I can still remember that day.
I was putting on or taking off some makeup, looking in the mirror, and I saw it:
But I’m only 25!
Turning my face to the right, I examined the area around my left eye, and to my horror, I could see tiny lines running down my upper cheek.
No, no, NO!
My forehead…the lines were even deeper on my forehead from where I raised my eyebrows, and there was a single line indented right between my eyes.
How did this happen? How did this happen and how did I not even notice it?
Like a woman in a horror movie, trying to find the key to unlock her car door as she is being hunted by a murderer, I grabbed my phone and called my mother to tell her of my discovery. She asked what kind of facial cleanser I was using, and when I told her, she said it was crap. I was instructed to obtain ‘Oil of Olay’ and a good moisturizer.
I didn’t ‘moisturize’ before this…I had far better things to worry about: I had just gotten into graduate school, living on my own, and was working a stressful job in a hospital. The longest I would look in a mirror was to put on some eyeshadow, liner, and mascara, and to make sure my hair wasn’t a mess. My priorities were:
1. Keep myself alive.
2. Get good grades.
3. Obtain sustenance.
4. Avoid drama.
5. Pay bills.
Moisturizing was definitely not a priority, and at that moment, I was regretting it.
I started to really look at people’s faces from that point on, and made a lot of internal dialogue about them:
Look at that! She’s 2 years older than me, and not a fucking line to be found…bitch.
Oh! Thank GOD…she’s worse than me.
Ooh…I think she should really stop with that habit of raising her eyebrows while she’s talking, or those lines on her forehead are going to be worse than mine.
Even my older brother was scrutinized:
His lines are worse than mine. Everybody says it’s because I smoke, but he’s never touched a cigarette in his entire life, and there he is. It must be something in our genes…
My wrinkle obsession remained, as did my wrinkles, because…yeah, this is something you should all know: WRINKLE CREAMS DO NOTHING.
…Okay, they DO moisturize, but they won’t take your wrinkles away.
I refused to use Botox (still do), and even if I didn’t, I would not have been able to afford it at that point, anyway. Oils, though, were fair game, and I used all different kinds: Coconut, olive, grapeseed…nothing happened.
I even ordered a $40.00 bottle of age-reversal serum from Avon that had reviews in which people were reporting what a miracle it was, that it took their fine lines away!
I even tried that one that is guaranteed to show results in two weeks…I saw results, all right; my face got very red and dry, and my wrinkles actually looked more obvious.
It took me about oh, 4 years to say ‘fuck it’ and stop buying the snake oil, resolving to put a priority on trying to live chemical-free instead of wrinkle-free. It simply was not working, and the anxiety I felt about those wrinkles was getting out of control: That is what led me to realize that the problem I had wasn’t with the wrinkles…it was with myself.
After buying an all-natural moisturizer that was good for my skin, I decided not to dwell on the lines and try to fix the reason for my fixation, instead. After doing some digging, I found that my aversion to my wrinkles boiled down to my aversion to dying.
Wrinkles = Aging = Being closer to death
No wonder I had so much anxiety about it. It’s MUCH easier to trick yourself into believing you’re still a spring chicken when you have the face of a 12-year-old. When you have wrinkles, your age is practically waving at you every time you look at yourself.
While this discovery did help me a bit, it was something else entirely that made me change my opinion on my wrinkles.
I watched a documentary one day. Honestly, I can’t even remember the name of the documentary, and I’m too lazy to look it up, but it was about this woman who had a father (who died) who was a plastic surgeon, and the woman was trying to understand why people elected to have cosmetic surgery when they aged.
I figured that the documentary was made to affirm me and people like me who have made the decision to never go the cosmetic surgery route to alter what we were born with, but holy SHIT was I wrong.
The film followed a plethora of miserable, insecure people who were mostly well-meaning, but sadly deluded, and their alterations. Toward the end of the documentary, the film maker decided that she should try something like Botox to really understand it all…and at the end, she announced her decision to do the treatments regularly.
That was it for me.
After watching that documentary, something switched inside of me, and I remember thinking that I would rather have wrinkles on the outside than be like any of those people on the inside. Trust me…looking older seemed a HELL of a lot better than hating yourself as these people did, even if it does pluck your death-anxiety string.
For the first time, I realized how much it goes against nature to battle wrinkles. Wrinkles are natural; AGING is natural! If we were not supposed to get wrinkles, WE WOULDN’T. Just because ‘Hollywood’ tells us that we need to be between 13 and 25, 85 pounds, and wrinkle-free (among other things) in order to be beautiful, it doesn’t make it true. I refuse the notion of rejecting the natural order.
After finding and subsequently taking my new stance on the subject, I continued to really look at people’s faces, but my thoughts had changed. Instead of getting jealous of people who lacked wrinkles, I actually became a bit bored with them.
Don’t they move their face at all when they talk? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the experience?
It’s become fun to watch a person’s face as they make an expression, and that expression sinks into the pre-existing lines. I can actually tell whether or not that person spends more time smiling or scowling, whether their eyes are bad or not, how much stress they’ve been through…or at least take a good guess!
And then, it struck me: Lines, wrinkles…what a beautiful thing, what a blessing they are! They are the history of a person’s life, a map of that person’s journey, and they’re on display for those who take the time to read them. They tell all of our stories without saying a word.
One day, after this epiphany, I tried looking in the mirror to find my wrinkles again, but I didn’t just see wrinkles and lines anymore: I saw a person who has been through a lot of emotional pain, but somehow still managed to laugh…someone who smirks to the left before succumbing to a smile so big she squints…someone who has heard so many bizarre or shocking stories that nothing seems to surprise her anymore…someone who has cried many times out of both sadness and happiness, for herself and for others…someone who has put up with so much bullshit, her tolerance for it is now very low…someone who has experienced sleepless nights studying, worrying, talking…someone lost, trying to finding her way…
I saw me.
And I cried.
It was as if I were seeing myself for the first time, and it was as prideful as it was heart-breaking.
I wanted to be angry at myself for worrying about my wrinkles, but I couldn’t. I was too over-joyed.