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 The collection of shampoo containers that used to litter the floor of the shower have been replaced by a value-sized bottle of something-or-other from Costco.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?)

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JennB
JennB
12 years ago

I would pay very large sums of money (if I had them) to get rid of the tire ’round my middle – permanently. Gray hairs pop up in every imaginable place, and I think to myself, ‘my god, i was 17 TWENTY YEARS AGO!!! I’ve been past 17 for most of my life….’ where does that time go, exactly?

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

You probably think this post is about you.

Kim
Kim
12 years ago

This. This, this, this.
I’m just hoping there comes a time when I stop caring so much and just be at peace with it all. Really, really hoping. On the other hand, I wouldn’t turn down a free day at the Botox store.

Michelle Salz-Smith
12 years ago

I think you read my mind sometimes or at least hear me bitching to my friends about this very thing.
Being a girl (ha! trying to make myself younger even here!), it feels like a constant trade off sometimes doesn’t it?
Anyhoo, I feel better after reading your thoughts that you have been so generous to share with us. Thanks!

Ink Spiller
12 years ago

Where does time go? Maybe it’s time though that we start rethinking how we look at ourselves. Most of us are probably “a grown woman with a busy, rewarding life” (I so liked that *smile*).

6512 and growing
12 years ago

I have seen pictures of you woman and you’re quite beautiful. It must be all that compact-checking.
As for being “less focused on appearance,” that seems to be the gift of growing up.
Thanks,
Rachel

Michelle
Michelle
12 years ago

I never thought of myself as being vain or
pretty for that matter. Now that I’m in my mid forties (ugh) I’m finding that I’m maybe a bit more vain than I thought and that bothers me just a little bit. I thought that by this age I would be comfortable in my skin, not worried about wrinkles or gray hair. Gray is easy to get rid of, wrinkles not so much. Since I don’t want all the expression botoxed out of my face I guess I’ll have to find a way to come to terms with them. If you find the secret make sure you share it with us.

Lisa
Lisa
12 years ago

There’s a show on TNT called Men of a Certain Age, which stars Ray Romano. In the pilot episode, he says this:

You ever get that?” Joe asks as the three eat lunch in a diner. “You look in the mirror, you see yourself . . . you recognize yourself, and there’s that little bit of you that you don’t.”

That is what I now experience. I look into the mirror and sometimes for a quick half second, I think, “Who is that?” then the moment disappears and I am left with just me again.

LaundryBlogger
12 years ago

I hear that. All of it. And I continually get caught on the “See, if I just go like *this*…” Gah. Getting old blows goats.

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

I feel like I’m getting more vain as I get older, and that is somewhat disturbing to me. I’m not sure if I’m trying extra hard because I am working against even more elements of nature taking its course, or if I’m just trying too hard!
I am 7 months pregnant though, so it’s hard not to feel like a tubby swamp thing some days!

Erin (Snarke)
12 years ago

It reminds me of what we all heard our elders say so much growing up “I don’t feel this age on the inside!”

Btw–natural light is a bitch. It’s worse sometimes than fluorescent. Seriously.

lucidkim
lucidkim
12 years ago

Not too long ago I was preparing to go on a ‘date’ with my mister and I didn’t want to take my purse but knew we’d be drinking so I handed him my drivers’ license to tuck in his wallet – he looked puzzled as we were walking, not driving and I said, “we’re drinking” and he said, “you won’t need it” and I was all like “what do you mean???” and I realized he meant THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL YOU’LL BE CARDED and while he was right – the WELCOME TO MIDDLE AGE moment wasn’t what I needed to hear. Now I can’t get it out of my head – I know I’m 44 but I’ve been carded my whole life – well into my thirties – but now…now I’m just a “ma’am” who doesn’t get carded…

Deb
Deb
12 years ago

It’s all that running. It’s jiggling your skin loose. You need to get your ass back on the couch where it belongs.

I recently got a new haircut and now everytime I see my reflection out of the corner of my eye, I think I am seeing my mother. In an unpleasant way. So, yeah. Those thoughts of Botox are creeping ever nearer…..

Christina
12 years ago

To this day, at 36 years of age, in my mind’s eye, I envision myself at 16. All gawky and frankly a bit stupid and unsure but also very, very young. Then I look in the mirror I wonder will the 16 year old image of myself ever be erased because DUDE I am SO not 16 anymore (in many more ways than just the way I look, thankfully!)

