I preface this post with some history. I used to have the kind of legs that made men (and women) stop and look. I didn’t realize this until that phase of my life was nearly over, but I did have time for a couple of years of preening.
We have family pictures this weekend for the first time in two years and I, who never have a blemish on my face (I didn’t even have acne as a teenager) have a PMS zit. Seriously. This zit led me to the skincare aisle in Target, hoping for a miracle cure.
What I found instead was the fountain of youth. Every brand has a line of products that promise to reduce wrinkles, reverse the signs of aging, even out skin tones. This type of miracle cannot be achieved in one bottle. Oh, no. There are anti=aging eye rollers. Night creams. Day creams. Primers. (I thought that was for painting walls). Cleaners for removing the creams. Moisturizers. Gels.
I felt my chest begin to tighten just looking at this array of products. Age is descending along with my face and breasts and these cures made me focus on all of the different areas that could use those cures. I felt a heightened sense of urgency in dealing with those wrinkles and spots that was a near panic.
I reached the end of the aisle, with Oil of Olay, and reason began to penetrate. This is ridiculous, I told myself. Age is not a disease that requires treatment. Age is natural.
But not in our culture. I’m beginning to see the lined faces of people as more beautiful than the smooth surfaces of youth. Why? Because those lines all have stories. They add interest. I heard someone once ask why we appreciate the beauty in the gnarls of old trees and the wrinkles of elephants, but seek to repress the same in ourselves. No one has ever used Oil of Olay Regenerist on an elephant.
Empowered by this thought, I strode from the aisle without any products in my cart. Fail, marketers. You caused momentary panic, but you did not succeed in selling me on my need for therapy for nothing more than surviving.
All of this is about faces. So let’s get back to my opening brag about my youthful legs.
As I walked out of Target with my little daughter, whose legs are growing like weeds and promising to give her a few of those preening years in another couple of decades, a young man in a white tank, dark shorts, and a ball cap with beautiful cocoa skin and one of those little trimmed beards that are not quite a goatee but not a full beard, walked passed us to his car and said hello, with what I interpreted as an appreciate glance, as he did so.
Hmm, I thought. I guess I don’t need those products. I was feeling like quite the cougar as I leaned into my car to buckle my daughter into her car seat.
That’s when I noticed the paint stripe that went from one leg to another just above my knee. I had spent the last two days painting my aunt’s hallway and had rushed to town after putting on the final coat so I could drop off our youngest son at a birthday party. I stared at that paint stripe and began to laugh. Vanity and humility. They’re old friends of mine and I’d just been served a helping of each. While I was thinking that young man was appreciating my aging legs, complete with varicose vein and age spots, when he was most likely wondering how I came to be walking through Target with paint on my legs, deserved a hearty laugh that brought me back to reality.
I may not catch the eye of young men anymore, but the stories these legs could tell…..