As our forties loom on the horizon, my friends and I find ourselves texting all manner of inquiries and shocking revelations regarding our suddenly sagging skin.
“Shoot, is 37 too late to start using eye cream?”
“Have I always had these hairs on my chin? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!”
“Best face roller: rose quartz or jade?”
“Guys—check out this Bioré strip I just pulled off.”
When I jump in with my own insecurities, my friends say I’m not allowed to complain. They assume I’ll inherit the genes of my mother, a woman who, at 67, looks better than ever. I’d love to believe I’ll age just as gracefully, but I’m a believer in nurture over nature. And unlike my mom, I’ve done nothing to nurture my skin. If anything, I’m actively sabotaging it.
Mom has a skincare routine. I can barely muster the strength to care about anything. She goes to bed early, after washing her face and applying night serum. I go to bed drunk, after forgetting to brush my teeth or remove my contacts.
Mom has used Mary Kay products for as long as I can remember. (Yes, it’s a pyramid scheme. No, she doesn’t care.) After gently washing her face with a “3-in-1″ cleansing bar, she applies an SPF-laden “Age Fighting Moisturizer” using a soft patting motion.
Compare that to my morning routine: standing under a shower hot enough to boil an egg, I squirt some cheap facewash into my palms and aggressively scrub, trying to remove the eye gunk that has accumulated in my day-old mascara (and inevitably losing a dozen lashes in the process).
Next, I use a medicine dropper to extract hyaluronic acid out of a tiny amber bottle. I started this last year, even though I have no idea what hyaluronic acid is or what it’s meant to do. It’s clearly doing nothing for me, but the bottle makes me feel like a fancy scientist, so the custom remains.
Finally, I haphazardly slap on a drugstore face moisturizer labeled “heavy duty.” When the only liquids you consume are coffee and booze, you need to hydrate from the outside. You also need to pray that some of the hydration will seep into your body and give your internal organs a much-needed boost.
Mom likes to remind me to moisturize my neck; advice that I ignore because I have very fond memories of sitting on my grandmother’s lap and playing with her loose neck skin. I cannot, in good faith, deprive my future grandchildren of such an intimate experience.
Mom is decidedly better at applying makeup than I am. She is old-school, ascribing to the theory that a pink or red “rouge” should be applied to the apples of the cheeks for a natural-looking rosiness, like the flush achieved after mall walking.
I, on the other hand, ascribe to the modern theory that a dark bronzer should be applied in a sharp line below my cheekbones, with the goal of looking like an alien skeleton. Unfortunately, my face is naturally prone to looking like that of a chipmunk gathering acorns, so my finished look is that of a Kardashian who suddenly had to leave the makeup chair halfway through her appointment.
Mom has always worn bangs, so she’s never had to worry about her eyebrows. I have a box of yearbooks that prove bangs are not my friend. I also inherited my father’s brows, which means that on every birthday I inexplicably lose one hair for every year I’ve been alive. A brow pencil has become essential.
Unfortunately, filling in my eyebrows has become a game where I check my calendar and then wield my pencil accordingly. A meeting with the mansplaining coworker means angry brows are in order, daring him to mess with me. A meeting about a meeting lends itself to quizzical brows, silently expressing my confusion that these people have so much time to waste. A meeting with the young new hire calls for a slit to show I’m hip.
Mom opts for a concealer to hide any dark circles that appear under her eyes. I refuse to hide these battle scars, because they are a visual cue to others that I am too exhausted to deal with their crap. Boss is angry that I missed a deadline? One look at the bags under my eyes, and their anger turns to concern as they sheepishly ask if everything is okay.
While it’s clear I don’t have the discipline to age as gracefully as my mother has, it’s not all doom and gloom for me. I have one tool in my arsenal that she doesn’t: photo editing apps. So while she’s off living her best life in the real world, I’ll be over here tweaking my selfies until I look like a Bratz doll.