My kiddo got her ears pierced this year, shortly before she turned eight. While that happened, this was and is happening: my face slowly separating itself from my skull. Skin being less clingy. New creases forming. It's fine. Women older than me would say oh please, you're only 44, much like I roll my eyes at those who sweat turning 30. And they would be right. But I think all these changes will feel less monumental when I'm 54 (she naively types), because I will be more accustomed to middle age. Being somewhat new to it is sort of like being a freshmen in college: I feel dumb, younger than I should, confused. Ready to get wasted. (LOL actually not, drinking now kinda sucks for me.)
But I fluctuate between caring and not caring, between getting all up-in-arms about hyaluronic acid and accepting nature as she takes her course. Working on me like as she does a tree, whose leaves grow brittle and fall. Sigh. Brittle is the wrong word. I'm not growing brittle. Autumnal. I'm slowly growing autumnal. But I'm like early fall, when you can still take off some clothes outside and feel good about it.
My kid struggles with inserting the earring posts into the tiny holes that now perforate her lobes. Sometimes, the post won't go in, and I must intervene, using a trick I taught myself as a young person: first pierce the hole with the post from the back. It can help clear away the muck that's blocking a clean insertion. With an exasperated look on her face, my kid lets me do this to her, and after a little more effort we get the thing in. While her earlobes unflame, growing used to their new accoutrements, she ties her hair into a ponytail. Clips in a bow. She is becoming intimately acquainted with bodily intrusions. Poke, pull, tie. She is learning to endure pain for the sake of beauty. For the glory of the world cooing in her ear, "what adorable earrings you have!" before it bares its teeth and gobbles her up.
A few days ago I saw Patti Smith give a book talk (for her latest, Book of Days). As you know, I love her. She doesn't wear make-up, she's had no plastic surgery. She wears her grey hair in long loose pigtails beneath a knit-cap like a truly divine punk-rock poet witch. I admire her and want to be like her, but much of me feels like I can't have what she has. In the same way I have felt like I can't have what men seem to have: the not-giving-a-fuckness about aging.
Beyoncé sings about how Pretty Hurts while looking impossibly pretty, all the time. Does that mean she's in constant pain? I look at myself in the mirror. I can't resist using my hands like time machines-- flattening my palms, pulling the skin up and back, smoothing the delicate little thing beneath my chin (like the web between the toes of a web-toed creature)-- for a glimpse of my younger self. Remember her? Wasn't she cute? (Seriously, do men ever do this?) Then I let it all go. I spring back to sag. Can't escape the present. Actually, I don't want to. Being 25 was hot, but also highly terrible.
The thing is, what I admire about Patti Smith has less to do with her appearance, it has less to do with how comfortable she is without makeup, and more about the way she lives her life: deeply, thoughtfully, artistically, poetically, authentically, and with a great respect for death, and for those who live on in death. She lives with a great respect, I think, for her nobody-ness, even while being a great somebody. I can live that way and still wear make-up. And often not wear make-up. I want the freedom to do whichever or whatever I feel. Here, I will take a moment to enjoy wanting something I have.
When my kiddo gets fed up with putting her earrings in, she says, I'm not wearing earrings today.
Gravity will continue to carve my still-me face. And I think, profoundly, fuck it.