In your thirties, you start needing a lot of cream.
First comes the face creams: the expensive moisturizer (the kind you beg TSA to let you keep but they throw it away right in front of you), the sun screen, then the BB cream. Eventually, you’ll add to that list the night cream (got to get those retinoids) and eye cream. Six times a week you smear your own daily face wash on in the shower to cleanse away the day’s toxins. On the seventh day, you’ll break out the apricot scrub to exfoliate and hide it behind your sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner afterward, because if someone sees it they’ll judge you for how awful you are to the sewer system. When you’re done, you spot treat with acne cream along your chin because it’s a week before your cycle starts and you’ve got hormonal volcanoes threatening to erupt before the weekend.
After the face creams come the, ahem, “intimate” creams: personal lubricants (whether you think you need them or not), progesterone cream (not yet, but my gynecologist recommended it), and something called “feminine moisturizer,” which I had to research. It came as a free gift with a menstrual cup I ordered but it lacked in description. Simply put, it’s moisturizer for your outer labia and the skin around your vulva — not for your vagina. To get this information, I had to go to my mom. Even at my age, this was not an easy conversation (though, to her credit, she handled it very well).
Of all these creams, there was one nobody prepares you for: ass cream.
Jesus H. Why did no one warn me about the ass cream…
In my twenties, I was both deft and clumsy. I don’t need to exercise! I declared. I’m going to look slim and bodacious forever! I also don’t need to take care of my skin! I don’t go outside! Who needs a skin care routine? And hemorrhoids? Bah! Those are for fat people! Not for me! What a smug little cunt I was! So judgmental and ignorant! First of all, exercise is good and healthy for you regardless of your body type and it has nothing to do with your appearance. Second, your skin is not only your largest organ but your most visible — if you don’t take care of it it will disintegrate like a pillar of salt. And hemorrhoids happen to everybody — large, small, active, passive, you will get them. It is only a matter of time.
It is only a matter of time…she warned, limping off and clutching her left ass cheek.
I’m not going to reflect on how much of a long strange road it’s been this year. At this point, it’s now a cliche and I’m not ready to either divulge or analyze that trauma. The time will come when all authors will explore the 2020 pandemic as a fictional allegory for their own struggles, but for now I’m letting the eighth graders tackle it for their fall English reports.
Instead, I’ll just remark about how I don’t feel like I’m physically getting older. I’ve been exercising daily. I’ve lost a LOT of weight (that’s another personal essay for another day) and I’m now in the best shape of my life. I’m staying on top of my mental and neurological well-being. However, my doctors try to scare me with phrases like, “OH GOD YOUR POST THIRTY-FIVE SO BUCKLE UP FOR THE SWEET RELEASE OF DEATH SOON!” Every time I go, I get peppered with offers of mammograms (I’m still too young), invasive sexual health questions (the plumbing is fine and everything still, uh, flushes, thankyouveddymuch), and lately, heart health (I’m a nervous talker and fast walker). I don’t know how many times I have to convince my doctor that I don’t have tachycardia and I’m just anxious to be indoors during a pandemic. Doctors need to change their approach. There’s no invisible line crossed at age 35 that means people are now at death’s door. All bodies are different. Some age quicker, some age slower. Mine’s taking the scenic route to the grave right now.
Mentally, I’m starting to feel a bit up there in years. Millennials are turning 40 this year, but I’ve noticed the generation divide between myself and the Zoomers for a while now. It’s more than just side parts and middle parts. It goes beyond Vine vs. TikTok. It’s even bigger than hearing Soundgarden and Pearl Jam on Classic Rock stations. I think it began when I read an article about a woman around my age — a YouTube influencer — picking a fight with a teenage YouTube influencer and I shriveled with embarrassment for her. My initial thought was Oh my god, woman, get your shit together — that is a fucking child and you are a grown-up. What are you doing? And it dawned on me: teenagers are babies to me. As in, I couldn’t fathom getting into a fight — an internet fight or a real life fight — with a baby. I’d sooner kick a kitten or punch a puppy.
Another strange sign of feeling my age: I explained my recollection of the Waco siege to a younger person. When they said, “Wow, you know a lot about this. Did you study it in college?” I withered a little bit in my back and said, “Um, no — I was actually alive when it happened.” Yes, being able to say I was alive when several major historical events happened is a way to tell I’m aging (Columbine and 9/11 happened when I was in high school; I can recount where I was when I saw the news of both). Now, I’m meeting kids — aforementioned babies — who live in a world post 9/11 who didn’t experience 9/11 and it blows my fucking mind.
Here we go.