Thursday, June 23, 2011

Instant Aging

What kid doesn’t love sloshing in water. Playing in the lawn sprinklers was a childhood addiction of mine. Even in the short and sometimes pitifully cool Seattle summers I turned brown as a chipmunk by the 4th of July. I remember the date because that’s when the Telephone Pioneers of America had their annual picnic at Lake Wilderness and I got to dive into the sawdust pile for dimes. I was always six tones darker than the sawdust.

Except for my thin, straight, brown hair, which bleached to blonde in the summer, I could have been mistaken for Mexican or Hawaiian rather than English and cowboy. My first swimming lessons were from my mother who was drop dead beautiful in a two-piece jantzen and an excellent swimmer as well. Her favorite quip was “Who’s going to look at you with me around?” An accurate observation I might add. I was about age 17. It was a wide spot in the Icicle River near Leavenworth, Wash. Brr. Nevertheless I didn’t really learn to swim until I was 18 and a Campfire Girls counselor on Vashon Island: another bizarre place to learn to swim. The water temp in Puget Sound was around 36. Sometimes I was assigned to jelly fish watch, which meant balancing on the teetering soggy floating dock and scooping up the orange colored stinging creatures in a net so they didn’t float into the shivering limbs of the innocent Bluebirds. Often I joined in with the kids’ lessons. By that fall at the University of Washington I was getting my Lifesaving and Water Safety Instructor’s certificates, and for the next ten or fifteen years I joyfully supplemented my income by teaching swimming and lifeguarding. My specialty was teaching kids and adults to swim who were afraid of the water, an activity which continued to delight me once we bought this house in which I still live (though I gave it up teaching swimming fifteen years ago when the price of gas made it impossible to keep heating the enclosed pool). These days I seldom swim anywhere, though on roasting afternoons like Tuesday when the patio temp was 96 I dangle my feet off the pool stairs and wade in until just before the icy water hits my crotch.

Crunching up my eyes comes natural to me. Until my mid forties I never owned a pair of sunglasses. No wonder I scowl. Of course sunscreen had not been invented so for too many decades I lathered my face and bod with baby oil as did the rest of my contemporaries. My face seemed no worse for wear until my fifties. Overnight it seemed deep canyons appeared around my squinty eyes and my once peachy cheeks reminded me of my driveway in need of re-asphalting. So it is that I have come to invest in facials once or twice a year for the last twenty-five years. This has helped my gravelly face a lot. Unfortunately my rescue relief estheticians keep dying, moving, or just plain disappearing. Sometimes it takes a couple of years to find a replacement.

When I discovered Amy this spring, just down the hill, I was delighted. She seemed healthy, authentic, and besides that she kayaks and rock climbs. On my first appointment I explained I was a shriveled ancient specimen, allergic to a couple of dozen common cleansing ingredients and most cosmetics, weather beaten, and just interested in maintaining what clarity was left. I thought we made a good connection.

Thus returning from sun-drenched Provence two weeks ago, I called to make a second appointment. Her return call inquired what treatment I wanted? “Waxing” perhaps? I howled as I explained I had last shaved my legs at 16, being a person with very little hair anywhere on my outside layer, although once in my thirties I had one hair on my left boob. “How lucky you are” she responded. Was she referring to my left boob or my hairless torso? I mused that I had never thought of it that way.

As she lathered up my epidermis I quipped “I suppose I’ll eventually get hair on my upper lip and my chin…most old ladies do.”

Amy continued to lather, stroke, squeeze and palpate. Suddenly she shrieked “eek”. “What is it?” I inquired with alarm. “I just found a hair on your upper lip” she exclaimed.

After which she inquired if she had permission to remove it.

I convulsed. Instant old age had come!

Since I miss wearing any lipstick or gloss, on the way out of her lovely salon I sampled one of her mineral-only lipsticks to see if it would make my lips burn and welt as most products do, even chap stick and Burt’s Bees. Three days later, lips still intact, I returned to purchase the color most suited to my sagging mahogany dotted jowls.

Guess the name: Lust! How perfect for my 81st birthday coming in two weeks. You have my permission to convulse at the effect pictured above.

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