And yet there are times where I catch my breath as I glance in the mirror to see not the 16 year old me of my mind’s eye but the 36 year old me that is really there and that is a total trip.

Leah
12 years ago

For me, the problem is very much based on the fact that I look much older than I feel. I have this vague hope that when I am sixty, I’ll not only look sixty (or…fifty?) but that I’ll FEEL sixty too, and that will be okay. This being thirty and looking thirty but feeling twenty-two thing, though? It’s weird.

Ter
Ter
12 years ago

I’m probably 5 years too young to comiserate (as I too have noticed the bizarre verticle line between my eyes — what is up with that?? it makes me look all pessimistic and surly), but high five. And Loreal Revitalift makes the line (among others) go away. Not that I’d know ::cough::

katie
katie
12 years ago

i think we all look a little better if we go like this….after having 2 boys i dont seem to be as concerned with my looks. thats not to say i dont care about how i look, but i think i have become more comfortable with myself

Pinkie Bling
Pinkie Bling
12 years ago

I seriously adore you. The experience is so common; the description is extraordinary.

I’m a few years (and a husband and kids) behind you, and I’m currently in the ever-vigilant stage…except for the ever-increasing number of days that I just can’t be bothered. This coming from a girl (ha, as commented above) who has loved makeup and hair and clothes/shoes/accessories since, if not conception, at least birth. But sometimes, I get so tired of the daily burden and sacrifice in the name of beauty.

I have a career at a job I love, I’m working toward my goals, and I feel more at home in my skin than ever.

Then I have that natural-light moment, and I’m racing for my primer and concealer and tinted moisturizer and eyeliner and everything else, and I sigh to think how much easier it was, how much better I looked in my natural state, just a few years ago.

“I don’t intend to grow old gracefully. I intend to have face lifts until my ears meet.” Ah, Rita Rudner – I laugh, but it rings a little too true!

Korinna
12 years ago

I often play the home version of Younger with a Lift. Always then horrified when my shit oozes (there’s no longer any snapping) back once I’ve removed my hands from the sides of my face.

I figure a face lift might be nice, but hell if I want to look like one of the Real Housewives of (fill in the blank). Perhaps it’s just better to accept the slightly wearier version of my real face than the altered version that was my face.

Marolyn
Marolyn
12 years ago

Ahhh Liz.. you stole my thought!

cindy
cindy
12 years ago

I love the imperfections and scars on my person. They are proof that I have been somewhere and done something. I earned my stretch marks and they show that my body has done something amazing. I am proud of my war wounds and wrinkles because they tell some of my life’s story. They show strength and ambition. I would hate to still look like that silly 16 year old that hadn’t had a chance to live yet. Imperfect bodies display true beauty and strength.

sooboo
12 years ago

Why is it the window between zits and wrinkles is so small?

Mrs.  Flinger
12 years ago

I always blame the children. I didn’t look like this before. So I blame them. I call it birth control for my daughter who will one day be self conscious and worried about her looks. “Mommy’s tummy jiggles because she had babies.” Will surely keep a teenager off the cock.

MRW
MRW
12 years ago

I didn’t used to think of myself as vain either, but then I had my second child and it’s 8.5 months later and I’m hating the spare tire that lingers on me despite exercise and that my prepregnancy pants don’t fit and I’m realizing I didn’t used to worry about my appearance as much because I was generally where I wanted to be bodywise. I hope to get back there so I can stop thinking about it already. Bleh.

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

Linda, if you ever wonder whether your life matters or makes a difference, please know this:

Your writing over the years has inspired me to make positive changes in my own life, and to challenge myself in ways I wouldn’t have before.

You make me want to get strong physically and challenge myself intellectually.

I really think about how much you’ve changed and grown since you started this blog, and it makes me want to make better use of my time on this planet.

(Oh and the little sags and creases you get in your late thirties? I’m a few years older than you, and I learned this: Botox and Restylane. They work WONDERS especially on the very first signs of ageing. Go see Stacy at The Naficy Rejuvenation Center in Bellevue. They’re on the web at seattleface.com, I think. People’s faces thin as they age, and Restylane and other fillers work magic, seriously they really do, on those little teensy saggy spots under your eyes. I had some Restylane done four years ago and my bags still haven’t come back. I no longer need undereye concealer at all.)

