If you're not whitening, you're yellowing.
That is the tagline of a Crest 3D White Whitestrips ad campaign, which has haunted me from the very first minute I heard it.
If you're not whitening, you're yellowing! Like a brittle, old piece of newspaper declaring the end to World War II. Or the jaundiced furniture of a longtime smoker. Or pristine, glistening snow that gets sullied by the urgency of a dog.
If you're not whitening, you're yellowing. It is a most apt summary of the post-modern woman's fear of inaction against what is ultimately the inevitability of deterioration.
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If you're not slimming, you're fattening. If you're not moisturizing, you're drying. If you're not Botoxing, you're wrinkling. If you're not dyeing, you're graying.
If you're not younging ... you're olding.
And this is where the panic sets in.
Aging, as the comedienne Joan Rivers has observed, is the only mountain we cannot overcome. But that certainly doesn't stop us from buying all the gear.
Indeed, Rivers has had her carabiners upgraded many times over the years and is still trying very hard to summit the Everest of time and combat the accompanying dismissal of aging like a normal person.
Even the most logical and realistic among us can get caught up in the promises of the anti-decaying industry because, really, none of us wants to end up in the cut-out bin at Kroger with the words "Manager's Special" emblazoned across our pitiful Methuselahean faces.
Not that I speak from experience. I mean, I only do a few things to stay in the game. Nothing too crazy ...
Every morning -- after I use Clog Dissolving Cleansing Milk to wash away the remnants of a wild night of prescription-strength retinol and a Crisco-thick face cream that is quite seriously called The Youth as We Know It -- I dab something that smells like the breath of a lactose intolerant child onto the delicate skin under my eyes.
I do this using my ring finger -- because it is my weakest philange and therefore won't further harm what is reported to be an easily damaged part of the face. When this risky operation is complete, I carefully cover the remaining skin of my face and neck with a thin layer of Perricone MD Cold Plasma. It, too, does not smell spectacular, but it is a "cosmeceutical" and "offers optimal nutrition via a patented phospholipid delivery system that releases actives directly into skin cells."
(Did you hear the one about the woman who passed up phospholipid delivery systems? She died alone. Well, not alone. There were cats there.)
Once this expensive plaster has set, I generously frost my face in a 30 SPF oil-free moisturizer -- because the sun is the devil himself and oil leads to lectures from my 20-something-year-old esthetician who would prefer not to spend all the livelong day extracting age from my face.
Then I paint over everything with a mineral-based foundation -- purchased from a woman who said, and I quote, "I don't know how to make you less red" to which I cried out "As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me! If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill ..."
Oh, it's not over.
At night I take biotin for healthy hair and nails. I cover myself in Orange White Pepper Body Butter. I use toners and serums and triple-oxygenated masks. I exfoliate (gently!) and moisturize and walk on eggshells around my bedraggled face lest I anger it with the wrong toweling technique.
Then I lie in my bed and ponder the state of my forehead.
My aunt used to scold me for scrunching it up. "You're going to get wrinkles," she'd singsong to me like the possessed child in a horror film.
Well, they're here. Sorry, they're heeeeee-eeeere. I have them. They're mine. No amount of lotion will ever get rid of them. And while I might dream of fillers and Botox, sometimes enough is simply enough.
Because this is my yellowing.
And it is inevitable.
Liz Farrell is the editor of Lowcountry Current. Follow her at twitter.com/elizfarrell.