I am staring at myself in the bathroom mirror. And like every morning since my 50th birthday, I can't believe what I see.
I think to myself: No, no, no, no. This can't be right. You can't be her!
You're not the wide-eyed, freckle-faced girl who went to Three Dog Night concerts in halter tops and floppy felt hats. That's not the hair that flew wild in the breeze and bleached out every summer with a boost from a bottle of Sun In. Those aren't the eyelids that sparkled with Yardley Glimmerick from the metal paint box you kept in your locker for hourly touch-ups. You're not her. No way.
Staring back at me is a sleepy-eyed, spotty-faced woman with almost-white hair and a Magic Lift support bra. The only freak flag flying in this picture is the flesh under her arms.
And I get that feeling again. Not the Barry Manilow feeling you look high, low and everywhere you possibly can for, but that strange, nagging feeling of disconnect between what I look like and how I feel inside.
That middle-aged woman in the mirror? I can't relate. And it bums me out.
Every time a female celebrity turns 40, 50, even 60, and some magazine devotes a cover story to her (because in Hollywood, it's front page news if a woman turns 50 and people still remember her name), the birthday girl is invariably quoted saying something like, "Getting older is great. I'm more comfortable in my own skin."
This is obviously a metaphorical statement, if not a bald-face lie.
Because how can you find comfort, for instance, in that crepe-paper crease of flesh on your upper eyelids?
And why is it reassuring when jowls appear overnight and continue to sag downward, ruining whatever chin line you had left?
And what, may I ask, is comforting about turkey neck? Mashed potatoes and gravy, maybe, but turkey waddle? Give me a break.
Of course, celebrities - and now everyday women on makeover shows and in the suburbs - are apparently finding more comfort in altering or even removing their own skin. Bleach it. Peel it. Lift it. Tuck it. Suck it out. Cut it away. Ba-bye.
Doctors who used to deliver babies are now fattening their retirement funds by providing laser surgery to patients desperate to have their faces resurfaced like asphalt driveways.
And I think, wouldn't a thousand-dollar, elective surgical procedure help anyone feel more comfortable in their own skin? After the excruciatingly painful post-op period, that is?
Wouldn't I be more comfy in a tummy-tucked, chin-lifted, face-peeled, breast-augmented, cellulite-extracted, eyes-wide-opened package?
The answer eludes me.
I continue to stare at the person in the mirror, and I know she is a thousand times smarter, more interesting and, yes, comfortable than that silly, eyelid-painting, Sun In girl who could sing the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" song 12 times in a row before getting bored - the girl who was so insecure she checked the mirror 20 times a day and sucked her stomach in every time a boy walked by.
I don't want to be her again. No way.
I just want to be in her skin.