This is an encore piece that I first wrote in April 2012, when I was a child of only 56. When I re-read it today it felt powerfully true again, as I have not learned to love my older face. I like it, I need it, I am proud of it, but I can’t say I love it. Do I have to?
It’s a funny thing, this aging. So incremental, so subtle. It’s not like when we were 10 years old, then 15 – wow, what a sea change! And from age 15 to 20 was morphing from a kid to a young woman.
But after about age 40, the changes are more delicate, and we get used to whatever face looks back at us in the mirror every morning. We know we look “younger” in certain lights and from certain angles. Sometimes we gently pull back the skin on our necks and cheeks, to see how we’d look with a little “work”. But mostly we just take a look, and go about our business.
I’ve had a fairly thin, angular face for most of my adult life. I’m blessed with high cheekbones and a strong jaw. Years of heavy-duty sunscreen and Retin-A have kept the texture of my skin pretty smooth.
But a glimpse in an outdoor mirror today took me by surprise. That woman looked, well, older than me. But she was me. There’s a hint of a jowl, some deeper lines around her mouth and eyes, and some indefinable not-youthfulness about her.
There’s nothing very remarkable about this; I am sure it happens to many of us regularly: we get a glimpse of the aging process in the stark daylight. And there’s nothing inherently bad about it. It is reality. If we’re lucky, we get older. No one is immune. The Kardashian sisters will have these moments 30 years from now (although I suspect there may be more interventions!).
But I do sometimes miss my face. The firmer, smoother one. Is that bad? Is it shallow? Probably. What I think I am missing is all the possibilities that are attached to the young face, all the options that are ahead. And yes, the power of youthful beauty too. There’s no denying that youth = beauty in our culture, and beauty bestows power.
We women of a certain age have “our own faces.” Our faces show that we’ve lived a bit. We are not naive, not easily fooled. We have wisdom, grace under pressure, experience in love and loss, and deep friendships.
I wouldn’t mind having all those things, and my younger face. That’s not a real option though. Even painful surgeries don’t “turn back the clock.” I will have a moment of grief for my formerly young face, then move forward into all the possibilities still ahead.
Please be aware that links to vendors may be affiliate links. I may benefit from your purchases through the links on the blog. Header image here.
I’m seriously trying to accept who I am today without giving in to the old crone whispering in my ear. She says “Act your age”
Love this post….I am one of the worst about “hating” my aging! I love how Cindy Joseph is now imploring the media to utilize a “Pro Age” verbage instead of an “Anti-Age” approach to beauty. Maybe with me…it will sink in soon….
Patti, I think you’re beautiful – and real! I also would love to erase some lines and “age spots” – I love the way my skin cancer doctor refers to the little red dots all over me which seemed to start appearing a few years ago – he says “it’s the passing of time” and so I’m trying to look at myself through these eyes. And every time I see another botoxed or surgically lifted face I’m very happy with my face because I have no desire to look like a puffed up doll. And they are all looking the same!! Radiance shines from within, fitness and health, good posture and movement and skin care all add up to mature beauty for me. Continue shining xx
All this talk about ageing gracefully is easier said then done. More and more women succumb to beauty procedures that supposedly would help them to look younger. Well, as long as it is a mild adjustment that makes them feel better, I would say “go for it”. I did some liposuction on my chin few years ago and never been happier ever since.
A thought provoking post Patti. I must admit to quite liking my older face , yes it has wrinkles , uneven skin tone and sun spots but it is me and my life shows in my face.
I often think it is harder for women that were always called pretty girls to accept the changes of ageing as looks were paramount. Samantha is spot on , to age is a priveledge denied to many, we should embrace the changes we see in our faces and celebrate the joy of ageing.
Those surprise moments are the worst…..I couldn’t get over my neck (like Nora Ephron) in the side mirror of my husband’s car!
I think you nailed it; I am sometimmes pained by the lessening of possibilities, as shown in my face. I like my face better at nearly 60, generally speaking. I like my body, heavier though it is, better than I did at 45, or really, at 35. But I sometimes long for all the open doors and open roads I saw before me with that younger face.
Patti, you always look lovely to me. I think so much of your spirit and personality come through in your photos.
What was hardest for me once I hit my 50’s was that feeling of not recognizing myself in the mirror, and yes it’s those “surprise” reflections that catch us off guard that are the hardest. But that said, I think part of this comes from living in a society that not doesn’t value and even fears older women. So I don’t have to like the jowls, but I remind myself that aging beats the alternative. 🙂
You miss your face?
I miss my waist!
You look amazing, Patti, but I know how you feel, and it’s hard not to mourn the former face at times. We all do, to some degree, then we keep on going, as you said — but some days that’s easier to do than others! Those surprise mirror moments can be harsh, though. I like Sue’s perspective (well, I like everyone else’s too!)
I feel so passionately about this Patt!
The media has conditioned us (as in the whole of society) to think that being older is somehow a bad thing.
An older face is seen as haggard, ugly, tired…(add as many negative descriptives as you like).
Every cream is marketed to make us look ‘younger’.
Anti-ageing…how negative is that?
Every cosmetic brand uses young girls to sell products aimed at older women.
Even the clothing shops use younger models to sell clothes to older women.
Being old is something to be ashamed of and to hide.
It makes me mad.
Seeing a face that has had “work” makes me sadder.
I don’t like the way my face is changing either…things are dropping, lines are appearing, shadows darken, age spots stand out, lumps grow.
My greying hair is annoying.
My slowly sagging body is sad.
BUT, we shouldn’t feel like this!!
You are beautiful as the “real” you.
Full of a lifetime of experience…from the highest highs to the lowest lows… and it is a real privilege.
I am waiting for someone in the media/fashion/makeup industry to stand up and show how beautiful older women really are.
Not just the token “older” model now and again.
We deserve better!!
P.S….Gosh that was a long comment!!! :oP
So passionate that I missed out your i!!
Couldn’t agree with you more, Samantha . . . and Patti!
I think it’s why our eyesight goes–so we can’t see ourselves clearly!
I soo get it! Part of the reason I have stopped posting my fashion ensembles is it is so hard to get a decent image of MY FACE. I look old. I especially feel old when I see my image. Then it is no fun.
Yep. I like my older face but I still sometimes get that lurch when I see myself in an unexpected mirror in public. Especially if I’m not smiling…when of course I look like someone completely different from me…severe and disapproving, without even trying. Smiling is good then. It also smooths out those lines above my lips too…so that’s good. Too bad it doesn’t do anything for my neck…now I know why Katherine Hepburn always wore those high neck shirts. But if all I have to worry about is a wrinkly neck and a few lines then I’m gold and life is good.
Ahhh…such philosophical thoughts. But we do only get one body, and we really are so blessed. So I guess what I’m trying to say, is it’s been much easier to embrace what happens and love what we have than fight it!
Because as we’ve always known, our true beauty shines through–even with all of the wrinkles and marks!
Loved Jodie’s sentiment about this.
I often find myself pulling back my my jowls and my eyelids and telling myself, “just imagine!” If I had thicker hair I might be inclined to use that face tape.
Understanding that perspective is everything in life I know that I will look back on myself in a few years and wonder what the heck I was complaining about.
I actually think the phrase “aging gracefully” has more to do with accepting the changes of aging even though we don’t want to.