Beauty in aging and ... forgetfulness?
My "Hallelujah, the kids are all at school" moment was immediately followed by that sinking feeling in my core. As I saw the quad full of people who were definitely way too old to be high schoolers, that familiar pit in my stomach opened up.
I forgot about the welcome back parent coffee at my boys' new school. It was on the calendar, but despite the nagging feeling to check the calendar this morning, first day business won the battle for my time. And now? Now I was waffling about what to do as the boys got out of the car.
Had I remembered the coffee last night, I would have washed my hair. But I hadn't, so I didn't, nor had I used the dry shampoo that I convinced myself I would make time to use before leaving the house. I hadn't even brushed my teeth. My workout clothes were the least of my worries as I observed all the spiffy dress shirts, slacks and pretty summer dresses. I have some of those, and I love to wear them, and I would have if I had just ... remembered.
I bravely decided I didn't care. I wanted to find some familiar faces and begin getting acquainted with the school, perhaps even make a new connection in one of my son's grades. I parked in the neighborhood, rolled on a little emergency perfume I keep in the car, and walked up to the mass of carefully curated outfits and people who obviously had their lives together and clearly all knew each other. And then, there she was. A mom I recognized from our old school, who I had nicknamed Barbie.
She is one of those women who is ALWAYS put together. I've never seen her without makeup, styled hair, or an expensive outfit with perfectly coordinating jewelry that includes rock-sized diamonds. I re-introduced myself to her, as she didn't remember me. (I told myself it had nothing to do with how memorable I am.) Another mom I had met at the sixth grade pizza party walked up to us as we were catching up. Barbie referenced that she had just dropped her daughter off to her first job in New York, to which the other mom responded, "No way, you don't look old enough to have an adult child who is working!" Barbie said, "Oh, I'm fifty. I have good genes and a good doctor. His name is so-and-so." The journalist in me is kicking myself for not pulling out my phone and jotting down his name. (For a friend.) She then joked about how you should own it instead of lie about it. Fair enough.
The thing is, the older I get, the more I run into this. There is a grasping for youthful, physical beauty that is idolized in our culture far more than the beauty of wisdom that comes with experience and yes - crow's feet and gray hair. Scripture says gray hair is a crown of splendor (Proverbs 16:31). Many cultures around the world value the beauty that comes with age, but not us. We boast about our plastic surgeons, cheapest botox, and filler injections. But at what cost?
What are we teaching our children about what it means to grow old? What are we showing them that we value most about others if we think we need botulism toxin to freeze our facial muscles so we can hide some wrinkles?
Sometimes I feel so alone in my thinking, like those who are older than I am are just rolling their eyes at me thinking, "She'll cave. Just wait." And I can't promise 100% that I won't. I can't predict the future. I've still only plucked out a few gray hairs to-date. But I really have no plans to begin injecting chemicals into my face or going under general anesthesia for aesthetic reasons. It goes against everything I want to represent to the world and my children, especially about how I define beauty and how much value I put into the way I look. Yes, I should take care of my body (for me, it is a temple of the Holy Spirit), and yes, I enjoy using makeup and wearing nice clothing. Lord knows I wish I had put one or both of those on this morning. I guess I just wonder how we determine our own limits of time, cost and care. At what point does self care become an idol? Where do we draw the line on this ever-expanding spectrum of creams, treatments, injections and surgeries?
I don't claim to have the answers. Far from it. I can't even check my calendar so I show up at a parent coffee with fresh breath and clean armpits. But I still claim hallelujah on today: both for school being in session and in-person for all my kids, and for being confident enough in who I am to realize that any parent at that coffee worth knowing wouldn't judge me for my appearance. Or my morning breath.