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

Oh, and botox, done right, does NOT make you look frozen. Nicole Kidman has gone way too far, please don’t judge botox by her results. Seriously, Stacy has a really light touch with the needle, and only does what’s necessary to make a minor correction. She won’t freeze your face or rob you of all expression.

Sonia
Sonia
12 years ago

I just started a new job in an upscale women’s boutique, and am now having to make some effort to get ready for work. While I feel good about myself when I make some effort, it also forces me to look more closely at those nasty little reminders that I’m getting older. A couple of my friends have started doing Botox, and I’m terrified of it. I won’t say never….just not yet. I have had braces for the last 2&1/2 years, which helped me look a LOT more like my 15 year old self. They’ll be coming off sometime in May, and I’m kind of sad that my ‘young crutch’ will be gone, lol!!

twojams (Shannon)
twojams (Shannon)
12 years ago

Yeah, I’m with you. It’s weird seeing things really change. There are a couple of things that I would actually consider fixing, and I never thought I would be the type. I don’t like seeing a crop of gray hairs, when it used to just be a stray one or two. And I asked the dermatologist the other day about these “large freckles” that appeared when I was pregnant. She said they were LIVER SPOTS. Gaaaah. Hello forties! Thankfully I’ve got these little kids to make me feel so young. HAHAHAHAHA.

Sahara
12 years ago

I’m so with all y’alls on this. Number one on my wish list: eyelid lift. We all have our one thing that we think would make all the difference, but it probably wouldn’t–not to anyone but (maybe) ourselves. And then we’d find something else to nag ourselves about.

Faith
Faith
12 years ago

Funny.. I always used to think the line was “Clowns in my coffee.” Now excuse me while I kiss this guy.

Kami
12 years ago

You know what’s sexy? Women who are completely at ease in their skin. Body shape, hair color, breast size, none of that matters on a woman who’s got class and confidence. How I wish I was a woman like that.

Andrea
12 years ago

In the photos you post, your cheeks are naturally rosy, and you have a bright smile. Obviously, your healthy diet is showing. We don’t usually notice such subtle changes on ourselves.

At 30-something, I’m totally rocking that fine lines + acne look. Hot.

Belle
Belle
12 years ago

I got a real tickle out of this, Linda. I remember feeling like you do when I was your age. But, now I am 60. I definitely got lucky in the wrinkle dep’t because I have only that damn vertical wrinkle between the eyebrows but no other wrinkles to speak of. So, good genetics! I do have darkened circles under my eyes and you can bet your sweet bippy I mask that as best I can with makeup. And I would be caught dead without eye makeup but I’ve always been that way. Are there things I would change? Probably not. I’ve grown accustomed to this face!

Anyhoo…..we are what we are. My husband loves me and says I will always be 22 in his eyes. I’m sometimes shocked when I look in the mirror because I remember with fondness my 35 and 45-year old self and I do wonder where she went. But, it’s kinda cool to look back at old pictures and realize I sure don’t see those things I was worried about – whoa, one hot babe there! :)

The sparkle in your eyes comes through loud and clear in all your photos. I think you look terrific and I’ll bet you will still be a knockout at 60. Trust me on this!

jetsy
jetsy
12 years ago

haha, i do the “self-lift” thing with my eyelids. for some reason, they get heavier as i get older. wtf.

linda, what kind of skin care are you using? (do i hear you laughing from here?) a good skin care regimen can make a HUGE difference – sans needles! i’d love to send you a sample of a new anti-aging line that is clinically proven to have visible results in 24 hours. no shit. email me – perseph_3 [at] yahoo.

Antropologa
12 years ago

I just discovered my second wrinkle. Pretty disappointed. No way back.

Maria
12 years ago

Once my two kids are older and in the public school system and I’m done forking out twenty fracking some-odd thousand a year for day-care, two words: BOOB LIFT. Not a job, a lift. Just a little pick me up is all I ask.

