EXCERPT: 'Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break'

If we women took the hours we waste worrying about our looks and used them to find a cure for cancer, in five years Lance Armstrong could stop wearing bracelets. Our looks are an obsession that starts in our teens and never quite goes away. Aging follows the same trajectory for everyone--for a while you look "great," then you look "good." Next you look "good for your age," then you're "hanging in there," and finally you're dead. No quotation marks, you're actually dead. If you find a way around that time line, bottle it and sell me some.

We're all "too" something. Too fat, thin, light, dark, tall, short, old--every adjective under the sun except young. In our culture, no one's too young. Which is great when you're twenty-five. The world revolves around your natural collagen and fast metabolism.

After you pass thirty, you notice that you aren't being catered to as much. At forty, there is a definitive shift.

Remember that scene in It's a Wonderful Life where an old guy says to Jimmy Stewart, "Youth is wasted on the young"?

It's true. (By the way, you know you're old when that line makes you laugh. I never met a teenager who thought that line was funny.)

Imagine if the twenty-year-old you possessed the wisdom of your forty-year-old self. You'd have realistic dreams and the confidence to pull them off. And what if the forty-year old you had the audacity of your twenty-year-old self? All right, I'm getting confused here, too, but my point is, I agree with that old man. The only time youth and old age cross paths is when our ninety-year-old body has a one-year-old's bladder.

I see my girlfriends and me wasting a lot of time. Whether we're sixteen or forty, we're always trying to look thirty. We have to stop that before we turn into "cool moms." You've seen those women--they can't quite accept that they've moved on to another stage in their lives. They wear their daughters' jeans, they shop at Forever 21 (for themselves), and their foreheads don't move. It's weird. Sometimes I want to lean over and whisper in their ears, "I know you're the same age as me. I know it."

You can't Botox away the look in your eye that says, Honey, I've seen it all.

And why would you want to? All the fun women have been around the block. They're the ones with stories to tell. They've made mistakes that will make your jaw drop and make you feel like you're not the only klutz in town. In fact, I don't want to sit next to you at a dinner party unless (a) your heart's been broken, or (b) you've been in jail. And if your heart was broken while you were in jail, I won't leave your side.

Can we women, as a group, agree to get old and ugly together?

Let's have crow's-feet, fl appy underarm skin, and that deep, vertical frown line between our eyebrows. We can show our daughters what they're supposed to look like when they get old. (And give our sons realistic expectations of their wives.) C'mon, I don't want to have surgery so I can keep up with y'all. I don't like scalpels.

So write yourself a permission slip to look your age. And if you're Madonna, write yourself a slip to skip Pilates today.

Sherri Shepherd: 'Permission Slips'


Sometimes we women take our girlfriends for granted. We call them when we're lonely, and drop them when we're not. We find love, fall down the "man-hole," and completely disappear . . . until we're single again. C'mon. That's no way to maintain a lifelong relationship.

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