Wrinkle creams. They were things that old ladies bought in movies when I was a kid, meant to prevent the visible signs of aging, only the ladies buying them already looked like the shirt that you forgot at the bottom of the wet-stuff bag from the beach last month: way too late for preventing anything.
But when age hits, you don’t even realize that you are doing the same things you used to laugh at other people for doing. Like Ponds Cold Cream. It was just that mysterious stuff my grandmother kept at the back of the refrigerator. The refrigerator, for Pete’s sake! I’d go to her house at night with my cousin before we went to meet up with friends in town and the whole house would smell like that old-lady cocktail: Ponds, Listerine, and moth balls.
We’d snicker because we were fifteen and we were cute and our hipbones were the most prominent things on our bodies. Our grandmother would be sitting in the flickering blue light of a Golden Girls episode, her teeth in a cup by the kitchen sink, her face glowing in the shimmer of too-bright commercials, her hair soft and not quite as curly as when she was moving around in the daylight, some sort of strange and mortal vampire daywalker.
I didn’t realize until the past few days that my grandmother didn’t have any wrinkles. Even now she has very few. I realized this about seven years after I started dying the gray that keeps sprouting stubbornly from the side part in my hair. I realized it about nine years after I realized that I could no longer wear bare midriffs and elevator sneakers without causing passersby to fall to their knees in agony. I realized it about six years after realizing that the cute pink bras with the multicolor, geometric designs weren’t made in my size.
When and where did this realization hit? In the Health and Beauty Aisle at Wal-Mart when I was looking for a new foundation that didn’t dry out my dry spots and grease up my greasy spots and sink into my pores so that I looked like one of those weird quilts that lay across the back of my grandmother’s naugahyde sofa with the little tufts of pink yarn and if you turned it over on the back, it had the little dimples where the tufts were pulled through tightly.
I did not even realize I was looking for something that would hide the signs of approaching middle age while holding the front line against deep-set , irreversible damages of time and tide that commercials consistently warn me about. Not, that is, until I saw her.
Ellen, grinning at me with her well-loved, thin-lipped grin. The lovable lesbian. She was looking so well-weathered out of a large, three dimensional circle perched atop a display of makeup. I stopped. My heart skipped a beat. That was exactly what I needed.
I needed a makeup that would make me experience the rare moments of joy, like singing Build Me Up, Buttercup to the on-hold music through the phone with my quirky best friend played by Arye Gross. And stand by me when I was stuck in a 10-foot gate trying to escape a strict spa. You just can’t buy those kind of experiences. But there was Ellen telling me that I could buy them! For only about twelve dollars I could buy the kind of strength that would help me rebuild after my bookstore caught fire ~and~ replace my best friend with my spunky cousin (played by Jeremy Piven) without a hitch. And I could do it all while looking great, dignified, and spit-fiery in a pair of khaki slacks and only the sorts of wrinkles on my face that told the world I could stand up to anything, even discrimination!
So, I bought the cream.
I still don’t have an annoying friend named Audrey who wears only pink or own a bookstore. I still haven’t been a contestant on American’s Gladiators!
What’s the point of this, you might ask?
Well, the point is that even though I’m out twelve dollars and I don’t know if it’s helping fight the visible signs of aging, and I’m out twelve bucks, I do have those moments when I look in the mirror, smile at my reflection and know that one day I, too, will sing Build Me Up, Buttercup with a spunky group of friends and all the other promises that Ellen’s virtually wrinkle-free smile offers me. It also teaches me that my grandmother’s ageless genes are my best chance of hiding my age. And I should save the twelve dollars. But what the hell, just in case, I’ll give Ellen a chance.