I Believe in Wrinkles
I believe that wrinkles tell stories that lie deep in the skin of a life. While we seem fixated on the beauties of twenty-somethings, wrinkles that begin to emerge after forty are signs that life is just ripening. What is it about wrinkles that terrify most of us? Is it that we can no longer kid ourselves that regardless of what is reflected in the mirror we still believe we are young? Is it that we fear sex won’t be sexy anymore – with wrinkles? Or, is it that we are losing our parents and know that we are now the generation that needs to run the world?
Even as a child I was attracted to people with wrinkles. My grandmother’s face looked like the bark of a tree – mature and magnificent. She made bread every day of her life, with arms muscled by kneading yeasty dough and wrinkles at the elbows and loose flesh under her arms flapping in rhythm with flour, eggs, butter, salt, and yeast becoming the day’s bread. The skin on her face looked like her cracked split- topped loaves hot from the oven served with butter – never margarine – in ample supply for breakfast.
My grandmother also taught me how to make strudel layered with apples, cinnamon and butter, crisp on the edges and sweet with brown sugar and raisins in the center. She was like that too. That kneading and stretching of the dough into the ideal shape was what she had done her whole life: stretching to feed a family and burying some, stretching to endure the loss of her home and comforts, stretching in suffering the human ruin of war, and stretching to have the hopefulness to begin again after a protracted immigration. That was a splendid triumph.
I now see similar deep crevices in my own mother’s face. I realize I will not have her forever either. This obsession we have with physical perfection, makes growing old with wrinkles unsightly. My mirror doesn’t lie and I am no longer the “fairest of them all.” My own Snow White and Cinderella stories are replaced with buoying the next generation as they rely on those very wrinkles to run their world a little longer – afraid of the time when it will be their turn. Being the age that is at the same time shifting from being in charge to “has been” is what makes aging thorny. I think Wordsworth got it right that “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass,” it is the “years that bring the philosophic mind.”
I never saw a jar of Pond’s face moisturizer in my grandmother’s bathroom cabinet because she wouldn’t have thought it necessary. What was necessary was what was done in the kitchen and that like homemade food, life was layered, sweet raisins would be found inside, and the edges were best crispy and crusty. And, as for sex with wrinkles, well, my grandmother told me stories about that too.
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