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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting older. I know the new view is that “40 is the new 30” and all of that, but I’m not sure everyone’s buying. Yes, 40 is the new 30 when you are Jennifer Aniston and still look 30, but what about the rest of us, the ones who can’t afford microdermabrasion or to bathe weekly in Creme de la Mer? We look in the mirror and are forced to confront reality. At least for me, 44 is not 34.

I should note that 34 was not my best year, appearance-wise. I spent a good portion of it pregnant and very, very large. With my son, I carried widely. Many people didn’t even notice I was pregnant until I was seven months along. Instead of congratulatory remarks, I got sideways glances, the inquisitive “Is she pregnant or just huge?” face. I was both, as it happened.  After having Braeden, it took me two years to really find the motivation to deal with the baby weight. So I don’t remember having any great love for myself at 34. I wouldn’t switch, if offered.

So 44… I am nowhere near the weight I would like to be, but am better off than I was 10 years ago. My gray hair, which made its first appearance when I was 16 – ridiculous, right? – is now supposedly at the 75% mark. Terrific… not.  I intend to fight this particular aspect of aging every step of the way. I don’t mind dyeing my own hair, and I find experimenting with color fun. I do wish the gray wouldn’t encroach quite so quickly, though. The last time my hair was dyed, it was at an actual salon. I was the “model” for a color class, so it was free. They dyed it a very dark brown, which is pretty, but boy does it show off the gray. I’ve been trying to find the time to dye it for days, without success. I currently am sporting a nearly white stripe down the middle of my head, and I am not amused. I cover it with eyebrow gel, mascara… anything that might mitigate the starkness.

Someone commented recently that an acquaintance was looking older, and it really shook me up. No, she wasn’t referring to me, and I know it’s not all about me, all the time. I swear. But still, the woman in question is about my age, the friend who made the comment, somewhat younger. It made me wonder how my younger friends (note: the majority of my friends are younger) view me. I found myself staring in the mirror, trying to see myself as they might. It’s very difficult.

The mirror and I have a strained relationship. I was not a confident girl growing up, and still struggle. My confidence somewhat relates to my weight at any given moment, which is unfortunate. I can remember staring at myself in the mirror at 16 or so and thinking I looked like a boy, and not a handsome one. My face was round then (still is, although maybe a bit less so… an accidental benefit of age), my eyebrows too thick (I discovered tweezers in college and never looked back). My skin was unusually clear, for a teenager. Good genes. I should have been grateful, but I was too uncomfortable with myself overall to focus on the good things. I spent many, many days making faces at myself in the mirror, and crying. Lots of crying. It took me a very long time to discover any physical self-esteem. Talk about a work in progress? Oh, yeah.

So today, at 44. From the shoulders up, I’m mostly good. I still have clear skin, and relatively few lines. My eyebrows are under control. My hair is long, still wavy from the pregnancy hormones. My eyes, my best feature, are blue. Sometimes they are bright blue, sometimes they are a blue-gray and others they are blue-violet. Elizabeth Taylor eyes, or similar, at least. I am probably pretty. On good days, I think I’m pretty. (Note to real-life friends and/or relatives reading: This is an exercise. I am not seeking compliments, or reassurance. View it as a positive affirmation I am giving myself, and please don’t respond. Too awkward.) I am far better off than I was at 16, when it would have been utterly impossible – laughable, even – for me to imagine that I was pretty. Improvement is good. I still find it uncomfortable to type that I view myself as pretty. I want to qualify it, or apologize for it, or something. Typing it here and rereading it is making me squirm.

I do have some lines, and my face, while still roundish, is not as firm as it was 10 years ago. Aging is inevitable. I slather myself with sunscreen, experiment with random anti-aging creams, and hope for the best. Don’t we all? At some point maybe I’ll find the same sense of acceptance from the shoulders down. Maybe.

Now to edit and post this before I chicken out.

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