Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been deluding myself. At the tender age of 51 and with my newly found athletic talents and training, I feel better than I have in almost any other time of my life. Now that may be because I’m starting to forget parts of my life, but I try to ignore that part. When I walk into the YMCA in the early morning and find myself surrounded by people 15-20 years my elder, I feel like a spring chicken. When I plan what I want to do next with my life, I never think that I’m on the downhill slope. My doctor tells me that I’m the healthiest middle-aged woman she’s seen this year and somehow I believe her. When my daughter offers to do my makeup or fix my hair, it never occurs to me that she is on a camouflage mission. I tell myself she thinks I’m beautiful and I’m her canvas. Yes, I do admit that I may be delusional.
Then I started to receive fliers in the mailbox and spam in my e-mail inbox. I must have reached the magic decade, because now I can buy my “little slice of heaven” by investing in a cemetery plot, reduce frown lines and wrinkles “with three easy payments,” end hot flashes and “wake up to sex at 50,” along with a myriad of other depressing promises. They all seem to say: “You’re old, damn it. It’s time to reassess your assets.” I have an eerie feeling, the same one that I had while waiting for the school bus on the first day of first grade as I wondered if maybe I was an alien living in someone else’s body. (An aside, I should have written that down and turned it into a screenplay. I was way before my time.) Even though I was only six, I remember thinking, “I wonder if we are really real? What if we are aliens that only think we look human, but in reality we are some horrendous looking monster?” My theory was that our eyes and our sense of touch all gave us sensory feedback that kept up the illusion. Our mirrors and reflections were also part of the cruel joke. To this day, I don’t know why I had such existentialist thoughts at such a tender age. Probably for the same reason that this middle age woman still thinks she rivals the energy and attractiveness of a twenty (okay, I’ll settle for a late thirty) year-old. I know that time will prove me wrong, as if it hasn’t already, but the real question is: if you feel that way, is that any less true than those who simply look the part?
Just like those pesky mailers and e-mails, I’ve found that photographs are not a great defender of my illusion. I may run a race, striving for a personal best, and feel downright Olympic as I cross the finish line. Several days later, I am sent a link to my race photos and I am horrified at what they captured. I either look like I’m standing still, almost feebly crossing the finish line or they’ve captured a grimace on my face that exposes every hardship I’ve ever endured. I find myself wondering what reality is: The way I felt when I crossed the finish line or the tell-all photo that exposes an exterior view. It’s the same paradox when you think you have been perfectly charming at a cocktail party, only to find out that you had a piece of leafy green spinach lodged between your teeth all evening.
So, here is my current plan. I’m going to just accept this fountain of youth theory regardless if it is delusional or not. Someone other than me will have to decide to turn it off, be it for winter maintenance or because of a proclaimed drought. There will be plenty of time for me to accept reality along with its slices of heaven and hormonal remedies. Perhaps it will be tomorrow, or next week, or several years down the road. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy my inner alien, my mean-well monster, my new best friend.