It’s three in the afternoon on Saturday. I’m on my second or third double espresso of the day, not because I need it, but because I love it. I got home this morning at six, after a night spent out and about town, went to bed and rose like black magic at noon to get going. Yesterday marked the end of a 60-hour week at a job I adore and now, I’m writing this piece. My energy levels are through the roof, but I promise you I’m not manic. This is the life and I’m still living it, even though I’m not 22 anymore. Far from it. Though I’m not quite Disco Sally, either.

I live hard. I work hard. I play hard. And I just can’t stop. Late nights, strong cocktails, out until dawn… you know how it goes.  The kind of life you told yourself had to end once you hit your mid-twenties, only I’ve never stopped. I fear if I stop, I’ll hit the wall, and when you’re going 100 MPH, you know the ending result will not be pretty.

That’s me in all my green skin glory, about a month ago. It was taken around midnight in a bar with a camera phone, that is, no bells nor whistles, no filters nor airbrushing involved. It’s definitely not the best picture of me, but I think it captures how I look on any given night (rather than, say, my TNB photo which was professionally shot for a magazine). I still get carded and challenged that my driver’s license is actually my own, granted the lighting in most bars is pretty forgiving. Don’t for a second think that I actually believe I look under 21, but I could easily lie about my age by 10 years. My mom does. Lies about my age, that is. But, I think lying is silly. On the other hand, avoiding the full reveal = awesome! It seems that when most women hit their thirties, especially if we look good, we start to conveniently not mention our age. We do have this mystique to maintain, right? Just call me ageless.

I went to a new doctor recently and when she came in the room after the nurse took my stats, she demanded, “OK, what’s your secret?!”

Secret? I started to freak out thinking she somehow knew I had lied about how many drinks I actually consume in a week on the new patient form.

“We were all just marveling over your age!” she continued. “And we don’t believe it.” Relieved, though a bit shaken, I shrugged and said what has become my throwaway answer: “good genes.” But I come from a family that is prone to just as many maladies as any other.

Look, I’m not here to rub anything in your face (except for a good face serum, maybe). There’s nothing to envy. After all, the past ten years haven’t been easy by any stretch and sometimes I’m shocked and extremely grateful that a pre-plastic surgery Joan Rivers isn’t staring back at me when I look into a mirror. Let’s see, there was the excruciating task of opening and running a business that eventually went south and made me financially and emotionally drained, not to mention the end of relationships, falling in and out of love a couple times. You know… grown-up stuff. Who really has it “easy” anyway?

Consider for a moment what I do “right” and I promise not to lecture. It’s not all that impressive: I avoid the sun (easy for night lovers), get plenty of sleep (I don’t get less than 7 hours a night, on average), eat well (vegetarian, non-processed foods, though that’s undoubtedly its own separate subject), exercise like there’s no tomorrow– while forcing myself to enjoy it (I do, really, I do. Perhaps I’m even a bit addicted. Hey, better than crystal meth right?) and I take care of myself, especially my skin, which I don’t take for granted for a second. It may be kinda green, but it’s smooth and other than a few fine lines, wrinkle-free.

Surely, you’ve heard all that before, so what else? What’s my secret? It could be that I treat myself well, because I feel I deserve it. I love to spend money on clothing, shoes, quality beauty products and services. I also love to spend money on good food, books, travel and entertainment. All of this keeps me stimulated, inspired and healthy. Could it also be that I refuse to “settle down”? More like I refuse to settle. Once you settle, then you become complacent and then you might as well die as far as I’m concerned. Call it extreme, but this philosophy works for me.

Let’s get back to the topic of work, though. It’s what keeps me in Fluevogs and good bedding (a sound sleep is crucial to a divine daily existence, so go ahead and splurge on those 700-thread count sheets and luxury mattress), not to mention, earning a paycheck allows me to be able to afford those things I can’t live without. But it’s more than that. I was raised with a really strong work ethic, which sucked at 16 when I wanted to fuck off and just go to the beach on weekends, but now I appreciate that ethic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a workaholic, if you allow for the other aforementioned good stuff. I don’t sacrifice my own happiness for work and won’t do so ever again after owning my own business and having to make constant compromises with a partner who did not share the same outlook as me. Ever since that ended, I have followed my own rules, worked many jobs, often two or three at a time, and other than a brief hiatus in employment due to a life-changing move to the Midwest, I now have the career of my dreams. I think that once you get there, you should want to devote yourself to overachievement.

