I had intended to call this column “The Lovely Lines on Women’s Faces.” But as I thought about it I reminded myself that lines and wrinkles occur on the faces of men just as much, or even more, than on the faces of the fairer sex (as we used to refer to women back in the Stone Age.)
But for various reasons, society pays less attention to men’s faces, what they look like, and why they got that way as the years pass. Matter of fact, some folks feel that any man past age 30, 40 or 50 should show at least a few facial wrinkles, cracks and crevasses. If he doesn’t, suspicion arises that he may have taken chemical or surgical measures to combat the advance of aging. Which is not against the law for men, or women, I hasten to add.
Getting back to our main topic: can you or anyone compile a complete list of the reasons why many women dread the onset of even the smallest line on their faces?
The first reason that comes to my mind is that our society worships youth in most of its manifestations. A possible second reason is our frequent need, or demand, for something new, fresh, different, even outrageous or unheard of in life. That list may include a new sitcom, a starting quarterback, a restaurant, book, movie, hairstyle, or rock star. Whatever.
This can also express itself as a dread of boredom, in the world around us or in ourselves. Someone has said that the root of much unhappiness is our inability to sit quietly alone in a closed room for one solid hour without screaming “Lemme out of here!”
Would you like to identify a piece of third-rate advertising copy? It’s often pretty easy to find. Its signpost is the use of the adjective “innovative.” Madison Avenue fell in love with that word in the 1960s and has worshipped it — to one degree or another — ever since. It’s a safe word. It sounds impressive, but doesn’t really tell you much.
But as Americans reach age 30, or 40 or older, millions of men and women do not want to appear innovative, at least when we look in a mirror. We want aging to stop, right now. Better still, let’s roll the clock back to when we they were only age 20 or so.
But as they say out west, “That ain’t gonna happen, podner.” Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. This can explain the face lifts, tummy-tucks and dozens of other attempts to turn back time’s assaults on our appearances and bodily equipment. One of our country’s biggest industries is self-improvement — whether of the mind or body. Today beauty salons adorn almost every street corner. Next to them stand workout centers and outlets for our multitrillion-dollar cosmetic industry.
I’d like to suggest another alternative to our never-ending race against the ravages of time. What if, one day, everyone began to regard faces (our own and those of others, especially women in their middle years and older) as timeless portraits or life stories told by every line and wrinkle we can see? Properly viewed, faces can reveal a lifetime of joy, struggle, triumph, patience, heartbreak, loss, love, endurance and many other aspects — good or evil — that their owners have encountered.
I’ll close with a quotation by English poet John Donne, and dedicate it to my sweetheart Carolina Moon. We were no longer young when we met, 17 years ago. Now we are older and still somehow kicking the can down the road together. In a few days from now she will be 85, and even lovelier than before. As Mr. Donne phrased it back in 1623: “No spring nor summer beauty has such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
Happy birthday, m’love.
Bob Driver’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.