What 50 Really Looks Like

If 50’s the new 30, why do I have so many wrinkles?

I know there are people out there who go around proclaiming that "Fifty is the new thirty." I hate to be the one who puts the pin to the “Midlife Fantasy” balloon, but it’s hogwash. Fifty is as much thirty as Pamela Anderson is a "B" cup.

But let’s not even push the envelope all the way back two decades—fifty isn’t the new forty, either. If anything, fifty is just a new fifty. I was under the mistaken belief, myself, that fifty was something you could choose to be rather than become, and I was wrong. We can fill it, lift it, freeze it with Botox, dye it, spray tan it, and work it out while some ex-Marine orders us to "Hit the floor and give me twenty, probbie!," but it won’t make us one day younger than the date on our driver’s license.
Since I’m turning 54 this year, I’ve had some time to come to grips with the fact that fifty isn’t simply forty with really, really long credits tacked on to the end. Fifty is different, and this is why: It’s the face.
The fifty face is hard to disguise no matter how many thousands of dollars worth of hummingbird droppings you spread on it. Blame it on estrogen. The unfortunate end of hot flashes and night sweats means you enter the Death Valley years. One day, you’re blissfully ignoring the dermatologist’s warnings to wear sunblock everyday, and the next thing you know, your face looks like the surface of the moon in hi def. Suddenly, you’re hunting down collagen boosters; guzzling water intravenously; and pilfering articles on microdemabrasion and laser resurfacing from the magazines in your doctor’s office. (They’re two years old anyway; who’s going to notice?)
The longer I’m in my fifties, the more comfortable I’m becoming with "not being forty." When a man compliments me and says I look great, I don’t instantly think, "you mean for my age." I think, "hey, I’m fifty, and still have it goin’ on!" Truthfully, I think today’s fifty-year-old woman looks amazingly well-preserved. And why not? We have Products!
There’s a veritable mega-mall of anti-aging products on the shelves. Never have women had access to so much research and development devoted to creating the perfect elixir that promises prepubescent skin. All for less than $24.99 a bottle!
I swear, if unfriendly aliens ever invaded the earth, the first course of action should be to introduce them to the skin care aisle at the local discount store. This would keep them scratching their hairless heads long enough for the government to come up with a brilliant plan for blasting them back to the edge of the universe where, undoubtedly, they haven’t heard of Restylane. I mean, have you seen ET’s neck?
My own collection of facial treatments at the moment is fairly small, but that’s mainly because, up until I turned fifty, I was in denial. But reality catches up with you, darlin’. Once I saw Oprah sans make-up, I knew it was time to either hire a team of stylists (which I can’t afford), or start taking skin care seriously.
My mother, in her great wisdom and foresight, started me on the right track when she handed me with a tub of Abolene Facial Cleanser and a bottle of witch hazel for my 50th birthday.
"What’s this for?" I asked, thinking maybe she was just cleaning out the medicine cabinet of stuff she couldn’t use.
"It’s for your face," my mother said, demonstrating—in case I had forgotten what part of the body that was—by rubbing circles on her cheeks. "You can’t use soap any more; it’ll dry your skin out."
Ah, enlightenment!
I dutifully stopped washing my face and switched to the Abolene and witch hazel. I wear sunblock. Everyday. I’ve packed my medicine cabinet with Vitamin C serums, wrinkle fillers, and off-the-shelf retinoid creams. I don’t know if any of it will make a difference. I do know that all the moisturizers and anti-aging potions in the world won’t help me remember where I parked my car. Still, it’s a relief to know that while my body falls apart and my mind becomes a sieve, my face will look fantastic. Just no photos below the neck, please.

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