I have this thing called a writing habit, too. My recently completed novel may be on the back burner, but it’s warming up quite nicely. Slow cooking means the most enjoyable eating, I’ve found. And I have some hobbies, too.

But the secret, what’s the secret to looking and feeling young? I think it’s the grand sum of these things. For example, without the exercise, I have to wonder if I could sleep as well as I do. Without eating healthily, would the drink make me a lazy lush? Without sleeping a full night, would I still have endless energy and not get sick? If I didn’t sleep, eat well and drink a few quarts of water a day would my skin look this good? Who knows? It’s a life in progress. I do take breaks from the hard living. There may be a week or two of staying in at night, too. Too much of anything can get boring. I guess I just fell into good habits somewhere along the way, to counterbalance the not so good ones. Listen, not trying these days isn’t an option anymore.

The first paragraph of this piece could have easily started differently. I could have listed all that I do “right,” and I do plenty right but wouldn’t you rather have the fact that I do plenty wrong as a frame of reference? I am not perfect. I drink. A lot. I love caffeine. I love late nights and “sleeping in.”  A lot of this I can attribute to two decades of practice. I started going out when I was underage and living in Greenwich Village. I cut my teeth on New York nightlife as soon as I could.

I do it all, all that I want to do, and I’ll stop when I’m dead. But I will try my best to look and feel fabulous all along the way.  Who knows, some day I may even achieve Zelda Kaplan status.

The living hard part? It’s not crucial, nor is it advisable for everyone, but why not gradually make a go of it? You may find yourself feeling better, having more energy and you may just want to pull an all-nighter or two.


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Joi Brozek is the author of Sleeveless (Phonylid Press), along with numerous chapbooks on independent presses. She is just about finished writing her second novel, I’ll See You Soon at Coney Island. She holds a BA from New York University and an MFA from Brooklyn College. She lived her entire life in New York City until 3 years ago. Fearing that she was too New York-centric, she decided that a change of pace was necessary and moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and soon thereafter Kansas City. She now resides in the "city of her dreams," New Orleans. She splits her loyalties between NOLA and NYC, and is a constant state of missing one or the other. Read her daily ramblings on joibrozek.blogspot.com and joi.yelp.com

10 responses to “Just Call Me Ageless”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    So… how old are you??? You don’t have to answer that! You look gorgeous!
    It’s the one thing I hate about getting older -watching my face start to look a little bit more lived in each day. I like the wisdom that comes with age but I could happily pass on the wrinkles. Having said that -I am relatively lucky with my skin, given that I have smoked for as long as I can remember and don’t enjoy a particularly healthy lifestyle. So really, I shouldn’t complain.
    I do think that 700 thread count sheets may, in fact, be the answer!

  2. Joi Brozek says:

    Thank you, Zara! I don’t mind saying my age (was wondering if anyone would ask, in fact). I’m 42. I just hope my 52 year old mother isn’t reading this 😉

  3. Kelsey says:

    Wow! I can’t believe you are 42! That is amazing. It inspires me to keep up with the skin cream, exercising, and no-meat diet!

    • Joi Brozek says:

      Thanks, Kelsey!
      And yup, I think that’s the best way to keep it up…

      • Mithu says:

        Hello, Dan!I really like the idea of uiitlzing Skype to interview someone who lived through a historical event and/or can add value to a topic of study. However, after reflecting on the post for a moment I had a vision which I must share.(Disclaimer .the following thought I am about to share is not something I wish to ever become a reality but simply a capability which is possible with the use of Skype.)With art programs being cut in many school systems, I can envision music being taught within the classroom via Skype (large TV with webcam). Children would still get the experience (though not as robust) of music fundamentals and budgets could be saved by sharing music teachers with multiple schools. The conference calling feature, available within Skype, means multiple classes can be taught simultaneously. Again the capabilities are available, though I am sure not the best resolution.

  4. dwoz says:

    You and Dorian Gray both.

    That tattoo doesn’t happen to be by Basil Hallward, is it?

  5. Peggy says:

    Why is it that once we get to our forties some how we start talking about the fact that we are getting old? Weren’t we always getting old? I think most women these days look so fantastic in their forties it’s really become a woman’s tribute to be forty something and absolutely fabulous! I am proud to forty six and looking great feeling even better and don’t really care what any one else thinks which may be first for me. Thank you for reminding me just how great age can be.

  6. Joi Brozek says:

    Thank you, Peggy and amen to all of that!!!

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