I am 59 years old and I weigh 154 pounds. Embrace Your Age And Own Your Lines. That’s how I start every lecture I give because that way the women in the audience can listen instead of trying to guess my age and weight as if trying to win a prize at a state fair.

It’s what women otherwise do: We want to know: “Is she younger than I am, or older? Are we the same size?”

I’m serious. Women I have never met before will ask for my size during the Q-and-A sessions after a panel discussion concerning, say, the future of the humanities or whether coeducation is beneficial for girls in middle school. They’ll work it into a conversation about self-esteem.

Smart, erudite, sophisticated women have asked directly, “Listen, what size are you?” And I tell them the truth, that in Armani I’m a 12 and at Dot’s Dress Barn I’m a 22W. Because every woman knows the more money you spend, the smaller size you will be. If I could spend serious cash on clothes, I could be in a Chanel and in a size 8. But I’m on a state salary.

Here’s the trouble: Women have been corralled into believing that somewhere out there is this band of Uber-Women who do everything perfectly. And no actual woman has ever fit into that image because it isn’t real. It’s a hologram. Or maybe it’s Gwyneth Paltrow; it’s hard to tell the difference.

But when we don’t fit that image, we then become convinced that there’s something wrong with us. How about if we figure out how to tailor the world to fit us, not to construct ourselves to fit the world? After all, the architecture of conventional femininity as it was designed and put into patterns wasn’t made with any real human being in mind.

For example, I refuse to spend money on so-called “anti-aging” products.

I want to age. The opposite of aging isn’t staying young; that is not an option. The opposite of aging is death. And for that, you don’t need neck cream.

Wrinkles are our autobiography. As a writer, I write lines on a page; as the co-authors of my existence, fate and nature write their lines on my face. Every line on my face is earned and at this point, for all the flaws I see every time I look in a mirror, I still wouldn’t swap it for anyone else’s. Just as I wouldn’t change my handwriting, my imagination or my memories for anyone else’s, I would not change my face to be more fashionable or more youthful-looking.

The lines on my face are, in a way, my book cover – and that’s why I am happy to have them face out there on the shelf.

I’m also cheering on my hair as it goes white. It’s not rust – it’s decorative. When I lived in England in the 1980s, I purposefully bleached sections of my hair, almost as if practicing for my look now. When students tell me, “I can’t wait for my hair to do that thing that yours does!” and I say, “There are very few things I can promise you in life, but this is one of them.”

On rare occasions, I’ve had less than subtle comments from the age-and-body police who ask, “Aren’t you going to dye it?” I reply by telling them I’m not trying to lose weight – that my plan for bathing suit season is simply to get a bigger tan – and then watch them blush as they try to explain how they weren’t talking about losing weight, but about coloring my hair.

And if you become intrigued by high-priced products promising to make you look barely post-adolescent, remember that those selling the products are looking at a commission, not at your face. I can write you a note to keep in your purse saying, “It has nothing to do with your wrinkles and everything to do with their bottom line.”

Real beauty is being able to laugh out loud and to make others laugh – not at ourselves, but at the absurdities of the lives that we’ve been told we should live.

Here’s to having all the best lines.