getaway, and so it was that one night, way past my bedtime, I found myself face-to-face with a bouncer at a very dive-y bar.
"ID?" he said as I approached, in that blank I-totally-don't-give-a-care-about-your-existence kind of way that all bouncers seem to have uniquely perfected.
I laughed, thinking he was joking, and decided to play along.
I shot him back a look that said, OK, I'll see your, 'I don't give a care' look and raise you one 'You're a real funny guy,' look. I mean, really, I'm nearly double the age needed to enter any bar on U.S. soil so getting carded always makes me feel awkward, unsure if I'm being dissed or if we're sharing some kind of inside joke.
Failing to see the humor in our situation, the bouncer looked past me. This time, his look said, Step aside lady, and it was clear and without question.
"Oh, I didn't bring it with me," I said, which immediately brought back his not giving a care look.
Maybe it was the wine at dinner, I'm not sure, but I reached out, pulled him in a little close, and pointed to my forehead.
"Do you see these lines?" I asked. "Girls of 21 don't have lines like these." My eyes probably flashed a little wildly at this point. "I think you can rest assured I'm old enough to come inside."
This time, he laughed. Whether it was with me or at me, I'm not sure. Stepping aside, he let me pass, adding, "Don't forget your ID next time."
I gave him two Fonzi-esque thumbs up and headed inside.
"I can't believe you just used your wrinkles to get into a bar," my husband said, shaking his head.
"At least they're good for something," I replied.
The great Dolly Parton once sang about her coat of many colors. Lately, when I look in the mirror, I see a face of many wrinkles. Between my eyes, two deep lines look as though they are trying with all their might to form the letter 'V.' Above them, three perfectly stacked lines that used to only appear when something really surprising happened, now permanently run the length of my forehead. Parentheticals surround my lips as if my mouth is being bracketed to convey some deeper meaning.
I'll be honest with you, looking in the mirror lately isn't easy. I'll catch a glimpse of myself and think, Why do I look so tired? I don't feel tired. In what feels like a total cliché, I'll stand before my reflection, pull my forehead up and back toward my scalp and gaze upon the wrinkle-free version of myself. And I keep wondering when this happened; all this aging. It's as if I've arrived at some new destination, not having realized I was even on a trip. Suddenly, I look old. OK, well, maybe not old, but no longer young, that's for sure.
Perhaps all this coming of age-ing wouldn't be so hard if I weren't doing it against the backdrop of a culture totally bought in on Botox, or Vitamin B as my dermatologist calls it. From my barista to my favorite actors to the presidential candidates (Et tu, HRC? Et tu?), it feels like everyone is boarding the injectables bandwagon. We're all eating our kale and sprinkling chia seeds on just about anything, and paying by the unit to erase all evidence of aging from our faces.
Which begs the question: If I'm so darned uncomfortable with all the lines etched across my face, why not just get Botox, too? Shoot up. Fill in. Freeze every little last one of those buggers. The thought only crosses my mind about 20 times each day (OK, that's an exaggeration, it's probably more like 10). But - and I say this with absolutely no judgment for anyone who does (please don't leave me hateful comments below) - I will not get Botox.
I've look at it from every angle and, to me, Botox always feels like running, hiding, pretending or denying. Experience has taught me that none of those are very good coping strategies. Like a tub of chunky monkey or a bottle of chardonnay, it would only be a temporary fix, always, eventually, bringing me back to the issue at hand: I am getting older and that is scary.
When I look at my face right now, it is a reminder that my relationship to this life is changing. In my 20s, I could explore, divert, go off on tangents if I pleased. There is less time for that now. There's so much to do, so much I want to accomplish, and the time I have to do it in is contracting. I know that. It's like some funny punch line; the more my skin sags, the more time tightens around me.
I like to write when I've got it all figured out. On this one, I don't. I'll be honest with you, I'm in it right now, trying not to run; trying, instead, to sit in this middle place with old age out in front of me and my youth behind me. And I'm trying to let that, and all that it means, just be. Because I know that the path through is paved by surrender.
So, for now, look closely. In these lines on my face is evidence of the life I've lived. Hours spent in the pool with my brother as a child, a fair-haired girl who loved the water and the sun. Days spent at the beach with my husband and children. A grown woman who still loves the water and the sun. Hikes, runs, bike rides, long walks. Smiles, cringes, laughter, wonder, shock, pain, joy. All of it. My face tells the whole story. And I can tell you this, I wouldn't erase it for anything.