As I approach 50 and beyond, I look at myself differently. Whereas my face used to require one cleanser, one moisturizer, and I was good to go, now it needs a elaborate regimen.
Lined up on my shelf (and most likely yours) is a variety of creams, gels, lotions, vitamins, and fluids that promise to firm up, reduce puffiness, erase lines, tighten skin, wipe away wrinkles, restore elasticity, hydrate, energize, revitalize, and even hypnotize my face into looking younger. You name it: I’ve bought it. If product X doesn’t take away that wrinkle under my eye, product Y is sure to do the job.
One too many times I’ve fallen for that facial trick at the mall. You know the one. A young cosmetician applies a miracle cream to only one side of my face — usually my “good” side — and once that age-reversing potion does its magic, I can definitely see a difference when I look in the mirror. That’s when I whip out my credit card to buy that have-to-have-it-at-the-moment product. Never mind that both sides of my face are not exactly the same, that one eye is always a little puffier under the bottom lashes. Never mind that the side of my face that’s been “transformed” always looks better than the other side. Thus, I have an alphabet of miracles to choose from each morning, with ingredients ranging from avocado juice to queen bee pollen.
Sometimes, the purchase isn’t spontaneous though. Sometimes it’s perfectly thought out. I once waited an extra week to make car repairs so that I could buy a very expensive face repair kit. After all, I reasoned, my face is at least as worthy of attention as my vehicle. My automobile may get me down the road, but it’s the roadmap of my face that people judge. But whether bought on the spur of the moment or after months of saving, every product makes the same claim: You. Will. Look. Younger.
I’d like them to notice the lines around my eyes and know that I have seen many things — some they may not even believe.
But wait! Sometimes they promise much more.
With my younger-looking skin, I’m told, I’ll feel better. I’ll cook better. My kids won’t fight so much. I’ll get a raise. I’ll read faster. I won’t get indigestion. I’ll have more energy. And all of these changes will take place in with 30 days or I get my money back!
I’m not sure about all of that. The last time I checked, the Fountain of Youth exists only in science fiction. But I do believe in the power of positive thinking — and that age is just a state of mind.
Sure, I will always worry about how I look. Of course, I’ll keep on applying all these anti-aging creams to minimize the effects of the sun, Bloody Mary brunches, coffee, lack of sleep, too much sleep on the wrong pillow, worrying, laughing, crying. But when I’m 80, God willing, I hope that younger women will look at me the way I now look at my 80-something mother. I’d like them to see the lines in my forehead and understand that I have had thoughts both grand and grandiose. I’d like them to notice the lines around my eyes and know that I have seen many things — some they may not even believe. I’d like them to understand that each wrinkle around my mouth represents a story that only I can tell.
We cannot freeze time. And who would want to? After all, everything frozen eventually melts, and that is definitely not how I want my face to look. Growing old wrinkle free is as unrealistic as being young and wise. The two just don’t go together.
Janie Emaus is a writer whose work has been published in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and other publications. Read more from her at janieemaus.com.