On Aging Skin | By Sarah Ann Noel

The path to thirty-six is a tunnel of mirrors. I realized it as I leave Marco Polo messages for my friends far away, my friends still quarantined. I watch the lines of my own face move with expression, startled sometimes at how my skin looks in the sunlight, on camera. This was the year I found out that most of my peers are botoxing, and I had no idea.

As if she read my mind, my youngest asked me one night, stroking her finger along the veins of my hand, “Will my skin always be as soft as it is, or will it be rougher like yours someday too?”

So, I go to sleep considering my skin and the way it changes. It stretches, but not without alteration. I remember the year I turned thirty, how long I considered getting a tattoo; except I am not impulsive, and I could never come up with what I would want to keep with me forever, through those changes. Still, I have learned to accept and appreciate the lines that spider across the parts of my body that grew and nourished my children. I was stretched, and I am changed. Perhaps I’m being stretched now, again, and I won’t know until I find the evidence of it on my body.

I keep having dreams that I am blind. “See this?” someone will say to me, and I will insist that I can and that I love it, even though there is nothing but a smear in front of my eyes. Why can’t I see the thing I want to see? Why can everyone else see it but me?

Just now, since the end of July, I have lived with myself for thirty-six years, and still I am surprised at my own reflection, surprised at the way my skin changes. I am blind to my true likeness, sometimes seeing what I want to see, sometimes selling myself short. I pause for reflection whenever I can, and I can admit that there are times that it is vanity; and I know it is also because, after thirty-six years, I’m still trying to know and love myself as well.

I wish I accepted uncertainty, didn’t wrestle against my own blindness. I wish I wasn’t tricked by our ideas of time, our notions of esteem. I wish I knew what I couldn’t see. I wish I liked my skin. Still whatever is just out of sight, perhaps it is something precious, marinating, hiding itself away until it is ready. Then one day, from that pure part of myself, I’ll finally catch a glimpse of what I’ve been waiting for, and, recognizing it, like recognizing my own face in the mirror, I’ll know it was worth it.

The fact is, I’m trying to age gracefully, but it is harder than I thought. It is difficult to watch the slow deterioration of a body. But also, in anything else, I find aged items the most desirable—vintage clothes, furniture with a patina, a dusty bottle of wine hidden in a cellar—why don’t I feel the same of myself? Romantic as my notions of old age are, I neglected to consider, there is a path there. The path is aging. I didn’t prepare for the many years in between being old and being young. It is terrifying to see the end but not find the steps to get there, just as it is hard to look behind and know you can’t go back.

All I can do, is face myself—not a younger me or the sage woman I hope to be. So, each morning, I rise and slather my body in lotion and grapefruit oil. I say, “I’m so thankful my skin stretches. I’m so thankful it is alive. I’m so thankful it hugged the space where my baby grew. I’m so thankful it is willing to give to my laughter and tears. I’m so thankful it holds me together, even when I am uncertain.”


(Photograph by Robert Herman. Thank you so much, Sarah!)

5 thoughts on “On Aging Skin | By Sarah Ann Noel

  • Reply Emma August 8, 2020 at 7:15 am

    What a refreshing, funny read for a 51 year old like me 😉
    Mid 30’s worries about aging skin seem now so, not irrelevant but something like that (I am not a mother tongue English and don’t live in an English speaking country, so pardon my eventual tone deafness).

    But I mean everybody booing around you must be a New York thing, as I know that grooming and apparence requirements are much more pressing for you than in Paris : I can go to my corporate high level job with nearly no make up, curly hair and funny shoes with no impact (I mean with this kind of boots, she is my favorite shoe designer : https://www.patriciablanchet.com/fr/cream-dream-bottines-retros-nubuck-metallise-bronze.html)
    But kudos with you and the fear and acceptance dance !

    • Reply latonya August 8, 2020 at 8:29 am

      Hey Emma,

      Thank you for your comment! This post is by Sarah, and she isn’t in NY but I do thin maybe it may be more American than not. Especially in your mid to late 30s.

      Thank you again!


      • Reply Tara August 8, 2020 at 11:29 pm

        This article being 41 really resonates with me. You hope you live to be “older”, but you really don’t think about what that looks like in the process of becoming older.

        • Reply latonya August 9, 2020 at 1:32 pm

          Thank you Tara.


      • Reply Emma August 11, 2020 at 6:03 am

        I think so, when I read American content, I am appalled at the pressure put on women regarding grooming and appearance. That is why I understand the appeal of the Parisian girl myth. Even if the “Parisian” effortlessness is not effortless at all, but limited to a very very small subset of people.
        But let’s agree : aging skin sucks 😉 I don’t like what’s happening !

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