I think I am far more self conscious than vain, but really, they amount to the same sort of behaviors: mirror-peering, hair-fiddling, fingernail-examining. I have a Covergirl compact—oh, that nostalgic drugstore-powdery smell—which I keep at my desk in order to click it open approximately ten thousand times per day and . . . what, exactly? Make sure I’m still there? I suppose I think I’m checking to make sure there’s nothing caught between my teeth or some such explainable behavior, but often I find myself transfixed by a catalogue of flaws revealed by the natural light pouring from the window behind me. A creeping network of lines, the visible surface of makeup settling into creases, dark crescents under my eyes, this overall sense of sag that seems to have become so prevalent in the last year or so.

Sometimes I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and place the tips of my index fingers high up on my cheekbones, just so, and pull ever so slightly up and back. A millimeter, maybe less. Just that tiny adjustment makes such a difference, my god. The skin is smoothed, the unpleasant parentheses that curve down from the side of my nose to the corners of my mouth are lessened. I look younger, I guess, although the effect feels less to me like rolling back the years and more like smoothing out a crumpled bedsheet to what it’s supposed to look like.

This faded, tired-looking woman—where did the color in my lips go? Where did that vertical line between my eyebrows come from? When did the soft elasticity of my skin get replaced with this new stuff that catches every shadow?—I must be her, and she is me, and this must be a natural part of getting older, but . . . well, but.

In some ways, I think I’m less focused on my appearance than I used to be. I don’t buy clothes or makeup very often any more; I’ve mostly lost interest in adornments like jewelry, shoes, and purses. The collection of shampoo containers that used to litter the floor of the shower have been replaced by a value-sized bottle of something-or-other from Costco. I look at my scritchy, running-callused feet with their unpainted toenails and shrug: what’re you gonna do?

I’m not sure if I’ve adjusted my values or if I’ve simply become cheap and lazy. Maybe a little of both.

Still, the body’s wear and tear does not please me. I know I should accept these matters, that it’s impossible to hold back what comes naturally without vigilant effort, large amounts of money, and a good dash of luck. It’s shallow and pointless and why focus on the surface details when there are so many more rich and interesting aspects to life, so many other ways to feel good about yourself? It’s ridiculous to obsess over the fact that I look like exactly what I am: a grown woman with a busy, rewarding life.

(But do you see how much better I look, do you see, if I just go like this?)


64 Responses to “Clouds in my coffee”

  1. wm on March 26th, 2010 9:55 am

    Nicely put. I can relate.

  2. Keri on March 26th, 2010 10:35 am


  3. Anne on March 26th, 2010 10:45 am

    I have realized, in this past year that has seen the birth of my second child and the passing of my 36th year on this earth, that concealer is a girl’s best friend.

  4. Gleemonex on March 26th, 2010 11:10 am

    Right there with ya. I look at my toddler’s smooth, glowing skin and 99% of the time, it’s just wondrous awe … but that other 1%, I’m like, Damn — I must look like the goddamn Cryptkeeper next to this! gaaaah!

    I want to not communicate that kind of thought to my kid, though. MUST CULTIVATE HEALTHY ATTITUDE TOWARD AGING BODY! Funny thing is, I used to have a “healthy attitude toward aging.” But at 36, when I’ve actually BEGUN aging, well … it’s harder to stay chipper with 100% conviction on that score, eh?

  5. A. on March 26th, 2010 11:22 am

    I think I’ve only commented one other time, but I feel the need today because I’m sitting at my desk reading Event Marketer magazine. I open to p. 24 and see you and Riley in a photo, dead center. The story is about “the dos and don’ts of engaging bloggers at your event,” and you’re pictured at the Night at the Museum thing you went to awhile back. Just thought I’d share. :) I tried to find it quickly online, but I’m not sure they share much digitally of their newsstand publication.


  6. KB on March 26th, 2010 11:35 am

    I spend so much time obsessing over this or that exact spot as close as possible in the mirror, that I rarely look at the whole. Every now and again, the whole face catches my eye and I realize the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts. Not too shabby. I need to remember to look a the whole more, to realize that my face is more than crows feet and gigantic pores.

  7. MichelleH on March 26th, 2010 12:04 pm

    This almost made me burst into tears:

    “It’s ridiculous to obsess over the fact that I look like exactly what I am: a grown woman with a busy, rewarding life.”

    I don’t know why. Tears of…happiness? Sort of. Frustration? Yes, that too. I was just telling my husband this morning-why am I so stressed out-I have everything I’ve ever wanted or asked for! There is nothing wrong with this in fact, rational people might consider it a GOOD thing, and every so often I am one of them.

    I have the random moment where I look in the mirror and see the 34-year-old in front me and really like the way she looks, even with the oddly sagging face. It almost seems like my face is that broken-in favorite pair of jeans. That’s how I’m able to look at it very rarely. I wish it could be more often. I wish we could see ourselves the way other people see us. My husband tells me he thinks I am much more attractive then I was when he met me at 18, and he’s serious. I was speaking to a women in her late 40s who was telling me she felt old and wanted to look into options to get rid of the wrinkles around her eyes and get rid of the sagging jowl area. And the whole time I was thinking that to me, strangely enough, the crinkles around her eyes added something really special to her smile and I really hoped she wouldn’t get rid of them. As she was talking, I tried to picture what she might look like all smoothed out and it just seemed soulless and weird. If a change really would make her feel better, who am I to say, right?? But I just wish I could look at myself through the same eyes.

  8. Tony on March 26th, 2010 1:34 pm

    “two words: BOOB LIFT”

    Daddy in 14 years: “Sorry, little girl. You can’t go to Harvard. Mommy needed her 20 year old boobs back.”

  9. Swistle on March 27th, 2010 12:26 pm

    Oh I know. Me too.

  10. Carol on March 27th, 2010 12:57 pm

    From a 53-year-old fan: you are at a great time in your life and you look fabulous! Just as we look back at 35 and wish we’d more appreciated 19, we also look back at 53 and wish we’d more appreciated 35! So stop the wishin’ and do some appreciatin’!

  11. Dead Bug on March 28th, 2010 12:01 am

    There came a time a few years ago when I realized that I was no longer being carded for alcohol, no longer being ogled by men on the street…I was, simply, no longer young and hot. With each passing year, I look more and more like my mother, my skin decays further and whole streaks of my hair turn gray. Luckily, though, the amount of time I spend caring about it diminishes proportionately. It was a difficult transition, going from attractive young woman to 40-year-old mom, but now that I am decidedly on the other side, I can focus on doing the best with what I still have and not beat myself up about all the time I spent in bikinis without sunblock.

  12. 二维码 on March 28th, 2010 7:47 am


  13. victoria on March 29th, 2010 11:51 am

    I wish I had the doom cloud, sugar craving thing only during PMS. Sadly, it seems to be with me all the time, making me realize there is something seriously wrong with my soul.

    In other news, have your read Eat Pray Love? I love, love, love this book, not least for the prospect it offers that I actually could fix whatever is wrong with my soul.

  14. Stacy on March 29th, 2010 2:34 pm

    I’ve had similar reactions when I look in the mirror, whether up close or full body, as I try to reconcile my internal age with my external age of 39. Time has definitely left it’s mark on me physically, and while I don’t mind the fine lines too much, the deep lines can just get the hell out, already. And take Sally Cellulite right along with ’em.

    I recently started a fitness program to get back on track, and have been inspired by your amazing journey, so here’s one more person out there who thinks you look fabulous!

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