Monday, November 19, 2012

What's wrong with wrinkles?

I decided to do this as a follow up post to the previous review rather than tack it on the end, to make it more likely someone might actually make it through the seemingly endless wall of words.
If you missed it, my most recent review was for Missha Signature Wrinkle Filling BB Cream . Wait, what was that, I hear you say. Is that a wrinkle filling cream I paid money for? Why did feminist, outspoken, ballsy me who has so much to say about the unrealistic standards of beauty for women, get a wrinkle cream?
I had to have a good long think about this, because while people who know me in real life might be shocked, this isn't the first time I've picked up anti aging products. Every now and then, I find my reason and conviction slips, and then there is an anti wrinkle eye cream that does nothing but bring me out in a rash taking up space in my bathroom drawer. Why do I do it? What on earth am I thinking?

Firstly, I've realised it's actually not because I think wrinkles look aesthetically bad. Susan Sarandon and the other one have plenty of wrinkles, and I would roll over and beg either of them to take me home. Or both of them... And maybe Lucy Lawless could come too, and kind of direct proceedings and...

And I am getting well sidetracked. The point is I don't think wrinkles look bad on other women. So maybe I just think they look bad on me? I imagine most women are familiar with this kind of doublethink - your friend is gorgeous at a size 16, but if you can't fit into size 12 jeans you're a monster. It's a plausible theory. Only problem is that I know no one but me can see my wrinkles. I sometimes have trouble pinpointing them. Hell, they're not even what could properly be called wrinkles. It would be more accurate to call them crinkles at best.

What do you mean you can't see them?

They're right here....
...and here...
...and I had to smile to make these ones actually show up at all.
With photographic proof right there in front of me, it would be ridiculous to try and claim these little folds of skin are anything like wrinkles yet.
And there it is, the word that frightens me enough to overwhelm all common sense and cause me to clutter my drawer with stuff I know perfectly well will not do ANY of the things claimed on the jar.
They're not wrinkles yet. But they will be. There's nothing I can do about it; the aging of this meat sack that carries around my brain is totally inevitable. It doesn't matter if I still feel seventeen inside - my body knows how old it, and it's just going to keep ticking off those renewal cycles until I run out, and I die.
See, dying is something that happens to other people. Not me - I'm the center of my world, how could I cease to exist? I know intellectually this is nonsense. I will die eventually. Maybe sooner. But trying to wrap my head around the total inexorable inevitably of that dead end that is just waiting tends to bring on panic attacks, so I self soothe with the delusion that it'll be okay, there is some way out it. I don't know what that is yet but there is a way. There will be some medical miracle, some technological breakthrough, SOMETHING. Somehow, I will be saved.
Seeing wrinkles forming, and knowing there is nothing I can do about it brings on the same sort of panic attacks as contemplating my death, because it reminds me that no matter how clever and well read and motivated I am, I am totally powerless against the time bomb embedded in my cells.
So sometimes, I panic and buy placebos. The same sort of delusional self soothing that lets me believe, if only for a moment, that there will be some breakthrough that will mean I don't have to die is the same delusion that leads me to throw away common sense and think that maybe I can make it look like my body is not aging.
I have discovered, however, that not only do these creams not do anything about my crinkles, they also don't do anything to stem the panic.

The same terror is brought on by the fact I have grey hairs now. I remember really vividly when I noticed the first one. I was at work, and so unfortunately had to lock myself in the bathroom until I could stop hyperventilating. I was totally unprepared for how hard the discovery would hit me. I'm a strong, strident feminist with a terrible weakness for older ladies. There was no reason on earth it should have bothered me. But it did. The panic attack brought on by realising I was now a person with grey hairs, and that I could NEVER GO BACK hit me like a blow to the chest. In some ways grey hairs are actually more frightening to me than wrinkles - there are grey areas as to what does and doesn't count as a "wrinkle", but hair is either grey or it isn't. And in some places, now my hair is grey.

I was trying to come up with some sort of conclusion to this mid-life crisis thing, and not having much luck, until I came across a marvelous post over on LoveBrownSugar by a marvellously clever (and stylish) woman. She posits the idea that being happy in your skin involves not finding the specific things  that suit you and sticking with them, but finding the things that remain the same, no matter what else changes.
She writes;

"Feeling beautiful is a process that involves self-evaluation, honesty, and a vulnerability that’s not always easy to achieve. I admit that I don’t love everything about my body, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I believe that I was beautifully and wonderfully made, and no amount of fancy perfume or red-bottom platforms will change that...
I’ve found that trying out new looks makes me appreciate myself in a new way. If I can love myself equally as a brunette or a blonde, with curls or with straight hair, with or without makeup, I’ve learned to embrace beauty that remains the same regardless of other things that change."

I used to really hate having my photo taken, and now that I realise just how much my body changes from month to month, let alone year to year, I really regret that. I'm sorry I don't have a better record of what I used to look like, but not entirely because I think I looked better when I was younger. It's because now I'm older, I wish I had a better pool of resources to call on to find those things about me that remain the same, the physical aspects that define me. I can look back on pictures of when I was five, and ten, and twelve, and see the consistent indicators that really make up me. Not my weight, or a hair cut - but a certain look into my eyes, a certain smile, this weirdly round squishy nose totally at odds with my razor cheekbones; things that I could use to recognise myself anywhere. This is what I have found quells the panic in the end, so much better than creams or surgery ever could. The simple fact that I can look at my face now, and no matter how many wrinkles or grey hairs I get, I still see that tiny girl smiling back at me. She'll die eventually - but we're not dead yet. 


  1. I hear you! I'm pretty pleased that I got a good genetic profile so I am not wrinkling quickly... but they're there. Experience lines. Little crinkles around the eyes, on the forehead, near my mouth. They're supposed to be the outward expression of wisdom.... but I don't feel very wise...and most of the time I don't feel very old. So looking in the mirror can sometimes be a surprise.

    As a feminist, it's sometimes hard to reconcile my conviction that all people are valid at all ages and colors and shapes...and my own vanity that wants to stay at my physical peak (around 35)... so it goes. I don't want to face the reality of growing older (although having aging parents is a real reminder).

    So, I'll just keep trying to enhance what I've got and deflect attention away from what's gone... and take it one day at a time.

  2. "They're supposed to be the outward expression of wisdom.... but I don't feel very wise...and most of the time I don't feel very old."
    I think this disconnect between our inside and our outside is the core of why so many women can't shake this dislike of their own wrinkles, no matter how much they intellectually believe it shouldn't matter.
    I remember telling my mother when I was about 25 or so that I still felt 17 inside, and she just laughed and assured me that at 45, she did too.


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