“What if people liked wrinkles?” I say to my girls. “What if wrinkles were thought to be beautiful? If I looked in the mirror and discovered a new line, I’d smile and say, ‘My face is maturing nicely!'”
My husband Andy grins. “Like a lump of cheese!”
But 12-year-old Gemma-Rose doesn’t smile. She screws up her cute freckle-sprinkled nose and says, “My face would be ugly.” I don’t think she likes my latest thought.
But I do.
Yes, imagine if wrinkles were beautiful. Oh, I know some people already think old faces are beautiful. They’re full of character. An older person’s inner beauty shines out overriding their wrinkles. But what if everyone, not just a few, like you, thought this way?
It’s strange how wrinkles suddenly appear. One day I was young and good looking. (“You look too young to have so many children!”) The next, I had lines and wrinkles. That’s how it happened. At least, that’s how it seemed. I didn’t like my new older appearance, so I stopped looking at my face. I now avoid looking in the mirror.
“Hey, Mum!” says Sophie as we’re lacing up our shoes. “Did you know you have your t-shirt on inside out?”
“No,” I reply. “I can’t see myself. I didn’t look in the mirror.”
“Are you going to turn it in the right way?”
“No, I can’t be bothered. No one will see me. We’re only going running. Who else will be out at this time of the morning?”
Our neighbour. Yes, we met our neighbour walking her dog. We stopped and chatted. I wasn’t embarrassed by my t-shirt. I’d forgotten all about it. A consequence of an older age?
How old is my neighbour? I always think we’re the same age, but we’re not. I just feel like I’m her age. I don’t look her age at all. You see, she must be 20 years younger than me.
I wonder if our neighbour looks at me and thinks, “Sue’s old.” Does she place me in the old people category?
The other day as we were driving through town, I saw a sign:
Anti-ageing treatment. Anti-wrinkle injections.
“Perhaps I should have some anti-ageing treatment,” I say.
My girls protest, “No, Mum! You don’t need that!”
Do they mean I don’t look as old as I imagine?
Maybe they think it’s too late for such treatments. They’d be a waste of money.
Why do I not like looking older? It’s nothing to do with getting old. I don’t mind that. I’m fit and healthy and life gets better and better as the years pass. But for some reason, I can’t quite come to terms with my ageing face.
The girls are telling me about someone they noticed at Mass. “She was sitting two pews in front of you, Mum.”
I need more information. “What did she look like?”
“She was old with grey hair.”
Old with grey hair? That could describe two-thirds of the women at Mass. We live in an ‘older parish’. I need more clues. But are there any? I have noticed most people are unobservant. If they’ve seen one old person, they’ve seen them all. Old people are just… old. What more is there to say?
Just imagine if age wasn’t the first thing we noticed. Instead of saying, “She was an old lady with grey hair,” we might say, “She was the lady who was holding her husband’s hand when they walked out of Mass.” Or, “She was the lady with the twinkly eyes, the one who distracted the unhappy baby in the pew in front of her.” Of course, she might be the lady who whispered to her neighbour all through Mass, but we’re not allowed to notice such things. That’s uncharitable.
I wonder why I don’t like the idea of becoming one of the old crowd. I too could shuffle into Mass, sit quietly, pray, and leave without anyone really noticing me. It might be nice to live a quiet, hidden life. I could be a humble old woman, observing from the sidelines. My time in the spotlight would be over. Yes, I should move gracefully on. Accept my ageing face.
Except I don’t want to. If I look old, people will label me ‘old’. Maybe that will affect the way they relate to me. They might think I’m not young enough to be their friend because I’m at a different stage of life from them. They might not want to know me. Oh, I know not all people think like this. But maybe some do. Not everyone is as kind as you.
So I have a problem with looking older. Just a small one. I try and push it away, not think about it, pretend wrinkles don’t matter. It helps if I avoid looking in mirrors. And I have to be careful about cameras. But as long as I do this, I’m happy.
A few days ago, I celebrated a birthday.
“Do you feel older?” asks Andy.
“No,” I reply. Because it’s true. Another year, another number. But numbers don’t matter. Perhaps wrinkles shouldn’t matter either.
Random thoughts. Some hard to admit. Not very clear. Does it matter? No, these are The Raw Files. Thoughts that may turn into something better.
Perhaps I’ll turn into someone better: an old lady who doesn’t mind looking her age. I might mature nicely. Like a lump of cheese.
I talked about this post with my daughter Sophie when I interviewed her for episode 70 of my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast: Trust, Respect and Love Unconditionally