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.