Sunday, September 02, 2007

Vanity

Lately, when talking with women of a certain age, I have fallen into a peculiar habit. While nodding, smiling and generally being pleasant in the midst of conversation, I inevitably gaze at their foreheads. Furtive looks, periodically spaced between the appropriate "mmmhmmm" 's and "you're kidding!" 's, quickly scrutinize the three inch space from their hairline to their brows.

When I watch TV, instead of looking into the character's eyes, I am watching their expressions looking for the telltale sign--the forehead line; the horizontal markers of age seen on the faces of expressive people. I notice even the slightest impression beneath the layers of thick make-up. "Aha!" I shout inwardly. "They have it!"

It makes me feel better about myself.

It's a surprising thing to make it all the way to your thirties before realizing there is a sense of vanity buried in there somewhere. I have always enjoyed being able to dress nicely when possible. I enjoy wearing makeup and having my hair done, but those things have never been a hindrance to my plans. Unlike one of my college roommates, I would actually go out without makeup if I needed too. I would go to the store in paint splattered clothes to get that extra paintbrush I forgot. I was flexible. My vanity was a take-it or leave-it sort of thing, like the second movie in a double feature. If I have time, sure I'll stay. If I'm tired, who cares?

Maybe it's the lack of control over that deepening line. If you're overweight, you can lose it. If you go gray, you can dye it. Ah... but there is no cure for the wrinkle. Well, there is, but it involves shooting botulism into your tissue or having some overpaid doctor from Beverly Hills slice into your skin and peel your face like a banana before stapling it back into place. Um...no thanks.

It's not only the existence of the line that has spurred my forensic forehead curiosity, but the desire to know how old I look to other people, and how "normal" I am. Is everyone my age getting the lines? How many do they have? How deep are they? When I am forty, is someone going to tell me, "No way....you barely look like you're thirty!", or are they secretly going to wonder if I am five years older and lying about my age.

It's stupid, I know. And yet, if I meet you somewhere and I seem lost in the conversation, like I might have slipped into a daydream for a moment, you'll probably notice me staring at your forehead, mapping out the terrain on your noggin and guessing if you are the same age as me.

I can't help it people. During one late-night period of insomnia, I almost fell victim to Susan Lucci's seductive claim that her special microdermabrasion wand could make me look youthful and rejuvenated forever. $39.95 is a small price to pay for eternal youth, isn't it? I have never bought anything from TV before, and I was seriously contemplating making that call so I could sandpaper that line and a half off of my forehead.

Really.

I was going to buy a device from a soap opera star.

Maybe it's not the external aging I need to worry about, but the apparent age and deterioration of my brain cells causing me to look for meaning in a forehead's imprint, like some quack phrenologist.

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