It may take me a while, but I eventually get there. By “there,” I mean it takes me a while to connect the dots, to follow the threads that weave themselves throughout an event or a series of events. Before we go any further here, let me assure you: this post isn’t going to be deep, or at least what passes for deep for me.
No, it’ s just one of those light bulb moments that probably switched on for millions of women before me. Let me explain.
A few days ago, I saw several posts on Facebook showing a princess and her prince – Cinderella, maybe - along with two other characters, and the wardrobes and colors on the drawings were reminiscent of those worn by the party at Westminster a few weeks ago. But for me, I was immediately back on my parents’ front porch, on a warm spring or summer morning, with a coloring book, crayons and nothing but black and white pages that were just waiting for my touch.
I remember sitting there with my sisters and our friends, as we all colored in the pages then looked over each other’s work. Since I didn’t raise girls, and I’m not around them these days, I don’t even know if girls do this anymore. All I know is we had fun more than forty years ago. And here’s what I remember most: if I wanted my pictures to look really spectacular, I would outline them, then darken each detail line before adding the overall color to the entire page. Wow – I could probably be a professional artist, I thought.
So where’s the light bulb? What did this remind me of? Something about those pictures and coloring but something that wasn’t about them and wasn’t about crayons. Something from my current life. I’m getting there.
A day or two after seeing the Facebook pictures, I’m standing in front of the mirror, with no fewer than three tubes or jars of cream in front of me. Believe me, I have plenty to choose from: The eye restoration complex, the positively ageless lifting and firming eye cream, and the divine eyes ultimate youth eye treatment eye contour cream. The deep wrinkle treatment, deep wrinkle night cream, hydra firming cream, age repair lotion (note: the label advises you to consult a doctor if using this on children under six months old), skin firming moisturizer, and dramatically different moisturizing lotion. The reversing Gelee transforming lift and glycolic vital renew. (I don’t even know what that one means.) These represent products from eight different companies.
Don’t get me starting hair products.
Then we have the other extreme: tools and materials to create, not erase, lines. If you were to document the makeup in my cabinet, you’d find at least three pencils: eyebrow, eyeliner, and lip liner. A few of those get pretty regular use, although the eyeliner less so than in years past. Once I’m all moisturized and treated and lifted and restored and repaired every morning (well, almost every morning), the artistry really begins. Because some lines you want to enhance a little and others you need to restore a little.
I dutifully stroke and massage various bits into various parts of my face, and then follow up with the daily “outlining” required to stave off the signs of my life. And it hit me. Who knew? I’ve been training to follow the lines since I was about 6 years old. Every morning, and most nights, I spend a little time exfoliating, gently cleansing and/or foaming away the cares of the day from my face, then follow the lines and the various wrinkles, marks and general blahness of my 50+ skin with some of the products listed above. Except now, instead of highlighting the lines, I’m trying to erase them.
A dubious goal with almost nothing to indicate I’m making any headway.
So the question is this: does the daily ritual satisfy me because it’s an attempt; because at least I’m trying; or is it ultimately just the activity I built around my growing collection of jars and tubes and bottles? And is that collection little more than substitutes for the Crayolas I wielded with such confidence forty-six years ago? Is all of this an attempt to capture a princess moment of my own?
That’s a little depressing.
Maybe it’s really more about the fact that one day, much sooner than I'd ever expected, I find myself absolutely and indisputably in the throes of middle age. I'm surrounded by co-workers who could be my children. In fact, I'm one of the oldest people in the department. And I think: if all this is true, why don’t I know more about life? Why am I still so mystified on a daily basis? How am I getting so much of it wrong?
I admit the following: I don’t know the formula or the perfect ingredients for a blissful, idyllic marriage. I don’t know how to raise children that will never take a wrong turn. I’m often conflicted, often doubtful, often full of trepidation. Somewhere along the line, I thought confidence and certainty would come along with aging. All I got were the lines.
So maybe I can’t spend time outlining the folds of a princess dress in a coloring book and then coloring it in. I get it; I can’t quite list that as an “interest” on my resume. But I can outline my lips with a perfect shade of reddish gold and color them in. Some days, that will have to suffice as the only thing grown up thing about me.