Have you seen any of those miracle wrinkle cream demonstrations floating around the internet lately? They typically feature an older woman with massive bags under her eyes, and some technician applies a cream while the internet audience sits in anxious anticipation of said bags disappearing. And sure enough, in a minute or two, the bags have disappeared! It’s amazing!
Have you ever looked at the person with the bags under her eyes? I have. And she doesn’t look happy. She looks embarrassed, and ashamed. What exactly did the wrinkle-cream people tell her? “Hi there! We’re looking for someone with the biggest eye bags and craziest wrinkles we’ve ever seen, and you look like our girl! Can you please sit in this chair for a few minutes while we show you how amazing you would look if you were younger? Pretty please? Sit right here. It won’t hurt and it will be over soon and only about 100,000 people will see this.”
Maybe she’s thrilled with the results, and I’m misinterpreting. Maybe the whole demonstration was her idea. Maybe she has been looking for a fountain of youth for years and now she has found it.
Or maybe the entire thing is a bit shameful and unnecessary.
Why do we care so much about erasing the signs of aging? Who are we trying to impress? I don’t think I have to impress my friends, because I have genuine people in my life that are real outside and inside, so I don’t think they care if I have a few wrinkles. My family? They know exactly how old I am. Strangers? I don’t even know them, so what’s the point? My husband? Let’s be honest, he likes me best naked and/or with a smile on my face. He couldn’t care less about my wrinkles.
The age business is finicky, anyhow. When I was a 28-year-old Marketing Director, I can’t even tell you how many people commented that I was so young to be in that position. “You look way too young!” I’d hear, time after time. I’d try to dress more maturely so I’d be more respected. Now, at 38, I’m expected to do just the opposite. I’m supposed to look 28 again, but still be 38. Where’s the sense in that?
Flipping channels last night, I came across the Democratic debate and was struck by the image of Bernie Sanders standing next to Hillary Clinton. Bernie is 74 and Hillary is 68. They are not spring chickens. They are experienced, mature, educated individuals running for President of the United States. Yet, only one of them was primped and primed and fluffed as if in running for a beauty pageant. The other one was allowed to let his (extremely white) hair down and embrace his age without question. It’s not fair, but more importantly, it’s not what we should aspire to.
I’m not anti-looking good. Believe me, there are more than a few vain bones in my body. I wear make-up every day, I color-up my grays on a somewhat regular basis, I wear standard-issue moisturizer and I believe strongly in the benefits of a healthy diet, exercise and as much sleep as I can possibly get. I do these things to present my best self to the world, as I’m sure is one of the reasons people get Botox. I think my outward appearance is a reflection of my inner being, and I’m proud of who I am, so I want to wear clothes and style my hair in a way that reveals the person that I am inside. It’s like advertising myself, and as a trained advertising/marketing professional, I understand the importance of that. I’m on board with looking good. I just don’t think we need to kill ourselves in an attempt to erase the signs of aging. I embrace healthy and vitality. I reject vainly trying to delete the evidence of our lives to look good for a selfie.
Each of my wrinkles tells a story of my life. This one, here, on my forehead, is from peering out of a perfectly good airplane before my brothers and I jumped out of it. There’s one by my left eye that grew when I peed on a stick and it turned blue. I have wrinkles from sleepless nights before our charity golf tournaments at work and from laughing so hard that coffee spit out of my nose. I’ve earned these bad boys.
There are times that I look back at my life nostalgically and wish that I could do certain things over again. I’d love to fall in love with my husband again. That was pretty amazing. I’d sure like a few weeks at my alma mater with my college roommate, eating Hungry Howie’s pizza and crying over our latest break-ups. But at the same time, I’ve been there, and I’ve done that, and I’m looking forward – not stuck gazing in the rear-view mirror.
There are so many people that lose their lives too young. Just a few weeks ago a high-school student lost his life playing on the ice near my home. I bet he’d like a few wrinkles. He deserved them. He deserved a chance to cry and worry and laugh and stress out a little bit, for a little bit longer.
I’ll take my wrinkles. They show the world that I’ve lived. They remind me where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. I am proud of them, and I’m proud of the ups and downs of my life that have made me the person I am today, sitting at my computer and typing this out. I would no sooner erase my laugh lines than delete my memories. They are a part of me, and I accept them, just as I’m learning to accept myself.
Growing old is a privilege. Acquiring knowledge, experiencing life, loving and losing and raising our hands in glorious triumph are all a part of a life well lived, and they may at times leave beyond their mark in the form of gray hair, no hair or wrinkles. Great!
My wrinkles are evidence of a life lived. I am privileged to be at this stage of my life, with so many amazing memories behind me and world of opportunity ahead of me. So thank you, but no thank you – I’ll pass on the wrinkle cream.