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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I just had my birthday. My forty-second birthday. And forty-two is a bad, bad age. Nobody ever says, "Give her a break, she's only forty-two" or "What do you expect, she's only forty-two." or "Well, you know she only just turned forty-two." You are not old enough to be cute. You are too old to be cute. You are in some kind of hazy menopausal hinterland where you still care what your hair and your butt and your lingerie looks like, but nobody else does. You are too young to be abandoned on an iceberg and too old to be considered cool by anybody but your own sad self. That's what I think of forty-two -- blech phooey!

But this year I did not celebrate my birthday as I have in the past few years. Because it's pathetic. Believe me. The last several birthdays I have gone out and spent way too much money on a bunch of optimistically named skin care products which I then use for exactly seven days. To no apparent effect. Evidently, you have to use them consistently starting at the age of twelve. Ha! The only thing I do consistently is smoke (I know! But that's a whole other story!).

The thing is, I got off to a bad start, although I didn't know it then. I grew up in a smallish town in southern New Mexico. During the summer there were three main things for teenagers to do -- no, four things. No, there were five main things for teenagers to do, but one of them was illegal and one of them was immoral. So there were three things to do. One, and a very popular one, was to cruise the Sonic. Yes, we had one, and we knew what to do with it. The second was to go out into the desert and shoot at jackrabbits and rusty Coors cans. This we did with some regularity. Sometimes this also involved Thing Four and Thing Five. But we were young then.

The third thing was to tan. At the pool, at home, wherever. We were hundreds of miles from an ocean, but we had all the beach anybody could ever want. And I was a Tanning Diva. I LOVED it! I had such a great tan that when I quit tanning in favor of more grown up pursuits my tan lines lasted for three whole years. I may not have been valedictorian, a National Merit Finalist or Most Likely To Do Much of Anything Special, but I was toasty!

So now I am forty-two. Did I mention that? And I look approximately like Pa Kettle. I look like somebody crumpled me all up, forgot me in their pocket, ran me through the washing machine and then tried to smooth me back out. Like the Ancient Mariner in drag. And this despite my intensive one week out of fifty-two skin regimen. Guess the smoking doesn't help.

It's the luck of the draw for me: carcinoma, sarcoma, melanoma, large cell, small cell (no, I didn't forget heart disease, thank you for asking). But I don't want to think about that. I just want to look better. Is that so wrong? I don't want people to always be asking me what's wrong or telling me I look tired. I'm not tired, just fissured. I don't ever, ever want to be at a cosmetics counter and have some stranger in a smock say to me, "Do you mind if I ask what you use on your skin, because you have a million little wrinkles?" Oooooh yeah. It happened.

I'm well aware that "pretty is as pretty does" and "beauty is only skin deep." But wait! Apparently that is not so. It's not just your skin, it's your collagen too! There may be some hope! Forget the Botox (which is just scary -- you want to inject me with what?). Forget the scalpels and lasers and weird mummy masks. Now there's Thermage! They just gently beam magical radio waves through your skin and right into your collagen which responds by plumping right up to pre marriage and mortgage and full time employment proportions. Zowie! It's supposed to last from twelve to eighteen months, and all this with (purportedly) no recovery time. Hmm. I checked it out on the Internet and read some reports of redness, swelling and pain. But I think we have established that I have some pretty old fashioned and unsavory habits. Mrs. "Doncha want some butter on that?" of 1962. What's a little redness, swelling and pain?

I'm not jumping into anything -- jumping is probably beyond me at this point. I need to do some serious research first, as anyone should before undergoing any procedure. Besides, I gave all my money to the lady at the cosmetics counter.

Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
October 6, 2004
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