I have three pairs of glasses. One for close computer work, one for reading and one for driving at night. “Come dusk and you’re as good as blind”, said the optician: “in fact, you’d probably fail a driving test if they tested you now”. My daily glasses, for work and all things home related are constantly hiding themselves from me. I hear myself asking ”Anyone seen my glasses” so often, even I’m getting irritated.
I can’t have that operation where they hinge your eyelids open and slice off your retina … my lenses are flattening out. I can see Cairo – but not what is right in front of me, (ok, so maybe that hasn’t changed) and the friendly-yet-slightly-creepy Dr G tells me “it is only going to get worse.” When I want to depress myself I imagine being kidnapped and held hostage for a year with no glasses – what on earth would I do? Even now I can’t shop, read or see the details on the gowns on “Say Yes To The Dress” without the damn things perched on my nose.
Worse, I can’t see to put on my make-up and now totally understand those old ladies with this skeef lipstick and panda eyes. You just have to point the pencil and hope like hell you are sort of on the money.
The other day I broke down and bought one of those strings with two plastic bits that slip over the arms of your specs. The upside: at least when I am home and working I know where the things are. The down? I caught sight of myself in a mirror and an 80 year old version of me was looking back. Didn’t help that I was in baggy sweatpants and cardigan – but there I was, a taller Sofia from The Golden Girls. Hannah Darcy agreed – “that string thing makes you look like a granny,” she offered, “only older”.
The other thing that’s fading fast is the amount of collagen in my skin: especially, my hands. I am continually burning myself on our horrible oven. Even a glancing pass will create a third degree burn, which will take a month to heal. The chemist (who winced when he saw the latest scorch) tells me there is no improving the situation – whatever advertisers may promise: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone … unless you have those fat injections … but then you look like you are retaining water. In your hands, not nice.”
Apart from that – and my gut’s overreaction to half of the food chain, I am in ok shape. I did a tough yoga class on Monday (my first in four months) – and kept up easily. The instructor and I were the oldest people in the class by a couple of decades. We were both in demure, bra-enhanced vests and black pants. The rest of the class was dressed to pull. A gay chap to my left was topless, wearing only a white nappy with an OM sign over his root chakra. The young woman in front of me sported a pale blue lycra onesie – I could see her third eye clearly each time we did a sun-salutation. And that’s without my glasses.
Turning fifty was like being given invisibility as a superpower. Men’s eyes slide right over me. No traction at all. Of course there are ways create some: I see the girls who have had the ‘mommy make-over’ – their age inappropriate big boobies, under taut stretched, heavily tanned, crepe-ing skin. Admirable figures: no fat anywhere. Pumped lips, tricked-out hair, full make-up and rainbow-hued nails: and that’s just to go to the gym. A time investment I can’t even begin to imagine.
If it works and they’re getting results – more power to them. But I wonder, aren’t they sick of it? And how rich can the return really be? Keeping all that up must be exhausting. Please understand – I don’t envy them but I do feel sorry for them. The fact that I have never been anything approaching a beauty has paid dividends as I have aged. I have less to lose or maintain. And I’ve learned to work with what I have in a way that suits me, not in a way that tries to answer an impossible brief.
The other day I got onto an airplane, stood patiently in the line to get to my seat, hefted my own bag into the overhead locker and smiled at the young man sitting on the aisle. He was a chunky fella, lots of muscles in his face, chewing gum like he was on the wrong end of a coke binge. He didn’t stand, just shifted his knees sideways so I had to really stretch to step over him and take my seat at the window. As I settled in I heard him say to his pal across the aisle: “Oh MAN, how come I never get the pretty ones?”
I waited a beat then touched his arm. When he turned to face me I said sweetly: “You don’t get the pretty ones, my son. Because the Lord hates you.”
Then I put on my glasses and opened the newspaper. He gathered up his belongings and fled to the row by the toilets. I laughed and tooted happily all the way to Cape Town. Age might well have withered me, but a sassy tongue is timeless.
(Photo of Iris Apfel copyright MAC cosmetics. Image of Estelle Getty found in the public domain Scary beach faces – I can’t remember where I found this, I suspect facebook, so if it’s yours – please let me know for a credit.)