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            When my last birthday rolled around, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and studied my face.  Pointing to a crease at the corner of my eye, I asked my husband incredulously, “Do you see this?”  He didn’t.  Actually, after he finished laughing he said, “Honey, you don’t usually make that kind of face.”  So maybe I don’t normally walk around with my eyes in an uncomfortable and forced squint, but at that moment I know I saw wrinkles around my eye and for an instant, I was worried. 

I can’t explain why having wrinkles concerned me.  I would have to understand that myself first.  Maybe years of commercial viewing has taught me that a wrinkled face is unattractive.  Or maybe the wall of wrinkle creams at Wal-Mart has impressed upon me the horridness of lines on my skin.  I can’t pinpoint what is the root of my fear.  The women in my family have those tell-tale lines around their eyes.  And the older women at church that I respect have wrinkled faces too.  I respect these women and value their knowledge.  So then, are wrinkles a woman’s worst enemy or do they reflect that a woman has reached a certain level of maturity?  I wish someone could tell me what’s wrong with wrinkles? 

            I wear my emotions on my face.  Everyone else does too.  Every emotion, facial expression, and habit creates groves on my face.  These lines have formed after thousands of smiles and tears or years of reading with furrowed brows.  With every facial expression that flashes across my face, the deeper the lines become.  Every emotion that causes a smile or a frown also causes an “accordion-like” line to mark my face.  Throw happiness and sadness out the window.  According to one medical professional, “even sleeping with your face scrunched in a pillow every night may cause some lines to gradually appear.”  Well, that rules out sleeping.  As I get older, my skin does too.  And it starts to lose its “elasticity and firmness” which means “those lines and creases tend to become etched in the skin.”  I’ll work on stopping time.  Now what?  Am I supposed to stop laughing, crying, feeling, and even sleeping in the pursuit of smooth skin? 

            The makers of beauty products have a solution to that problem.  They suggest their products and services can rejuvenate, restore and repair our wrinkly skin.  Of course the insecurities we have about our skin are, no doubt, in large part due to the thousands of advertisements they launch every year.  The ads must be convincing because consumers spent 6.4 billion dollars on anti-aging skin products in the year 2004.  When some of these mostly self-proclaimed miracle creams cost up to three hundred dollars a container, that number unfortunately seems a little more understandable. 

I can’t say that I have been immune to their schemes, but I wish I could.  I have several products that claim to tighten the skin on the face.  I used them faithfully for three or four months but lost heart when I didn’t see the improvement I expected.  Now they sit on the shelf in my cabinet only to be used occasionally, usually as a last resort when another beauty staple has run dry.  I have attended “parties” (which are really sales pitches as highly pressurized as buying a car) where the cheapest product is a $50, two ounce tube of lotion that will supposedly smooth out my crows feet overnight.  In all applicable cases, I’m not buying it.  

For someone with the funds and the bravado, cosmetic surgery offers up several ways to rid the face of those pesky lines that create distinctiveness and individuality.  One can burn off the top layer of skin and hope a new, wrinkle-free layer will grow back with laser resurfacing, chemical peels or dermabrasion or paralyze the facial muscles with a healthy dose of Botox.  While these procedures may actually erase the wrinkles, what is the cost?  Monetarily and physically, the cost is exorbitant.  For instance, some of the common and expected side effects of these procedures are, “temporary redness, blisters, scaling and crusting to scarring, infection and abnormal skin coloring.” 

Injected straight into the muscle, Botox, a chemical found in the botulism bacteria, paralyzes the muscle, preventing it from moving.  Unfortunately, Botox has some nasty side effects, such as headaches, droopy eyelids, a flu-like feeling, and, oh yeah, botulism.  A side effect common to all of these treatments is, in six to twelve months they wear off.     

One day I was sitting across the kitchen table from my grandmother and I was able to study her face.  My grandmother is 79, white haired, and wrinkled.  As we talked, I understood that within the crevice of each of her wrinkles lies a memory:  thoughts pondered, tears spilled, or a laugh shared.    It was then that I realized that wrinkles weren’t something to be feared, they were a something women should embrace. Are any of life’s moments worth trading for a fleeting moment of beauty?  No.  In fact, it’s the wrinkles that make women beautiful.   Wrinkles are proof that we’re living a life that is worth living.  In the end, I can’t promise I won’t look for wrinkles in the mirror.  But I do know that from now on, I will appreciate them instead of fear them. 

~Stephanie Lou Stephens *

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