By Sarah Mansheim
Managing Editor • Mountain Messenger
There must be a mistake. It was supposed to be easy.
When I grew up, I was going to look like Holly Golightly and have money and never ever get old. But, alas, I’m turning 40 in six months. For those of you who have crossed this milestone, have sympathy for me. Remember when you turned 40? When the lights began to go down on your youth?
The thing is, I don’t feel 40. I mean, I’m tired. But, of course I am: I get up at 5 a.m. and work all day and drive a long commute and mother children and take care of pets. I’d be tired if I was 20. Heck, I WAS tired when I was 20.
I don’t feel 40 in that I don’t have a retirement plan and I’m constantly behind on my electric bill; just yesterday, I had to make a mad dash to the bank to deposit funds because I’d overdrawn my account. Again.
I don’t feel 40, and I don’t feel old. Honestly, I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out, despite the telltale signs of passing time that are all around me. For instance, I have a teenage daughter. How did that happen?
I remember, a couple years ago, lamenting to a girlfriend that I’d put on a couple of pounds. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “We’re old.”
“We are not!” I protested, thinking to myself, “you may be, but I’m certainly not” (she’s two days younger than me).
So, as it stands, I don’t feel old; I just don’t exactly feel young. Especially, when I look in the mirror.
I mentioned I have a teenage daughter. Folks, there is nothing that will make you more sharply aware of your declining looks than a beautiful daughter. All her life, she was cute. Then, about a year ago, she suddenly became beautiful. Her hair falls nearly to her waist, her teeth are straightened by $5,000 worth of orthodontia, her body honed by hours of ballet.
When she became beautiful, I almost just went ahead and handed her the torch – “Here ya go kid, it’s your turn” – and pulled out my crone card and started wearing nothing but L.L. Bean, because, really, what’s the point of hair and makeup and clothes when you’re just going to be forced to walk around with an adorable teenager?
And yet, the L.L. Bean remains in the catalog, and every morning, I sit at my vanity and try to become Holly Golightly. Here’s how I justify it: Audrey Hepburn was 32 when she played the iconic character, and, in spite of the sprinkle of gray hairs around my temple and the dark circles under my eyes, I don’t look that far off 32.
Of course, the main part of the Holly Golightly look is winged eyeliner. I’ve noticed a couple things about winging my eyes lately: one is that the eyeliner pen kind of skips across my eyelids in a funny way. I couldn’t figure it out for a while, until one day it hit me – it’s because of wrinkles! Oh.
Also, I now have to angle my wing up really high, so when I lower my eyelids, I look a little bit like Endora from Bewitched. Why? Because suddenly I have hooded eyelids! When I’m in a good mood, I just pretend they were that shape all along. When I’m in a bad mood, it’s flooding and earthquakes and apocalypse and hellfire, every morning, until I get my eyeliner just so. My family cowers in the corners of our home, praying for me to get up from the makeup table without breaking anything.
Pretty soon, they’re likely to hide all the mirrors.
But, I shall persevere, and, if I’m lucky, turn 40 in the summer, because the only thing worse than getting older is not having the opportunity to do so. Anyway, as Holly Golightly says, it’s tacky to wear diamonds before the age of 40. Nothing draws the eye away from a fallen face quite like the sparkle of gemstones, so perhaps I’ll skip the electric bill for a couple of more months and put a rock or two on layaway. Forty will have never felt, or looked, so good.