Today I am going to take on a delicate issue…aging. As is often the case, when my ex and I broke up, he started dating younger women (in their 20’s). I made the mistake of asking him what the attraction was (it should have been obvious, no?) and he said “young flesh.” While I have done a fairly good job of not taking his actions personally, I have to admit that this response hit a little too close to home for my taste. I may be attractive enough to get dates on a regular basis, but I can’t deny that my skin tone isn’t what it used to be. When I look in the mirror, I don’t always love what I see. New lines and dark spots emerging, stray gray hairs popping up, my breasts heading south (damn that breast-feeding), cellulite forming despite the daily exercise.
In crunchy granola Northampton, aging naturally is more or less admired, even if it is a town dominated by young co-eds. In California, however, I am noticing that the women don’t take it lying down. Maybe it’s Hollywood’s influence. Everyone wants to look like a movie star, and let’s face it, they have plastic surgery and airbrushing to help them out. Botox seems to be a woman’s best friend, even if it may make her incapable of feeling deep emotions (maybe that comes in handy when the emotion you are feeling is grief over your lost youth). As my sister and I have noted, we are at a distinct disadvantage with our 40-something girlfriends here because we just aren’t willing to go the medical route to eternal youth. So, we look older than our peers.
However, that doesn’t prevent us from trying other unorthodox methods of beautification. Last night, my sister excitedly announced that we were going to give each other facials with a special product line that had just arrived to her in the mail. Her 10-year-old daughter perked up when she heard this and asked if she and her friend could join us. My sister said, Honey these are very expensive products, so we are only going to use them on old skin. C’mon Molly, follow me. Did I mention that she is my younger sister?
With an invitation like that, I couldn’t help but bound up the stairs enthusiastically to get everything ready. There are powders, bottles, misters, and special energetically charged water. She has me measure and mix the ingredients while she reads the instructions, as you mix the ingredients say to yourself, bu-bu-bu… and she dissolves into convulsions of laughter. Now my family comes from a different part of California culture, the part that believes in the almighty power of positive thinking. They attend a “church” in San Jose called the Center for Spiritual Living whose motto is “Change your thinking, change your life.” So it just takes me a few choked syllables from my sister to realize what we are doing. We aren’t just mixing skin care products. We are making magic potions, rife with special incantations. As we prepare the gel, we say, build more collagen, build more elastin. As we apply it on our faces, we say, my skin is silky smooth. Before misting our faces with a different product, we have to tap the bottle twelve times in the palm of our hand, make a quarter turn, tap it another twelve times and infuse it with our “intentions.” And they don’t just mean intentions like to look as young as my ex’s girlfriend. They mean life goals, what we want to attract into our lives.
It hits me that I feel like I am in one of the Harry Potter novels that my son has me reading every day. My mother, ironically, is down in Los Angeles at the Agape Church, taking a course on rituals and ceremonies, while my sister and I are performing a sort of ceremony of our own. The revitalization of our skin coupled with the setting of life intentions. Well, today I feel a good decade younger, mainly because of the endorphin rush provided by all the laughter that my sister and I exchanged.
This morning I am back at my parents’ house watching the end of the first Harry Potter movie with Jonah and we get to my favorite part, the mirror of Erised, which was so touching in the book. The mirror has the magical power to show the observer his deepest desires. Ron sees himself as the Quidditch team captain and Harry sees his parents alive. It occurs to me that that was what my sister and I were doing last night, looking into the mirror with our incantations and intentions and seeing ourselves magically transformed into young, wrinkle-free beauties. Ah, but Dumbledore, the most powerful of all wizards, makes a very insightful point. He says that the happiest person in the world looks into the mirror and sees nothing but himself, exactly how he is. That’s when I realize the true fountain of youth and the key to all happiness…self-acceptance.