reflections on my diminishing youth

I’ve been pondering a lot lately, some things a bit more important than others: my career, my life, my friends, my goals/dreams/aspirations, my skin. As I slouch ever closer to my30th birthday, I’ve begun to reflect on things I’d never paid a lot of attention to. For instance, I suddenly became very aware, and concerned for, my skin. I’m quite fair-skinner (not quite pale, but when I pick out makeup, I’m on the whitest end of the spectrum) and burn easily. I’ve (almost) always worn sunscreen – there was that one time I fell asleep in the back yard and spent the next two weeks taking cold showers and slathering on aloe vera gel and Galaxal Base to sooth my scorched back – but hardly remembered to re-apply sunscreen.

Because I’ve been a makeup junkie since I was in diapers, I almost always had something on my face, be it tinted moisturize or something else with SPF in it, so fortunately I’ve benefitted there. A few years ago, inspired by my caramel-tinted coworker, I flirted with tanning beds, but it didn’t last more than a few weeks. I resolved a few years back to “make pale fashionable”. I’m neither redheaded (much to my chagrin) nor freckled, but my fair skin burns like paper before fading to an all-too-subtle tan. Last year, I went to Maui with a friend – my first ever tropical getaway. And that’s when I suddenly became aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen. I loaded up on SPF60 before my 7-hour flight, and when I arrived in Kahului , my bags were in San Francisco.

During that trip – after successfully receiving my bag – I varied SPF60 and SPF8 to get a mild tan with only minimal burning the first few days when I was neither dressed appropriately (WHO wears sheepskin-lined boots to fly to a tropical island on vacation? ME! That’s who!) nor adequately sunscreened after a fully clothed dip in the ocean. But this was truly the first time when I gave serious consideration to the damaging effect of the sun on my skin. I was 28.

A few months ago I noticed, also for the first time, the slightest line beneath my eyes. Now, on further reflection, I’m pretty sure this is normal. Most people have them, even when they’re young. Well, young-ish. But it sent me into a tail spin. I was approaching 30, and my skin, I feared, was starting to tell the tale. Instantly I invested in things I’d never used before – day cream, night cream, anti-wrinkle serum, collagen eye cream. A cosmetics junkie to begin with, I was spoiled for choice! But not only that, I researched my purchases, first: which had the highest ratings for diminishing the looks of aging, plumping skin, etc.

I’ve always been pretty low maintenence when it comes to a skin regime: cleanse, and done. For nearly 30 years, I’ve been neglecting my skin and, much to my surprise and good luck, haven’t really suffered for it. My complexion is good, I have no visible wrinkles, and so on. But I’ll admit I was a bit freaked out. I won’t bore you with the details about how, apparently, my sudden adherence to an amped-up beauty regime has had a visible difference – friends and strangers alike comment on how bright and fresh my skin looks, which is always nice – but it was one such comment that got my brain cogs a’whirlin’. A friend of mine, who recently celebrated her 40th birthday, and who I hadn’t seen since several months before, when I was still a skin-abuser, brought up how bright and clear my skin looked. After explaining a little bit about what I was doing differently, I said, “I’m not really sure why I care all of a sudden”. “You’re turning 30” she said. Just like that. All matter-of-fact. Just like she always does. Damn.

And so I’m turning 30, and amidst the “I don’t really care” or “age is just a number” self-talk, there are, I’ll admit, the occasional flashes of terror that have nothing – well, very little – to do with wrinkles. Things I’m pretty sure I’ll get into over the next few months because I can’t be the only person who thinks, “I’m getting older and that means something. And, for some obscure reason, deeply-seated in societal expectations, it’s not necessarily something I like, but I have to deal with.” And I know I’m not. I’ve recently discovered a fabulous blog, eat the damn cake – which you need to check out – and, in making up for lost time, stumbled upon a recent post where blogger Kate shares her trepidation/insight into turning another year older: the first white hair and the velociraptor. It amazed me that this woman – this 26-year-old woman – was experiencing so much at her age of what I was feeling now, and what I felt when I, too, discovered my first white hair at 26 (there must be something about that age…). So much of her post mirrors the angst and resolution I’ve been working with, like, right now, that I won’t detail my own descent into age here. Just read her post. Because it’s awesome.

I used to say that I would cherish my wrinkles and never contemplate medical procedures to “correct” these “flaws” – every smile line would be a happy memory. A mark I’d wear with honor! Ha! The moment I decided the fine line under my eyes was “early signs of aging” and not simply the way my skin happened to fall, I instantly thought “If I get crows feet, BOTOX here I come!”. I don’t think that’s the case anymore (or at least, I really hope not, since that stuff freaks me out!), but I’ll admit that part of me is pleased that my 20-minute regime each night – exfoliate, cleanse, tone, serum, moisturize, eye cream – has had some positive impact on my otherwise completely acceptable skin. I’m such a girl…

I don’t know if there’s a happy resolution to my existential age-related angst. At least, not yet. For now, I’m happy to focus on the little victories: brighter, fresher skin that sometimes makes me stop and smile at my reflection under the unforgiving lights of the office ladies’ room – win. Hitting age 30, single, not really advancing in my career and panicking (just a little) about what that all means – unavoidable, barring the unlikely (or likely?) event of global annihilation in the next 6 months. But as Scarlet famously said, “Tomorrow is another day”.

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