Once, when I was in my 40’s, a photographer took my picture for a passport, and upon seeing the results, I hardly recognized that person! Before the days of Photoshop, he had smoothed out my face to remove the expression lines. My reaction: That’s not me!
We don’t usually love our wrinkles, and since then I’ve collected a few more… or the same ones have deepened. Yet, that experience made me realize that at the same time, like our often-under-cover gray hairs, they are badges we’ve earned. They tell a story. They speak of the wear and tear of wind and sun, but also of sorrows, fears, and laughter. They let others know we represent the voice of experience, for what it’s worth, and can draw a degree of respect.
Have you ever seen those “well-ironed”, tightly stretched faces in a magazine or a mall? It may be a movie star or other well-heeled woman we’ve seen, that suddenly seemed rather unreal. Those images bely the signs of time’s passing in the crinkles and sags in their hands. Somehow they seem alien, hardly human. How can we identify with one who denies her years and thus, to some extent, her humanity?
Despite my rant, I do confess that, like many women, I am no stranger to wrinkle creams and such. Softening those lines is no sin, to be sure, but it’s a thin line that separates self-care from vanity.
A middle-aged married friend was travelling on her own and far from home in an area enjoyed by tourists. Feeling carefree, she suddenly realized that part of her enjoyment was that no men were ogling her, flirting or making her uncomfortable, as when she was younger. The signs of age protected her, as it were, from undesirable approaches, perhaps more than a wedding ring (not always visible).
Not worrying so much about how others perceive us is freeing. Accepting that my face and body are not eternally young takes time, but once I crossed that hurdle, it was liberating.
Once I got a laugh out of the fact that my face clearly shows my age. Having donned a sequined T-shirt and skinny jeans tucked into high boots, I hopped up the steps of a city bus and showed the driver my senior card, offering him my reduced fare. He glanced at my face, confirmed that I was indeed a senior, and said no more.
Much as we women love to enhance our attractiveness, as the years go by we are often tempted to despair at the wilting of the flower of youth. At the same time, we grow to appreciate more than ever the reality that inner beauty is the only one that lasts and even improves…the only one that truly matters! It is undoubtedly reflected on the outside as well, with a smile, a kind look, a peaceful demeanor.
Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Thanks, King Lemuel, for commending us for more than our outer looks!
P.S. Many of you know that the woman in the pic isn’t me!