I Look Great… Ouch!

Last week, an acquaintance told me, “You look ten years younger now than when I first met you!”  I basked in the glorious glow of the compliment until I realized that:

  • This meant I looked like shit three years ago; and
  • She didn’t mention how old I actually look now.  Only that I look younger than I did, which is not much comfort if I looked like a desiccated old bat three years ago.  So maybe I look like a dewy, well-hydrated old bat now.

The analytical mind isn’t always a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful compliment.  I’m still basking in it.  I prefer to assume she meant it the way I took it:  “You look great!”


When you were in your teens and twenties, did your friends ever say “You look great” when they ran into you by chance?  No, of course not.  Not unless you’d actually put on a dress and makeup for the first time in five years.  But that’s probably just me.  That’s not my point.

My point is, one day I’m schlepping along in my usual jeans and T-shirt.  Hair is what it always is.  No makeup, as usual.  I run into Bobby Jo from high school, and she squeals, “You look great!”

They’re the words of doom.  The beginning of the end.  They don’t mean “You look great”.  They mean “You look great for your age”.

That happened for the first time when I was in my late thirties, and it was a rude shock to realize that I was, in fact, aging whether I wanted to or not.  Although the alternative to getting older is… meh, not so appealing.

A decade or so later, I’ve (almost) accepted the fact that I’m middle-aged, and now I’m delighted to hear “You look great”.  Or any compliment, for that matter.  I write them down in a special file and save them.  I’d like to add “just kidding” so I don’t look too pathetic.  But then I’d be lying.

Just to rage against the dying of the light, I started working out seriously about four years ago.  Finally got back into shape, and popped for some professionally done bikini photos to prove it.  It’s amazing what some artful lighting and a good camera angle will do.  Not to mention sucking in my gut so hard the top of my head just about blew off.  I looked seriously constipated in a lot of the proofs.

But there were some good ones, too.  For a brief few minutes, I looked great, and it’s recorded for posterity.

I don’t like the word “aging”, so I’ve decided to not to use it.  I’m getting… um… experienced.  Seasoned.  Ripened.  Maturing like a bottle of fine wine.  (Why can’t I think of any non-food-related references?  Now I’m hungry.)

But at least I look great.  For my age.

11 thoughts on “I Look Great… Ouch!

  1. Pingback: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes… | Diane Henders

  2. I too recently whipped myself into incredible physical shape but decided to forego the bikini shots…it simply would have been too weird. or sad.

    Now I understand why, when I give my wife a compliment, she immediately tenses and seems suspicious. “What did you mean by that?” I thought I just told her what I meant by that?!! But alas, it couldn’t be that simple.

    I loved the ‘dessicated old bat’ conparison. Now that’s funny! That was a great line. What a great read!


    • Thanks, Jim! Sorry to unwittingly contribute to your paranoia. Here’s some free advice: it’s better to give the compliment and deal with the suspicion than it is to forgo the compliment completely. Trust me on this one.


  3. Diane, at least you get told you look great. Revel in it! I had a new photo taken of me for my driving licence recently, and the chap who took my photo said I could have another one taken if I wanted. It’s only when you think back on what’s been said the words start to hurt…


    • Ouch!

      I just had mine retaken a few days ago, and I haven’t seen it yet (they mail it out after the fact). I’m afraid that if I actually look like my picture, I’m probably too sick to drive.


  4. I once asked the guy who came and watered the plants in my office (it was a corporate gardening contract, pretty weird) how old he thought I looked. He said “30.” I was not pleased since I was either 30 or not quite 30. Moral of the story: never ask others how old they think you are.

    Also, small children will age you extremely quickly. Everything about me has gone to hell since I had my second baby in April.


    • Never mind. I got all pumped up a couple of months ago when I got asked for ID in a liquor store. I made some comment, and the clerk looked at me like I’d just fallen off the turnip truck (which, apparently, I had). And then she said, “We ask for ID from anybody who uses a credit card.”

      Ouch. I slithered out underneath the door without even opening it.


  5. Oh I know what you mean by the constipated look. Been there. Done that to the point that I am starting to believe that it is my ‘photo-look’

    Good read as always


    • I think I’m the world’s least photogenic person. I have a gift for contorting my face into a bizarre expression a fraction of a second before the shutter clicks. At least I prefer to think that’s what I’m doing. I really don’t want to consider the possibility that I have a bizarre expression on my face most of the time. Though it’s a distinct possibility…


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