Susan's Blog

Sunday, September 9, 2007


He was too old to rock and roll
But he was too young to die.
–Ian Anderson

Yesterday was breathlessly hot. While Ned took Nat into the city on the T for a walkabout and ice cream, and Max went to Six Flags with a friend, I took Benj to a birthday party of a family I really like. It was something like ten little boys, all fourth grade. Could they have been any more adorable? They all came with either baseball mitts or Nintendo DS’s (I’ll let you guess which B brought, and if you can’t, you have not been reading carefully) and their exuberance. The innocent swagger of a nine-year-old boy is one of life’s joys to behold. They still think that being cool is to act like their favorite cartoon character, which may be Ed, Ed, or Eddie, or may be a Turtle. Or an actual turtle.

The noise level was so intense that I needed to leave. I went off with Barbara, one of the moms whom I have not spent time with in quite a while, another Libra, actually. She is a lot of fun in that kind of no -nonsense way. She loves to criticize her children, and encourages others to, also, so it ends up feeling really okay to have been driven crazy by one or the other, the way mine always do.

Barbara and I went to a make-up counter. She needed some stuff and I needed to play. I wandered around the various stations of Lancome, Estee, Clinique, and Benefit, and just lost myself in the displays. The little pots of shining color, lined up like tiny puddings; the magic wands of pretty goo that comb or brush gently across eyes or lashes; the fat soft brushes springing up like tiny fountains. I had no money with me, having walked Ben to the birthday party, and Barbara having driven us both in her car to the Macy’s. She said she’d buy stuff for me if I wanted, which made me feel even more like a kid in a candy store. Still, I declined, even though I need new make-up: my Trish McEvoy eye powder has been reduced to faint traces of color rimming an empty square, which I scrape at in vain. My Lancome pencil is a stub, and I’ve actually been also using it to fill in my brows — and it’s greenish! So I couldn’t let Barbara buy anything for me because I needed way too much.

I looked around at all the women there, getting things wiped onto their faces, seeing that this stuff does not truly make a difference. And yet I am one of them. I squeezed out a few drops of anti-wrinkle eye serum, of course. My eyes are my “problem area.” We all have problem areas, we learn from Day One, or Magazine One. Whichever thing on our bodies or faces that does not match the women in the magazines: that is the “problem area.” (Actually, that makes my long nose a problem area, too, but…)

The real problem is that we get more and more insecure about our faces as they drift farther away from the magazine ideal. How do we combat that? Does growing old gracefully mean you stop trying to fight the signs of age, and accept that your face is truly changing over time; or does it mean you continue to ease the ravages of time with as many products as you can, short of scalpels? And why, then, are scalpels the dividing line, and not injections? Because you can die from the anesthesia? (I am asking, not judging.) And why do some women go totally gray in defiance of the anti-aging culture, yet, still wear make-up? Why is haircolor a vanity, but make-up, not? I have been trying not to think too much about it, but I did yesterday, because I really wanted to go to the makeup counter with Barbara.

When we came back to pick up our boys, they were in the midst of a sweaty ice-fight. Each boy was trying to put ice down the others’ pants, while trying to avoid the ice in their own; consequently each boy had a large water stain down the front of their pants. The host parents tried in vain to quell some of the action and noise, but it was like sweeping back the sea. Barbara and I poured ourselves some diet soda and tried to get Sandy, the host, to sit with us and not worry. She was stacking up pizza boxes, dinner, presumably, and saying, “Next, it’s time for the cake.” This is after I saw each boy eating pizza while also digging into individual paper bags of candy, with their names on them. And before I saw her bring out a tray of brightly wrapped individual bags of “goodies” (more candy!). I held one up and said, “What’s this, Sandy, the appetizer?” We all laughed.

One boy ran over to his bag and pulled out some more candy, claiming he needed, “more energy.” Then he ran off. They were like monkeys swinging on trees. The trees started shivering in a sudden breeze and we all looked up at the sky, realizing the weather had shifted. “It’s going to rain,” Adam, the host dad said. We all agreed this would be good. Cool everything off.

I was looking around at all the food I wanted to eat, just like earlier I had looked around at all the make-up I needed to buy, and knowing I was too old to eat any of that food, and too something (lazy, broke, discouraged, happy) to buy all that make-up. Barbara dropped us off at home and Ned, Nat, and I had some delicious Thai for dinner. Later I felt ill, and I had not had one bite of any junk food. Well, just one: a stolen piece of Ben’s Milky Way.

1 comment

I think that accepting one’s face as truly changing over time is a good idea.
This doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning cosmetics. I think makeup is to underscore what one likes most in her face, not to battle the signs of age.

— added by Maya M on Monday, September 10, 2007 at 1:40 am