Fellow Women of a Certain Age: Be Ye Not So Stupid
I used to hate the phrase “women of a certain age.” I love words, and what I love most about language is when it gives you the ability to impart precision and nuance with a turn of phrase. “Women of a certain age” always seemed fuzzy and vague. It is the age designator equivalent of “No offense, but….” (i.e., when someone starts a sentence with “no offense,” you know they’re about to be offensive. When someone says “women of a certain age” it often seems they’re pretending to be delicate and non-judgmental, while the phrase itself is so self-embarrassed the message is that the women included in this group should be ashamed for not being younger.) As I’ve aged, however, I’ve found myself actually using this phrase—complete with eyerolls, you understand—because I’ve come to see it as conveying a certain weary resignation when used by a woman included in its reach. It gives a certain “can you even believe this nonsense?” air when used properly. It’s not about being delicate, it’s more about the arched eyebrow of incredulity one must maintain to continue laughing rather than crying.
All of this is prelude to say: Fellow women of a certain age, I have made a terrible mistake. I am sharing so that you may, perhaps, sidestep a similar fate.
It was an innocent moment. Thanks to the recent hurricane (Irma) and several days without power, we’d thrown away nearly everything in our fridge, freezer, and garage deep-freeze. This necessitated a re-stocking trip to Costco, which is very much An Event because our closest one is an hour away. (I know people who do regular grocery shopping at Costco, but for us, we only go a few times each year, armed with a list and a couple of coolers to make it back home.) We always enter Costco determined to buy things like ten pounds of flash-frozen chicken, a double-pack of crunchy peanut butter in giant jars, a gallon of coconut oil, and enough cereal bars to keep the college kids in snacks for a few months. We also always leave Costco with the items on our list plus multiple other “oooooh, that’s a good price!” purchases. We accept this as part of the Costco Experience. Usually it brings me nothing but joy. (Why, yes, I did buy a giant bag of kettle corn on this trip, and my husband is still teasing me about having opened it on the way home.)
Anyway! The most dangerous part of the Costco run is always the first 100 feet or so when you first walk through the door, flash your unflattering member ID photo at the employee there, and try to head over to the stuff you know you need. That entry corridor is lined on the left side with the biggest, newest televisions (fun to look at, but never a real temptation for us) and on the right, a mish-mash of giant towers of whatever’s part of the current month’s specials. The right side is my Achilles heel, because I am all about the deals.
We walked in last Saturday, and I scanned the items to our right, and then I turned to my husband and said, “Don’t laugh.” He waited patiently for me to continue. “They have those magnifying mirrors with LED lights on sale. I’ve been looking for one, and that’s a really good price. Are you going to laugh at me if I get one?” He promised he would not laugh. That was the first item into our cart, and I had no idea at that moment that I had just completely ruined my life for just $15.
Look; I had a total hysterectomy in my early 30s, and that means, by definition, that I was in menopause from that moment forward. What no one ever told me is that—somehow—even a body without ovaries, on hormone supplementation, seems to go through A Change when you reach “appropriate” menopause age. For ten-plus blissful years I had no idea that I would enter my 40s and then, over the next few years, begin growing a beard. And if you’re not my age you think I’m exaggerating, but if you are my age you’re likely nodding along. And I don’t know how this happens for other people, but for me it was a progression something like this:
1) Find a rogue black hair on my chin one day. Yank it out.
2) Discover rogue hair is back. Yank it again.
3) Rogue hair has returned with friends. Pluck them all.
4) Get into the habit of inspecting chin each night while brushing teeth and remove a few hairs each time.
5) Go stay in a hotel for some reason that has a lighted magnifying mirror and die one thousand horrified deaths to discover all the missed chin hairs. Engage in a marathon plucking session and reason that this mirror is somehow making it look worse than it really is.
So I saw this deal on the Magic Mirror and thought I could finally deal with my Menopause Goatee in the comfort of my own home.
Welp. The good news is that the mirror works just as it’s supposed to. The ring of LEDs does a good job of illuminating and the magnification is stellar. That’s why I bought it, right?
The bad news is that I am a horrible monster, covered in hair and imperfections and wrinkles and despair. And just like some sort of horror novel, I have come to both loathe this stupid mirror and be drawn to it every single time I walk anywhere near it.
The first time I flipped the light on and beheld my face in close-up, I was steeled for revelations the regular mirror hadn’t revealed. I knew it was going to be bad. I did not know how bad it would be, though. In addition to giving me a better view of the hairs I’d been able to see but had fumbled to grasp with my tweezers, an entire new crop of black protrusions came into focus against my pale skin in a way that made me wonder how I’d ever dared to leave the house. How could I have been so blind? And where had all this hair come from?? I spent a miserable, sweaty hour (it seemed like an hour; maybe it was less) extracting hair after hair from my chin and upper lip. Once the obvious culprits were vanquished, I turned this way and that, finding sneakier hairs hiding on the underside of my chin and jaw—thanks to the mirror, each one was not only brightly illuminated, but appeared to be at least three inches long with the same girth as embroidery thread. When I finally tilted the mirror to behold my eyebrows, I slammed the button to turn the light off before I burst into tears.
I ran out of the bathroom and into into the family room, where my husband was reading a book and unaware of the torture I’d been putting myself through. “Tell me you can’t see this stuff without that horrible mirror!” I demanded, to his bewilderment. “I turned that mirror on and plucked and plucked and plucked and you tell me no one could see all that!” He agreed that it was not visible to the naked eye, gently pointing out that that’s why it’s a magnifying mirror, so that you can see what the naked eye cannot. Nevertheless, the damage was done.
On the one hand, I never felt old and/or ugly before I acquired this infernal mirror. On the other hand, one cannot simply unsee what I’ve seen. Now that I know what’s there, I must deal with it. I turn on the light at least once a day, always finding something to pluck, always mystified that I just went through this a day ago and yet here are more hairs and where do they all come from??
Learn from my mistake, ladies. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for you. When you see a deal on a lighted magnifying mirror, keep walking. Trust me on this one.