Some days, I think I’m only one step away from ugly.

Other days, two or three steps.

Before: Early morning, post-run, pre-teeth brushing

Before: Early morning, post-run, pre-teeth brushing

After: Shower, shave, blow dry and make-up. Teeth brushed too.

After: Shower, shave, blow dry and make-up. Teeth brushed too.

See what I mean? If I drop a few of my beauty and fashion must-dos, and don’t “doll” myself up, I quickly age a few years or look like I’ve gained a few pounds. Or worse, look like a middle-aged woman with two teenagers.

Yes, I know. You’re only as old as you feel.

Bullshit.

You’re as young as you look.

Now, I’m not vain. But when I think that I look good, I feel younger and everything in the world is alright.

I mean, I already feel young in many ways.

I have the maturity of a 14 year-old boy. I giggle when I pass gas and can recite the alphabet by burping. I’m about as mature as my 47 year-old brother. (He’s 18 months older than me and is the world’s Hang Spit champion. The key is a mix of orange juice and organic whole milk.) You should see us when we get together. We drive our mother crazy.

And there’s nothing wrong with my sex drive. If anything, it’s increased as I’ve gotten older. Or maybe it’s just that my second husband is a better fit for me sexually. (Ha, ha. Get it?)

I think my body looks pretty good. When I put my mind to it, I can even feel down right hot. Not as in peri-menopausal hot flashes but as in sexy hot. Which usually requires putting on some high heels and wearing a short(ish) dress or a low-cut blouse, though not both at the same time. There’s a fine line between sexy and middle-aged hussy.

But the other day, I took a glance at myself in the mirror. I looked kind of like I do in the above “Before” picture. Sure, I had just woken up. But still, I was a little taken aback. Like who the hell is that looking at me. I don’t know if you ever saw the 1997 Seinfeld episode (see I’m dating myself here) where the woman Jerry is seeing looks pretty in one light and not so pretty in another. Almost downright frightening. I think George called her “two-face”. I felt the not-so-pretty face way.

Honestly, if I do all of the things I should do, I’m looking, if not great, than good. But lately, the list has gotten longer. And I’m struggling to keep up. From getting rid of my grays to the amount of make-up I’ve started wearing just to look “natural” to the exercise I need to do to fit in to all of my clothes and not have to start wearing mom jeans. (You will never, ever catch me in “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans”.)

For example, I used to color my hair myself, until I realized that over half of my head was gray. And I was missing patches. Now I have to go get it professionally done every four weeks. Or I look like a deranged skunk.

I get waxed every two months: eyebrow and semi-Brazilian. Did you know that you can grow gray pubic hair? Those get plucked. A year ago, I added in an upper lip wax so my mustache didn’t look my teenage son’s.

I used to just wash my face with soap before I went to bed. Now I wash with an expensive, special exfoliating cleanser, and put on eye cream and night cream except every third night when I slather my face in Retin-A. And I have to remember to put my retainers in so my teeth don’t spread.

And don’t even get me started on the makeup. My day time makeup requires Vitamin C serum (keeps my rosacea in check), tinted foundation with SPF 20 (evens out my discoloration), eyeliner, mascara, blush and lipstick. That’s all just for the natural look. (See the “After” picture above.)

But probably the most important of all? Exercise. I’m not fat. At the age of 46, I’m still in decent shape. But I did birth two children, both by C-section, and then breastfed them.

So if I fall off of the exercise path, like I did over the summer, my ass flops around and my stomach gets poochy. And my breasts sag but I wear really good bras. (Have you ever heard of those “Mommy Makeovers”? Breast lift, tummy tuck, liposuction. Some days, boy does that sound appealing.) Pretty soon I’m going to have to start lifting weights for some extra tightening.

Some times, I just don’t want to bother with all of it. It’s enough to give me a migraine. Who gives a shit what I look like? I’d still get laid. My husband would always eat it no matter what. I could be happy looking gray, wrinkled and flabby.

Couldn’t I?

Hell, no. Looking good, feeling good. And I want to feel good.

So I’ll be looking over my shoulder, making the effort, always staying one step away from ugly.

Vegas, August 2011

Vegas, August 2011