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Monday, April 20, 2015

Embracing My Wrinkles

So I read about this woman who hasn't laughed or smiled in forty years, even at the birth of her child. Not because she's depressed. Not because they told her to wipe the smile off her face at the Catholic school she attended as a girl. No. She made a conscious decision in her youth to keep emotions from her face because they caused wrinkles, trained herself to show no reactions. And at fifty her face, the story goes, does look surprisingly young.

But, really, are we as women that worried about wrinkles?

Yes, we are. So worried the New York Times did "an in-depth report" on the subject. So worried we inject ourselves, lift our skin and slather our faces with products touted to smooth out those creases, plump up that aging, drying skin. And globally we spend a trillion dollars or so on treatments and anti-aging products even though over and over we're told the cost isn't worth it and the sales pitches are often lies.

And it's not just our faces. There's even a bra women can wear to bed that combats cleavage wrinkles in their sleep.

On the face of it, women look like dupes. But can we be blamed? While men with wrinkles still seem vital and even attractive, wrinkled women seem plain old and used-up. I remember a friend saying that after menopause women just dry up. That horrifying image stayed with me.

Is it any wonder that the sickly-sweet saying, "wrinkles should merely indicate were smiles have been," came from a man, Mark Twain?

Is it any less of a wonder that women try to diminish, eradicate and cover up our wrinkles.We may be the generation that breaks stereotypes of aging but the marketers will be able to play on women's insecurities about wrinkles for some time yet. I'm smart enough to know there really isn't much I can do to slow time but my bathroom drawer is full of creams and serums nonetheless. I buy into those exaggerated sales pitches all the time, hoping someone, this time, has found the magic elixir.

Grey hair I am learning to accept. But wrinkles. I still can't get there.

There are, of course a limited number of practical steps we can take to keep our faces smooth - stop smoking (easy for me: I never really smoked), drink lots of water (I like water) and stay out of the sun (harder: I like the feel of sun on my skin and sometimes find sunscreens irritating.)

But where my love of life trumps my vanity is at the idea I would stop laughing and smiling. Good God. What would be the point? So I say thanks to the woman who never smiled or laughed. Maybe by laughing out loud at her I'm taking my first step to acceptance.

While I learn to love me wrinkles, to see them as Mark Twain saw his I'm not above taking joy at the story that scientists have developed a chocolate that will make my skin look younger. Eating chocolate sounds just about right: if it doesn't make me look younger at least it will improve my mood. D

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