A Letter to My Daughters on Turning Forty
My Darling Daughters,
Right now, you are nine-years old (well, almost ten) and your skin is porcelain, smooth and glowing. In summer, it turns this fantastic shade of deep golden brown, when it’s been kissed by the sun (even when I’ve coated it in layers of SPF 50). Your hair is ten gorgeous shades of blond, from crisp white, to soft brown, resulting in a natural highlight job most of us would kill for. Your eyebrows are thick and overgrown, your eyes clear and bright.
You are truly perfect.
So, I thought I’d let you know what’s looming in your future, say in about thirty years. Now this isn’t to depress you, or scare you, it’s just all the things I wish someone had told me when I hit forty. Sure, I’d heard “it’s all downhill once you hit forty.” But no one ever expanded on what exactly would be sliding down that hill. And besides, I was like you are, I always believed that it would NEVER happen to me. I’d be the one exception in history that would never be damaged by age. Yes, I know you think that too, and you’ll keep thinking it through your thirties, as you should. But than one day you might wake up and say; “hold the fuck on… wasn’t my eyebrow ABOVE my eyelid?”
And this is why I’m going to give you the heads up, that way there will be no surprises. Also, because by the time you hit forty, I will be like seventy-something and won’t remember shit. All of this will seem like the good old days, and I’ll probably say something stupid like; “Oh don’t worry about it honey, it’s no big deal.” I’ll say that because at seventy, saggy eyelids WILL be no big deal! But it IS a big deal. It’s a fucking seriously HUGE deal. There’s nothing like feeling, and looking twenty-something, all the way up to forty, then waking up and not recognize the face in the mirror.
I’m not going to minimize it. It’s terrifying. It’s like, you’ve known all your life who you are, you’ve taken more selfies then any human should be allowed to take, you know your face. You even love your face. But suddenly you stop taking selfies. Then you stop getting in your friend’s selfies, then you don’t let anyone post a picture of you until you approve it, then you start using filters, then you stop taking pictures…. It’s all bad.
Here’s the truth about all this madness. It’s NOT narcissism. It’s NOT denial. It’s not because you want to misrepresent yourself or lie to the world… it’s because YOU don’t believe it’s real. Maybe it’s just a bad day, right? Maybe your face is just puffy because you had too much to drink last night? Maybe those wrinkles on the side of your face, steaming from your eyes are because you slept on your pillow wrong. Maybe your disappearing jaw line is just because you’ve put on a few pounds and they all showed up under your chin, or where your chin used to be.
It’s not that we want to look YOUNGER, or be younger. It’s that we want to still look like US! I want to look in the mirror and know who’s looking back. I want to recognize her, and love her the way I’ve always done. But it seems like every day she’s morphing into something I’ve never seen before. Someone I don’t know. I feel the same inside, so why is everything on the outside changing so fast?
Before I hit forty I thought those Hollywood-type women, the ones who did all this crazy shit to their face, were just in denial. Now I get it, maybe not to that extreme, but I understand the desire to just keep looking like me. I don’t want to walk around with some strangers face on. I want MINE!
I want eyes that don’t have to be propped up by Botox every five months. I want lips that are full, not injected. I want to make a kiss face without old-lady lines above my upper lip. I don’t want to find a new brown spot the size of my pinky nail on my face every other month. I want to get out of bed in the morning and put my pants on standing up, not sitting down because it’s nearly impossible for my legs to raise that high first thing in the morning. I want to make it through the whole day without dying for a nap. I want my back to stop hurting, my head to be clear, my eyes not to blur when I try to read something with normal typeface. I want boobs that don’t flop like bouncy-balls once I take my bra off. I want to work-out and see results.
I’m tired of plucking chin hair and getting my lip waxed. And pulling out stray gray hairs.
I’m not in denial, I just CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS IS REAL LIFE RIGHT NOW! That’s not technically denial, right?
Aging is hard my darlings. I wish someone had explained all this to me so I wouldn’t always feel like I’m losing my mind. I wish I knew the difference between what’s normal, and what makes me want to spend hours on WebMD wondering if dying.
Sometimes I study my face in the mirror trying to get to know this woman. Trying to become friends with her, looking for someone I know. I try to imagine what I’ll look like at fifty, and yes even at seventy. I can’t imagine it. I touch my cheek bones and wonder if my skin will sink in around them, or simply go sledding down my neck. I wonder if my eyes will be so heavy and wrinkled that it will make it hard for them to stay open. I wonder if I’ll still see me when I look in my eyes. That’s the one thing that won’t change, right? But even my eyes are changing, they get glassy, and aren’t clear the way they were just a few years ago.
What then will remain?
Well, girls you know what won’t change right? Our spirit, our grace, our fight, our love, our soul. That is going to be there with me through each decade, as it will for you. So when we don’t recognize the outside, we’ll always know who we really are. That’s how I’ve raised you, to love your mind, your heart, your spirit and your personality. Those things will always remain, even when your beautiful skin begins to spot, or sag. You will still always be you under it all. Just as you’ll watch me morph into this new version of me, one that I hope won’t ever change under the wrinkles, the extra pounds and the eventual gray hair.
P.S. Those are UNFILTERED (gasps!) photos taken 4-29-17, age 41 (2 months shy of 42)
*Don’t worry I won’t let them read it ’till their like 20, I just wanted to log how it feels to be almost 42, because by then I won’t remember!