Thursday, April 19, 2018

Anti-aging As Learned From My Mama and My Great-Grandma Pate


I come from a long line of aging avoiders, so it is inevitable that in the middle of my fifties my anti-aging routine has hit an all-time high. Did I mention that anti-aging is a very expensive regimen? Maintenance of a youthfulish appearance is costly. (Yes, I know that I coined a new word, but youthful is never fully attainable.)  There is gray hair coverage each month, intensive moisturizers and makeups, a gym memberships, stylish clothing, vitamin and herbal supplements, and replacement hormones to pay for. I figure a third of my income goes to Denise’s youthfulish appearance maintenance.

Before you judge me as completely superficial listen to how I acquired my behavior. I learned from the best. My mother’s polished and perfect appearance always instilled a need to present my best. Some of my earliest memories are of me watching her apply her makeup. She would give me a drop of her Oil of Olay to rub on my face and let me play with one of her tiny Avon lipstick samples. Her lifelong attempts to stop her aging has worked pretty well. People have often thought we were sisters instead of mother and daughter, but I guess my best inspiration came from my great-grandmother, Ella Mae Pate. The following is an excerpt from my memoir, Leave Him?

The spring squealed a familiar sound as I flung open the screen door of Grandma Hines’ house, and doing its job, slammed the wood of the door against the frame with a loud pop. I ran past the kitchen table into the middle bedroom just as I had done at least once a week since I could walk. My eyes adjusted to the darker room to see a familiar sight, Grandma Pate was seated in her gold, velour-covered chair next to the doorway. The corners of her mouth turned up as I entered the room.
She addressed me from her throne of a chair where she spent countless hours, most of them just looking across the room in front of her, “Well hello. How are you doing today?”
I stopped to talk to her as I did every week, “Oh nothing much. Just been reading a lot of books I got at the library. I am almost finished with my twenty-five I need to complete for the summer reading program.”
She smiled at me, “That’s good!” She reached into her apron pocket and pulled out her leather change purse. She twisted the latch and got out two quarters. “I’ve been thinking that I have a job I want you to do. How’d you like to earn 50 cents?”
Opportunities for a ten-year-old daughter of a laid-off Lockheed aircraft worker to make money of her own didn’t come around often, so I immediately said “Yes,” without knowing what I was saying yes to.
Grandma Pate reached over to her side table and picked up a pair of tweezers, handed them to me, and said, “I want you to pull out the hairs on my chin and my lip. I can’t see good enough anymore to do it myself.”
My ten-year-old brow furrowed together as I contemplated the task. I thought about the big box of colors with the sharpener in the back of the box that I could save up and buy with the money. Then I thought about how it would hurt to have hairs pulled out of your face. I reached out and took the tweezers.
She proceeded to instruct me, “Just hold them between your finger and thumb, put the ends around the hair, then squeeze them tight and pull.”
I found a white hair about a half inch long on her chin and surrounded it with the tweezer points, then stopped and looked at her green eyes.
“Won’t it hurt? I don’t want to hurt you.”
She chuckled a bit and tried to explain. “Honey, when you’ve lived as long as me a little thing like pulling out a hair don’t hurt. I don’t even feel it. You are just doing me a favor.”
I steadied my hand again, squeezing the metal tweezers tight on the white hair then pulled it towards me. As the hair came loose, I watched her for a sign of pain, but her expression didn’t change.
“See, that wasn’t so bad was it? Now, do the rest and I’ll give you your money.”
I looked at her eighty-seven-year-old face. It was a pale apricot color with wrinkles that combined with her white hair to tell her age. I had never had a reason to be this close and look at her like this before. I noticed that her skin was soft as my fingers brushed up against it. As I pulled hair after hair from her chin and her upper lip, I wondered why. Why would she want these hairs gone enough to pay me to do it? I knew my mother spent countless hours fixing her hair and putting on lipstick, but she did it for my daddy, or so people would say she was pretty like they always did when we went places. But I knew that Grandma Pate didn’t have a husband and hadn’t had one for most of her life, and other than going out to eat on a Friday night and to church she didn’t see anyone. I finished the last one and put the tweezers down.
“Did you get ‘em all?”
I nodded still in thought and looked at her smile at me and say, “Well, I spect I look presentable now,” and as if she read my thoughts, “You don’t just fix up for other people. Sometimes you fix up for yourself. Here’s your pay. You did a good job. I’ll pay you to do this every couple of weeks, okay?”

I had a steady job for the next two years until she passed away. I suppose seeing her fix herself up has a lot to do with why I go to the trouble that I do to keep up my youthfulish appearance. Oh, and by the way, when I found a long white hair sprouting from the right side of my chin the other day, I picked up my tweezers and smiled.

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