With another year about to end and another year added to my life, it got me thinking about ageing. Some people age graciously, the lines on their faces a map of their lives, and their grey hairs a chronology of life events. I am always fascinated by up-close photographic portraits of people, particularly older people – I can stare at their laugh lines, their worry lines, and their sagging skin for long stretches of time, imagining and appreciating the life that created the face.
Other people seek ageing assistance wherever they can, with botox, fillers, and chemical peels. I had my spider veins removed a couple of years ago, but the pain of the needles and the laser treatment made me question what I’d done. “I’ve always rejected cosmetic surgery as a fight against vanity,” I said to my husband, “but what I’ve just done is no different.”
I have to admit I am vain. I use anti-aging moisturizer at night. I stopped smoking when my mother said, “You don’t know what you’re doing to your skin. Do you want to look like your grandmother?” My chain-smoking Granny’s face flashed across my mind like a haunting picture, her wrinkles as deep as ravines. I remembered the yellow ceiling above her bed, stained with nicotine.
It wasn’t until my cousin emailed me some old family photos, which included me as an adolescent, then a teenager, that I changed my thoughts about ageing by judging my adolescent self. I wasn’t concerned about how much I’d aged since the photos were taken, but about how awkward and dorky I looked back then. I realised that age and confidence have served me well, as it does most people. It brings wisdom, a sense of self. Plus, I think (hope) I dress a lot better than I did back then. There is great beauty in walking around comfortably in your own skin, no matter how wrinkled. So, the next time you go to examine your character lines in the mirror, pull out some old photos and get some perspective.