The most intimate relationship a woman shares is with her age - a certain number which secretly increases with every birthday cake, but is never to exceed 25 or go below 18 (give or take a few days). It is extremely bad manners to ask a woman her age, and not just an older one, mind you! It is even worse to tell a single friend she is the same age as you - that girlfriend of hers who just became a mother of 3. (Who are you calling old? Talk about yourself, I'm still young. But yes, you do look old though! Haven't you tried Olay and it's 200 siblings?)
No matter how subjective the idea of "Age" or "Old" may be, there is always a number attached to it. And alas and alack, it never seems to count backwards. No matter how infantile the mind and flawless the soul, the body clock goes tick-tock-tick-tock - sans permission, sans No Objection Certificates, sans attested approval from notaries. It's a bad bad world, isn't it? While the ticking gets louder, as does cribbing and cringing, the helplessness strengthens with every older heart beat. And ka-boom, we hit a specific number which maybe begins with a 3. That's when we wake up fully, to the possibility of keeping the ticking from showing on our faces and bodies, at least. (Phew! Breathe in, breathe out, give a loud shout, head bang a little and say 'Wanna look 18 till I die' and get yourself an appointment!)
There's enough to make you look younger. Even more to make you feel as much. Nothing wrong with it if it makes you feel better, unless you choose to discard growing up with growing old, that is. Defying age is a full-time preoccupation for some men and women - from colouring, concealing, "cushioning", creaming to wonder drugs, wonder diets, wonder bras and wonderful wonderful botox. A pinch here, a nip there, a tuck here, a prick there, a few uplifts here and there and eureka ... the 8th Wonders! (Look! The others look even older. Wow! I must call up Dr. Who's-Who and thank him again. Um, am I smiling wide enough? Sorry, can't feel my face so had to ask!)
And then there are some others like me, sitting on their haunches at the other older end of the rainbow. So happy with her 3 strands of grey, and waiting for the others to sprout. Happy with those crows feet coming around the eyes with every passing smile. Very happy with stretch marks, moles, lines and spots the adverts call dark - sign of age and signs of stage. The skin colour I was born with, the hair colour I've always had. The face in the mirror I proudly call mine - 30 years and 2 months old, to be exact!
I do wonder to myself though, when I look at my friends getting visibly and apparently feeling very visibly younger. We fantastic feminist women talk of inhibitory glass ceilings all the time - how to reach, how to break, how to breach, the limitations set by others. Is it possible that at a personal level we are also creating those ceilings for ourselves - for another's gaze or maybe just to follow the craze? Is it possible we are living in those tiny glass vials full of age-defying stage-defying miracles, and forgetting to live altogether, or to smile?
You want to know what ageless beauty means?
Or the meaning of "ageing gracefully"?
Turn that gaze away from your mirror.
Go look at your grandmother, or maybe just her picture.
That is what Timelessness looks like,
The wrinkles, the patches, the whites and the wisdom in the lines.