From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Keep Your Chin Up!

I believe that sometimes you have to look reality in the eye and deny it.

Garrison Keillor

Turning fifty was bad enough, but one day over brunch, my friend said, “Honey, have you ever considered a face-lift?” I knew I couldn’t ignore this aging thing any longer.

So I trotted to my therapist to sort out the newest chapter in my life—to talk about the skin slipping off my lower face like Jell-O sliding off a plate. Walking into her office, I noticed puffiness, redness, and bruises on her face.

“Have you been in an accident?” I asked, worried.

“Oh no!” she said. “I had a face-lift.”

Great, I thought. Here’s my role model for aging, and even she gets a face-lift. I felt betrayed.

The obsession with the sagging lower jowl ballooned. Some women obsess over thighs, hips, and behinds, but not me. It was the face, and not just the face. It was the skin around and south of my mouth. Did it sag when someone looked down? How much? Did they have those little pleats in their skin like I did?

I’d stand in front of the mirror, pull the skin taut behind my ears, and look twenty years younger. Maybe I could tape it? Then I’d rub on expensive moisturizing creams with promises of tighter, more youthful skin, but the pleats still greeted me each morning.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” my daughter said. “It’s the genes. But I’m sure glad I take after Dad’s family.”

Tuesdays became a challenge. A small local produce store advertised: Every Tuesday, all seniors fifty-five and older get a 10-percent discount. I hadn’t noticed the huge white banner with gigantic red letters until the day the cashier gave me a 10-percent discount—without asking.

How dare they! I called my eighty-two-year-old aunt in Indiana and lamented, “The cashier at the store just gave me a senior discount, and I’m not even fifty-five!” I was fifty-four, and no one was giving me a senior discount one year early. I just knew it was my sagging face.

For a few weeks, I avoided shopping at that store on Tuesdays. Then I contrived a plan: Each week, I’d secretly select the checkout cashier. Was the cashier male or female?Young or old? Would that person think I was fifty-five?

I made sure my makeup and hair looked good. I avoided turtlenecks because they emphasized the sag. I’d approach the cashier, hold my head as high as possible to keep the skin from sagging, smile, and mentally dare them to give me that dreaded discount.

For a few weeks this worked, and I’d march out of the store feeling victorious and young. No 10-percent discount on my receipt!

One Tuesday, I picked a tall, lanky kid who looked young enough to be my son. Shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. As he scanned the fresh produce, I noticed his eyes scanning my face. This is the real test. I held my head higher. Without a word, he punched that dreaded code: 10-percent discount!

“Dangity, dang, dang,” I muttered as I studied my receipt. What went wrong?

This time I didn’t race in the house, call my aunt, fall on my bed in tears, or smash my mirror. Putting my groceries away, part of a familiar Bible verse came to mind: “Though outwardly we are wasting away. . . .”

Great, I thought, it’s obvious to everyone that I’m wasting away.

“Help me, God,” I sighed, “to age graciously, even in Southern California where everyone seems to have face-lifts.”

Don’t believe for a moment that I’m not tempted to get a face-lift, and maybe I will. Until then, I practice what my mother taught me: Hold your head up high and keep your chin up.

Jeanne Pallos

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