I tried to warn Joe right from the beginning.
“Sure, I’m adorable now, but we Irish don’t age well,” I told him. “”You won’t be too happy with how I’m going to turn out.”
The women in his family have lovely, Italian, Mediterranean skin, and, I have come to believe, pictures of Dorian Gray in their closets. I knew I’d never be able to compete with that.
He didn’t seem to mind, or perhaps he didn’t believe me. I was 21 when we first met, but looked like I was about 12. In fact, some of his family objected to him dating someone so young. What kind of monster was he? “She’s a month younger than I am,” he insisted. They didn’t believe him. I invited them to my birthday party. They were somewhat mollified at the clear and present evidence (candles on my birthday cake, sworn testimony from my mother, a copy of my birth certificate) that I was no longer in middle school.
Still, they were skeptical, I could tell. Twenty-four years have passed since that birthday. I recently celebrated another one. There is no more skepticism. No one doubts my age anymore. My neck has let me down.
Now, it looks like this.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. This was taken at a funny angle when I was scrunching it up and creating the most “necks” possible.
It really looks like this.
(I’m the one on the right. That’s my daughter with the pretty neck on the left.)
But change is coming, I can tell. You can see it, right? The arch is starting to fall. I try to push it back up with the back of my fingers now and then, but it won’t stay. Multiple-neck syndrome will one day be a reality.
I am reminded of a famous essay by Nora Ephron, I Feed Bad About My Neck. In it, she explains, “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck.”
Of all the things that are toughest to hide, a droopy neck is the worst. At least living in New England gives me some options. I can wear turtlenecks from September to May, and I could take online classes to become a minister so that I could wear a clerical collar year round.
Or I could dress like the medieval princess that I am and let my snood cover it.
Or, I could just accept that I live on Earth and am susceptible to a powerful gravitational pull and that losing my perfect neck arch really isn’t my fault. I knew this would happen. I tried to warn Joe. He didn’t seem to care. Still doesn’t. I guess I won’t either.
As Ephron says in an essay about the death of her best friend, a droopy neck is no big deal, “Considering the Alternative.”