As I sang merrily, trying to get that winged eyeliner down, I saw something that I now couldn’t unsee. It was the very thing that scared me into working out, keeping fit, applying retinoids and making sure my vitamin A, B, C, D and E needs were met. It was the thing that made me try every fad diet, every miracle workout, every vegan/vegetarian/paleo/nutso meal plan that I could get. I knew it was going to come one day but now that it was here I realized that I didn’t think it would actually appear in my life ever. Just like tooth fairies this was to remain a well-known non-fact. Turns out, this is more like Disney movies. All the horror that I had anticipated upon seeing this unsightly sight is true. All the stories about how my life would spiral down after seeing this were going to come true any minute. At least Disney makes sure we accept morbidity and bull crap with love and fervor because they’re the lives of pretty princesses. This has nothing pretty about it. Yes, fellow women! The unthinkable, the unavoidable and certainly the intolerable has happened. I have accumulated an age line in my thirties.
Ah my thirties! Isn’t it enough that my twenties had to inevitably turn into thirties that nature pushed another tragedy on me now? It’s like someone hates me up there. Despite all my preemptive measures to defy age, here’s an age line, right where the whole world can see it and guess my age. Wrongly, I might add. Because age lines are not for people in their thirties. They belong to people in their….. well, may be nineties.
“Gosh this girl is vain! Gosh she’s entitled and Gosh is she stupid!” I know what you’re thinking and may be, if I live long enough, I’ll look at another thirty-something fighting against time and wonder why she didn’t get it.
But how could I get it? I’ve been raised to believe that I have to always look as pretty and poised as a Disney Princess. When Elsa runs from her home into the woods and turns everything into ice, her gown gets prettier. I got the subliminal message. When upset, dress brighter. Sing higher. Walk faster. Don’t let people see you sweat. Sweat is for the commoners. I’m a special girl. I don’t break. I don’t cry.
Some women recently made a big deal about how men should cry too. The “too” got me. Because given that most people identify with the presence of two genders only in this world, it implied that women already cry. But do they? Most women layer foundation over concealer to hide marks of last night’s intimate partner abuse. I certainly don’t cry. I can’t cry. Am I weak? No! I’m a strong woman with a great career. When I want to cry, I just go shoe shopping. Remember the advice that Rachel gave to Chandler when he mourned his breakup with Janice? Yes, go shoe-shopping. Numb the pain. Don’t process the pain. Let the pain hide in a crevice, unresolved, only to break through in torrential tears when an ordinary cup is broken in the kitchen. Are you crying over the china or over your bad marriage? I know it’s easier crying over china. Human beings don’t judge the china-broke-so-I’m-crying criers. They judge when women cry because there’s a lot of domestic burden without help. Efficiency and competency are prized traits of a woman. We can’t let people question them. So yeah! Cry over the smashed china some more.
How could you get it either, sister? Men have been your postulated salvation. You went from a marriage to a divorce looking for deliverance to come. It didn’t. You went from one bad breakup to another, looking for the one, but he didn’t show up. How could you get it? When all your life you doodled your name with a man you loved on the corner of a page, first in grade school then in college and then in important corporate meetings.
So yeah I’m a little upset about the age line. It has given me some cause to pause.
It has asked me to evaluate why men, beauty, youth and poise define me.
It has asked me to take my soul apart, experience by experience, and process it all.
It has made me look closer at my face and count the lines that aren’t deep enough to show yet but forming nevertheless.
It has given me a reason to see life as it’s passing me, claimed by one man after another, my shadow chasing it but can’t catch it.
It reminded me of the red roses that I got when my date asked me for a second date. It reminded me of the roses, still red, that he sent after our breakup. Those roses had the scent of infidelity on them. I told everyone we broke up cuz he was moving to another state to get his dream job and I had to stay put because I was at my dream job. Truth was, none of us was living a dream. I had caught him cheating and he had broken up with the new woman two weeks later. I feel the ache is there and I want to tell someone about it but “girls don’t cry”.
Girls don’t laugh too loud.
Girls don’t ask men out. They wait and wait, until they’ve suffered so much loneliness that any prospect would do. Then they run a higher chance of an unworthy partner. Girls don’t ask men out because then they’d be brazen.
Girls don’t sweat. Girls don’t ask for help. Girls don’t ask for answers.
Girls don’t report abuse. It’s unbecoming. They live with it and transfer the anguish to their daughters. Then their daughters live with it.
Girls don’t use sex as a weapon in marriages. They comply always. Even when they don’t want to. Even when the bare minimum isn’t met. Girls don’t say no.
My age line is another perverse story that society had told me over and over. Girls don’t get old. Girls don’t look old. Old isn’t pretty. Lines aren’t pretty. But as I look at the line that has showed itself despite all my resistance, it actually starts from the corner of my eye and ends right out of my eyelid, marking the area where usually the winged eyeliner ends. My age line around my eye has become my salvation. I sleekly apply my eyeliner, carefully following the line, and completing a perfectly winged look. My age line, it turns out, is one of the very few things in my life that hasn’t let me down.