And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This past Saturday, I was out at the mall, doing Christmas shopping, when I was unwittingly captured by one of those skincare guys. You know the ones…they’re attractive, usually bearded, young, have a lovely accent. And they always call you “miss” even if you’re a million bajillion years old. I honestly have no idea how it happened. I usually cross to the other side of the mall to avoid them, but somehow, there was suddenly this hand offering me a free sample in a shiny silver packet, and the next thing I knew, I was being led into this little store with a really comfortable chair.

I realized where I was and I thought about just saying, “No, thank you!” and escaping, but that chair looked good and I’d been shopping for a while. So I decided to take a little break, then say no, and move on.

The first thing that happened was my guy, who called me “KAH-dee”, told me I have beautiful skin for my age. He didn’t ask me my age. I didn’t tell him my age. Then he told me the only flaw he saw was I was a “bit poofy” under my eyes. I started to say that was because I rarely get more than a few hours of sleep at night, but he was off and running, snatching my glasses, and smearing some creamy stuff under my right eye. Then he took a little fan and blew it at me while telling me of the miracle of this cream. “You will feel it tightening, KAH-dee,” he said. “And you will look ten, twenty years younger.”

Oh, I felt it. The skin under my eye began to feel like it was being pulled to my ear. I don’t remember feeling like that when I was forty or fifty.

He kept showing me my reflection in the mirror, which, since he had my glasses, I couldn’t see. Finally, he plopped them on my nose, and yes, I was less “poofy”. But man, it was uncomfortable.

He began rhapsodizing about how young I would look, and how he loved my style (I was wearing old jeans and a favorite sweater) and how he loved my hair (it was time for a haircut and it was sticking out in every possible direction). He mentioned how I don’t wear make-up.

I don’t. I used to. I used to have a job where I had to slather on the make-up and look like I stepped off the cover of a magazine. I hated it. I also used to have one ginormous eating disorder from working in a field where I had to look incredible and incredible meant being about twenty pounds below my recommended weight and a teeny tiny size four.

I don’t ever want to go back to those days.

He asked me when I last did something for myself. Lost in that memory, I was tempted to say when I walked out of that old job, but I didn’t.

“Twenty minutes ago,” I said. I’d gone into a store to buy something for my sister for Christmas – mission accomplished! – and walked out with a lovely little pin that looks like a lizard. For me.  “And,” I said, “I’m heading toward another store to buy myself two or three more sweaters. I cleaned out my closet last fall and got a little too generous with the give-away pile.”

“Oh,” he said. He frowned. I’d thrown him off his script. I could well imagine the number of women who sat in this chair who honestly could not think of the last time they did something for themselves. I was lucky – it was an unusual day for me. But that lizard waved at me and called itself Newt and it reminded me I needed sweaters while in the middle of shopping for others.

Then he said, “Well, you need to take care of yourself MORE, KAH-dee! Here is what I will do for you!” He stacked two of the skin care cream bowls beside me and told me they each cost $200, but for me, for ME, he would sell them both for just $200. “And I will do more, KAH-dee!” he said, and I wondered if he had a second job as a tv commercial announcer on all those made-for-tv products: “But wait! Order now and we will double your order!” He ran and got a slim tube of hand lotion. “I will throw this in too, KAH-dee!” He said the hand cream cost another $50. “So how will you take care of this?” he asked me.

I smiled. “I won’t,” I said.

The look on his face was positively stricken. “But, KAH-dee!” he said. “You will look so much younger!”

I stood up. “Look,” I said. “I’m not buying it because I’m happy with who I am. I’m proud of who I am. This is who I am, even my skin. Ten, twenty years? I don’t want to move backwards. I’m moving forwards.” I patted his face gently. To my surprise, he burst into the sweetest, most sincere smile. “Respect my age, respect me,” I said. “At least with me, you won’t make a sale by disparaging the results of my experience.”

And then I left. I bought three sweaters for myself.

The thing is, the lecture I gave him was one I had to listen to as well. I’ve been unhappy about turning sixty this coming summer. But my response to him was genuine and I felt it throughout every pore of my almost-sixty year old skin.

I’m happy with who I am. I’m proud of who I am. Respect my age, respect me.

I hope he learned something. I did.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I gotta be me…

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