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What's My Sell-By Date

Felice Shapiro
Felice Shapiro

Felice Shapiro is a writer, entrepreneur, and publisher as well as the founder of Better After 50, a weekly online magazine. In addition to being a teacher and avid runner, hiker, and yogi, she is an AARP contributor.

I was running this morning with my girls, and I laughed so hard I almost tripped over my shoelaces. We're training for the New York Half Marathon. We were talking about our "upkeep."

"OMG," my friend said. "I was at Laura Mercier and pulled out all my lipsticks to show the 'aesthetician.' She pointed to my 'off-Peony pink' color lipstick and scolded me, 'We discontinued that one seven years ago -it's past its expiration date -throw it out or put it in the Smithsonian.'"

How are you supposed to know when your cosmetics are expired, and how can a lipstick expire if there's still more stuff in the tube?  What's the rule?

Last month I was ready to give up mascara because my eyes were burning when I used it.  Expired perhaps?  I tried to remember how old it was -but who knew, so I threw all four tubes out and went mascara shopping. I wanted plump, longer, darker, curled and of course natural so there would be no trace of a smudge. Wasn't there a product for that?  You bet -I bought a $50 product -one without a brush so no pulling on those fragile hairs plus it would peel off in little tubelettes. Brilliant -I was down with that.

Later that night, horrified, I was sure I'd peeled all the lashes off my lids. At least it felt like that. As I looked at the chunks of black on my cheeks I rolled the tubelettes between my fingers feeling for a stray. (It was late and I didn't have my magnifiers on.) I squinted at my reflection; certain I would see bald lids. How could I have taken this foreign substance to my eyes, without reading about the risks? Did I accelerate my eyelashes' expiration date? I heard once you've lost them they never grow back?  I was so focused on the promises of sumptuous Cleopatra lashes I'd ignored the fine print -luckily when I put on my glasses all was intact.

Expiration dates are important, they really are. But they're not always clearly marked unlike the milk in my refrigerator. For instance, our bodies don't come with rulebooks and oftentimes we push ourselves past our limits. But how are we to know?

For the first time it has become clear to me that my long-distance running could have an expiration date.

I've always known my running shoes have an unmarked expiration date.  I trash them whenever I feel knee and foot pain. I pull out my credit card and shop my way back to health. Recently this changed.

Last month despite new shoes, my foot pain worsened. Googling my symptom, I landed on a diagnosis-plantar fasciitis. The only positive take-away -it makes for a great Scrabble word. Searching for a cure, I "Amazoned" a pair of "Strassbourg Socks" to sleep in for $80. Didn't do much for my feet or my sex life.  I slept in the knee-highs with a strap of Velcro curling my toes up. Two nights of medieval bondage gave my arch a lift and eased the pain but it didn't take long for the problem to return.

But, it turned out relief was just one text away. My dear friend who embraces alternative medicine suggested her acupuncturist.  Bondage was out and needles were in.  It occurred to me that I might be living in the wrong century.

Read the results of Felice's acupuncture visit and her view on expiration dates at Better After 50!

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