"I love your wrinkles," she said; the expression on her face confirming sincerity.
"I do, too," I said. At first, I was taken aback by her declaration. After all, it wasn't my haircut she was complimenting, or my outfit, but a patchwork of lines on my face that are more often reviled than admired.
My agreement with my friend was honest, too. At age 79, with my body permitted to age naturally, I, too, had come to adore the punim I see daily in the bathroom mirror.
"Good morning Cutie Pie," I shoot to my reflection. Then, I linger for a bit, focusing on the horizontal lines across my forehead, as well as the diagonal ones crisscrossing downward from my cheekbones -- sort of like sloppy ski marks on a descent. Even the sinking upper eyelids, that threaten to lower like a window shade, fail to diminish my approval.
While many my age take a more beneficial course and plane out these features, reverse their gray hair to a younger color, tuck flesh, and undergo eyelid surgery, I have elected to do nada.
One reason is the expense, with my savings stretched to last into my 80's; I've opted to use my funds otherwise. Numero dos: Recognizing that unplanned hospital visits are likely to pop up in the coming decade, I'd prefer sitting out the "elective" category.
Reason number three: After two marriages, in contentment with my solo routine, and blessed with family and a multitude of friends; I'm not trying to lure a guy. Hold on, let's change "guy" to "senior citizen," which leads me to an interesting question: Would I be attracted to someone my age who bears the same telltale signs of dotage as I?
The gray hair, I'd likely adore. But a face as lined as mine, would that entice or repel? As I've explained to friends -- who find this query unpleasant since I've already announced my intention of aging au natural -- it's one thing to grow old with someone (my deceased Tommy, for example), but why would I pick a new swain who is accumulating wrinkles, saggy skin, body breakdowns, and signals of caregiving to come?
Oh stop it. I hear you calling me a hypocrite, but just try and understand my position. Okay, I'll take his wrinkled brow, but the brain behind it must be witty, curious, and wise.
As long as we're on the subject of youth and beauty, we have to talk about my mother. (I should say "our" mother, because I have a brother three years older than I -- three years older! -- who somehow has kept his face wrinkle free.)
May I quote myself? From "The Division Street Princess." At 29 years old, Min Shapiro was a beauty -- the prettiest of the four sisters, and as skinny as a pencil. She had blue eyes the color of Lake Michigan and wore her black hair piled on top of her head in a pompadour style, like Dorothy Lamour. Unlike the wartime pinup, Mom was short, about 5’2”, but because she always wore high-heeled shoes, appeared to be a bit taller than that. And Mom never left the house without her Max Factor Fire Engine Red lipstick, matching rouge, blue eye shadow, and coal black mascara. “You never know who you’re going to meet,” she’d say as I watched her paint her face before the grateful bathroom mirror.
You get the picture; I grew up the daughter of a beautiful woman who was so intent on staying breathtaking, that she claimed she never wanted to grow old. Sadly, she got her wish, dying at the age of 67, with her good looks in place.
I often wonder what Mom would think of her daughter now. Oh, I'm convinced she'd be extraordinarily proud of my family, my accomplishments, and my lifestyle. But I can't help believe she would shudder at my decision to let nature have its way. In my imagination, I see her Googling (hey, I'm a techie and it's my imagination) "Plastic Surgeons." And then I notice her red nail polished hand patting the chair next to me. And as long as we're conjuring, let's hear Mom's voice urging, "Just take a look, sweetheart, just take a look. Ten, twenty years younger! It doesn't cost anything to look."
Dearest Mom; this is it. This is I, your Cutie Pie, perfectly happy to match my age.
Then, of course, I'd imagine a kiss from her Fire Engine Red lips, and a final word before she evaporates, "Dolly, you know I'd love you however you look. Just stay happy and healthy."
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