It’s easy to find reasons: not getting enough sleep, winters that freeze my face raw and a morning beauty routine that involves yelling: “Put your bloody uniform ON!” before running out the door; it doesn’t make for a dewy complexion.
I was always in awe of my maternal grandmother who had plump, soft skin well into her seventies, and swore by nothing more than cold water and Johnson’s baby lotion. I was hoping I might have inherited her genes, that they would somehow cancel out my lack of care, but as the wrinkles begin to appear I realise that this is not the case. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see that although Liz Dawes has stopped frowning, her face has not. The dents at the top of my nose and between my eyes make me look like someone who is permanently squinting; face scrunched up like a myopic commuter peering at the jumble of scrolling information on a station notice board.
For a while now I have pretended that this is not happening. Extra foundation and an obsessive avoidance of glass means I can spend large parts of the day pretending that passers-by might easily mistake me for a youthful 35. I’ve learned not to look in shop windows, after the shock of catching a glowering forty-something peering back at me. If happiness equals reality minus expectations, it might be best for me to avoid the reality of my reaction for just a little longer.
The trouble with all of this is that I thought I wasn’t going to be affected by such nonsense. I was going to grow old happily, disgracefully, and with a two-fingered salute to the emaciated twelve year olds that grace our catwalks. But it turns out that as the first of my laughter lines appear, I can hear myself thinking that Botox is probably not that bad…. or painful…. or expensive……
And then, just as I began dealing with this crisis, it happened. It had been a late and drunken night, and I hadn’t slept properly. It was cold and grey outside. I was so tired and dehydrated that I suppose I deserved it, but even so the shock hit me in the face so hard I actually stumbled backwards. My face! I looked again. It wasn’t the wrinkles, or the dry skin, or the pallid complexion. It was the familiarity. I have seen this face before, and it is not my face.
This is it, I thought. The moment that comes in every woman’s life, for which she is never prepared and from which she never recovers. I stared, wide-eyed, and that face stared back at me. Oh please god no. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for this: