When the email full of pictures arrived, I was eager to open it. The evening — a reception for work — had been a lot of fun and I was looking forward to seeing some professionally-shot photos of myself for a change, rather than a selfie. The first .jpg I opened was, in fact, of me; in it, I was smiling and reaching out to embrace a colleague. I glanced at the image, then frowned, peering at some wispy lines on my screen. Annoyingly, they had settled right over my cheek.
“Darned dog hairs,” I muttered, cutting my eyes toward the perpetually-shedding German shepherd curled at my feet. Reaching for my screen, I swiped at it with the edge of my hand. I had forgotten that my laptop has a touch-screen, and thus was mildly surprised when the image enlarged at my touch.
Surprise melted into shock when I realized that the lines didn’t budge.
Those were not errant dog hairs marring the photo.
The lines on the screen, the lines on my cheek, were lines on me.
They were wrinkles.
Wrinkles! Oh, I recognized the smile, my face crinkled in a familiar grin. But above it, alongside it, I saw furrow upon wrinkle upon fold making their ways up along my cheek, ending below some previously unnoticed crow’s feet. And what was that? A ravine between my eyebrows!
Well, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as all that, but that’s how it felt: crevasses, canyons, the Mariana Trench, right on my face.
When did this happen? If you, Reader, like I, are “of a certain age,” you know what I’m talking about. We’re so busy … children, work, marriage (divorce). Sure, we know we’re aging. And maybe you were paying attention, but I wasn’t. Overall, I’ve felt the same inside.
I find the same things funny that I always did, my voice sounds the same to my own ears. I’ve stayed relatively fit, so I guess the body shifts have come slowly enough that they haven’t overwhelmed. Time passes, birthdays happen, but I still feel like myself. My same self.
Spoiler alert: time does march on, even when we aren’t paying attention, and all of a sudden, I no longer look like the “me” that I was.
And now, when I look in the mirror, those lines are all I can see.
Oh, I know there are options that would slow the affects of time on my appearance. I could get Botoxed. I could have plastic surgery. Heck, I could probably have my face sandblasted or something. But I suspect that cosmetic treatments would delay, not resolve, my self-acceptance. Botox treats wrinkles, not aging.
Sixty may be the new 40.
But 50 is definitely middle-aged.
Aging is difficult! I get that neither failing to notice, nor obsessing over aging, is a good idea, but I’m stuck in that trough this week. I am seriously hoping that, over time, these peaks and valleys will recede in my mind, because, gosh darn it, they’re going to increase on my face.