H
H
12 years ago

I’m perilously close to 50 and have been prematurely gray for over a decade. I tried to keep up with the little changes but at some point, it became overwhelming and not worth my time. This is particularly true of my hair. I went from temporary colors, to highlights, to permanent color, then permanent with highlights. Eventually I found myself spending many hours sitting in a salon when I could have been doing other, more important things with my time. It made me feel so free when I stopped fighting nature. (I also save a lot of money.) I do try to keep up with basic body maintenance but I realize I am the age I am and all the cosmetic effort in the world is not going to change that. Yes, I’m sure the gray/white hair makes me appear older than I really am but I’m OK with that, I really am. I just love never worrying about a skunk-white stripe down the middle of my hair!

Kristi
12 years ago

I love you. That is all.

amber
12 years ago

Maybe it’s because there’s so much emphasis on beauty & athleticism in my family, but at 28 I’ve been standing in front of the mirror, freaking over the tiny lines at the corners of my eyes, imagining lines in my forehead. I actually considered buying a $130 “miracle” eye cream. Thankfully common sense prevailed over vanity.

I shudder to think what I’ll be like at 40.

Gnometree
12 years ago

There is nothing wrong with the way you look. Have you seen what these “perfect” women in magazines look like before they have been airbrushed?
(and I’m not going to tell you to checkout http://www.mamamia.com.au/weblog/2010/01/this-is-everything-i-detest-about-magazines.html )

NancyJ
NancyJ
12 years ago

I will sometimes sit and stare in to the magnifying side of my makeup mirror and…just stare and wonder why my mother is looking back at me.

I’ve begun to notice the tiny lines in my cheeks (damn! shouldn’t have lost those 5 pounds!), or the jowly-ness around my jawline. I pull back the skin every so slightly.

I can’t not look at a mirror or a window for my reflection when I walk by but it’s more of a self-conscious reaction too. The question for me is always “Do I look fat”?

katie
katie
12 years ago

yes, as mentioned above–sometimes women have to choose to be skinny and have their face show more imperfections or have a heavier body.

LC
LC
12 years ago

You freaking rock, Linda.

Judy
Judy
12 years ago

Never, ever put a mirror on the table and look down into it. You’ll never be able to be on top during sex again.

At 67 1/2 I think I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that the face in the mirror is not that of the 19 year old still living inside me. I’m even letting my hair go to its natural silvery gray and stopping the monthly yuckiness that came with staying brunette. Luckily I’m packing some extra pounds, so I don’t really have the wrinkles. But I have bags under the eyes and the chin segues into the neck in an unattractive manner and when I look in the mirror, I find it hard to believe I was ever pretty. But finally I don’t care. I know I am a terrific person, I’m funny and warm and loyal and ethical and it just doesn’t matter any more that the packaging is less attractive than the inside. Oh, I still try to be neat and presentable, I shower every day and mousse and blow my hair and put on the minimal makeup I’ve always worn. But clothes need to be comfortable. I have two pairs of shoes now (I used to have a shoe fetish) – summer and winter. I have one handbag which I’ll use until it wears out and then I’ll buy another. I look at jewelry with interest but I never buy any. I’d rather spend the money on books. I’m just comfortable. I think menopause did this to me. But it feels good.

mcconk
mcconk
12 years ago

“Mommy’s tummy jiggles because she had babies.” Will surely keep a teenager off the cock. BEST COMMENT EVER!

Andrea (@shutterbitch)
12 years ago

You’re in my head again.

I have a friend selling expensive creams that I’ve considered to reverse the sun damage I’ve done to myself over the years. Sometimes I think if I can reverse that, I can deal with the wrinkles by calling them laugh lines, fun lines or whatever lie I need to tell myself. But the skin discoloration is what gets me the most.

But I can’t seem to make myself open my wallet to shell out $160 for a regimen of creams and ointments that I don’t know for a fact work.

Age, and Time, march on, usually across your face.

Shawna
Shawna
12 years ago

I swear to God, until now I thought it was “Clowns in my coffee.”

I know that doesn’t make much sense but I’ve never really given it a moment’s thought.

Shawna
Shawna
12 years ago

Just read the other comments: high five to Faith on the mutual “clowns” hearing.

Amanda
12 years ago

On a clear day, I find as many new things that I like, as old things that I miss.

Leslie
Leslie
12 years ago

At 37, the bloom is definitely off my rose, as Mr. Shakespeare so eloquently said…