At forty, I thought I was finished with “talks” from my mother.
By this I mean the serious talks that a woman receives at various stages throughout her upbringing. There are two categories of talks.
The first is the TRUTH ABOUT talks.
The truth about Santa Claus. The truth about men. The truth about life (a multi-part series). And the talk so big it’s literally called THE TALK….the TRUTH about how babies are made.
The second are IT’S TIME TO talks.
It’s time to start wearing a bra. It’s time to start cleaning your own room. It’s time to start shaving your legs.
And most recently, it’s time to start dyeing your hair.
IT’S TIME TO talks are always about something that is necessary but not particularly pleasant—like a routine trip to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned. It’s not a crisis, but a new duty to be added to the stack of adulthood.
This latest one caught me off guard.
Casually, luring me into a false sense of security, my mother asked me, “What’s your skincare routine?”
“Wash my face,” I said. “Sunscreen.”
“And wrinkle cream?”
Immediately, I realized I’d fallen into the trap. This wasn’t a conversation, but the prelude to an IT’S TIME TO talk.
I looked around, but there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
“Does that stuff even work?”
“You’re forty now, and your skin looks good. You need to start thinking about keeping it that way. You need retinol cream. Twice a day. And throw in an eye cream to be safe.”
I started to protest, “Is there any evidence that stuff even works? Show me a picture of the highest ranking female executive at L’Oréal. If she has wrinkles, forget it!”
This protest was ignored. IT’S TIME TO talks are always one way.
“This is what you need,” she said, showing me the various potions I would need to start preserving myself from rapidly devolving into a hag that would scare away the children on Halloween.
I bought the cream. IT’S TIME TO talks are non-negotiable.
A few weeks later, we were at my ninety-four-year-old grandmother’s house when my mother asked me how it was going with the cream.
“Um,” I said. And then I made the mistake of telling the truth. “I put it on for a few days but then I forgot about it until just now.”
“Forgot about what?” my grandma asked me.
My mother explained about my new beauty routine.
“WHAT?” my grandmother asked. She has no problem hearing, and her mind is sharp. This was an utterance in outrage.
“You haven’t been putting cream on your face?”
“No, but I’m getting started on it early,” I said.
“Early?” she sputtered. “I’ve put cream on my face everyday since I was twenty. My mother told me to and I have.”
(Editor’s Note: My Grandmother looks great for her age and always has. If there’s a poster child for the efficacy of using daily wrinkle cream, she’s it.)
“But does that stuff even work?”
“What do you mean, does it work?” she asked. “Of course it works.”
She had even less patience for my counter-arguments…she didn’t want to hear about how we would never know what she would’ve looked like without using cream all her life. And she definitely didn’t want to hear about the female executives at L’Oréal (whom I’ve still neglected to Google.)
She didn’t treat me with kid gloves like my own mother did.
“It takes one minute. There’s no reason, absolutely no reason not to do it.”
“I know, I know,” I said. “I bought it, I said I would do it, I just forget.”
“How can you forget? Once at the start of the day, once at the end. There couldn’t be anything easier.”
“I know, I know, but…”
She cut me off and got down to brass tacks.
“You look good now, and I won’t be around to see it, but if you don’t listen to me you’re going to wake up one day years from now, look in the mirror and say WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?”
Reader, I’ve used the cream everyday—twice a day!—since then.