Thursday, May 1, 2008

Changing Faces

My husband and I saw a movie awhile ago starring an actress in her mid-fifties. The actress, while still quite beautiful, was definitely aging. I wondered if she really did have so many wrinkles or if wrinkles were added through make-up for the part. I think she probably does have that many wrinkles.

All my life I’ve cursed my bad genes. I come from a fat family. Very few of my aunts, uncles or cousins are a normal weight. I struggle daily to keep my weight reasonable. Now I find myself feeling grateful for my good genes. I come from a family with very few wrinkles. As a teenager I lamented that my fair skin would not achieve a decent tan. The summer I turned thirteen, my olive complexioned neighbor and I were out in the sun every day slathered in baby oil. I even mixed iodine in mine to further darken my skin. It didn’t help much. By the end of the summer I wasn’t as dark as my neighbor had been in June and my tan was still so pale that, unless I revealed my tan lines, nobody even realized I was darker. I never again tried very hard to tan. Whenever I was in a situation where others were going out to lie by the pool, I’d beg off and find something else to do. I didn’t like to simply lie around all day. I’m not sure if that was because I’m too antsy for that sort of inactivity or if it was a subconscious coping mechanism since I knew the time spent lying in the sun by a pool would bring about disappointing results anyway. Now, when I look in the mirror and see only a few wrinkles, I am so grateful that my skin didn’t cooperate with tanning when I was young. Many of my tanned friends are now showing the results of their years of sunbathing.

I’ve noticed that between the ages of forty and fifty many women’s faces change dramatically. I’ve noticed a few more wrinkles over the past couple of years as well as some loose skin under my chin. I’m in better shape now than I was in my twenties; I’m happy with my life and I feel pretty comfortable about being fifty soon, but I’m scared to have my face change. A friend in her sixties recently told me that she is still surprised by the face in the mirror every time she sees herself. In her mind’s eye, she is still the woman she was in her twenties and thirties.

As little children, our appearance changes dramatically from year to year, but sometime in our teens our features take on the look that we will wear for the next few decades. When I was forty-five, my face had looked virtually the same for the last thirty years. Now, as I see the lines beginning to show and the skin beginning to sag, I am faced with the reality that my face, the face I have known for the last thirty-plus years, is going to be changing dramatically. And it does scare me. My face is the visual expression of who I am. I am familiar with it. I know how to enhance it with make-up; know what products it responds to best. I know how it will look when I make a certain expression. I want to go through these changes gracefully. I want to be one of those women who, though aging, still shine with beauty and class; who adjust to their changing features and learn anew how to enhance them. I want my changing face to be a reflection of the ever-changing, ever-growing person I am and hope to be. I may be surprised when I look in the mirror, but I hope I’m not disappointed.

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