If I angle the camera just so, slightly above my head, then this selfie I am trying to take will not show the little wattle that is growing under my chin; just like my mother's. My eyelids droop a little bit and those lines around my eyes are not the tender steps of morning doves but crows well on their way to becoming ravens. The frame of the glasses I wear is larger to accommodate the bifocals I need to read. I am hoping that I will have smile lines around my mouth as I move along in years. I think about the really bad sunburn I had when I was 19 and hope that those small spiderwebs gathering around the corners of my nose are not as a result of it. There is a highway traversing my forehead. My long hair is streaked with gray, along the temples and in a swoop in the front. I can see my mother's face in mine. This is me at 49.
Below the neck is another story. This body is still short and petite. But I've nursed two babies and the breasts, once perky,now they've succumbed to the pull of gravity. Not to the point where I have to lift them up into my bra but enough to assure that this fate will be in my future. I think of all the admonitions from the older women in my family, when I was younger, warning me that if I didn't wear a bra my breasts would sag. Seems these boobs were destined to sag anyway. I don't regret my braless days, I just wish I could get away with it now.
My stomach gave up the bikini ghost years ago. Stretch marks and a c-section scar have created this appendage where once there was a flat stomach. My shirts are a little longer, I wear support stockings, in order to smooth and keep the pooch in place. I try to find pants that have a waist line that will flatter and not push the squish above the belt, or allow it to outline its full glory.
My chemistry is changing. The periods are further apart. The heat is rising. The youthful benefits of estrogen are waning. I go to bed at 8 o'clock at night and read. I have to recover from wild nights. But I still like a wild night every once and a while. My diet is more attentive to this long term investment I have made in life. My cholesterol is good. My blood pressure is low. My blood sugar is right with the world.
I could dye my hair. I could click on those silly ads in my facebook feed offering miracle creams to smooth the bags under my eyes. I could buy spanks to wear daily to sculpt the perception that I have the body of a thirty year old. Botox is out of my budget but, if I could afford it, I would not bother. I like these lines. I don't wear skinny jeans, they seem a fashion for a younger crowd. I embrace elegance. Élan is not just a four letter word for a crossword puzzle.
As a woman near the end of her forties this is a process I have finally come to accept. Those first few gray hairs appeared and I looked at them as a novelty,"Gee what do you know? That is what a gray hair looks like." Its texture seemed a little cranky to have woken up alone on a head of lustrous youthful hair. Now that it has company it seems more at ease. These lines in my face add character.
At 49 I feel more fully my "self". I know what I want. I know what I don't want. I finally understand that fortune cookie advice my mother used to bestow on me, " Put a price on your head". I have a firm grasp of what wisdom is, and I know I have a lot more to glean from this life. I look at younger woman and see their beauty wrapped up in the biological imperative to find a mate. I think of myself at their age and realize I never felt satisfied in that younger skin. I look at women in their 50's and 60's. I see their beauty in their smiles, their centeredness, in their freedom to say whatever the hell they want. I love their gray hair. I know women in the 70's, 80's and 90's seizing their life, maybe a little slower, but no less daring. They don't care about sagging boobs or if the boy will like them if they wear a certain dress. The women of that age ,who I know, are still curious and their smiles, their smiles are real and joyful.