Kim Henderson: The wrinkles that matter

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 7th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. A few years ago I started noticing some bags and sags I was sure weren’t there the day before.

So Grandma had some helpful words for me: “just smile, it increases your face value.”

Kim Henderson’s been thinking about aging, too.  

KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: When exactly I singed off a half-row of lashes above my left eye I cannot say. The only reason I’m in possession of that information now is a Zadro Max Bright Vanity Mirror I received as a gift.

In the glare of its light of truth, there are no secrets. There are only things to be removed, tweezed or concealed. Or in the case of singed eyelashes, accepted.

I should clarify that I actually asked for this mirror—so that made it okay for my husband to give me something with a cord. Unfortunately for him, now that I can see what I’ve been missing, it takes me longer to get ready.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what he was hoping.  

Some mornings, as I’m dragging my wicker stool up to the bathroom counter, I am reminded that magnification to the 10th degree is not for the faint of heart. This hot seat is the sphere of the real, fully-illuminating everything those Mary Kay reps ever warned about, including summers spent having fun in the sun, greased up like a piece of bacon, back in the ’80s. And that nasty habit of raising my eyebrows every time the kids gave cause.

Oh, well, maybe some bangs will help.

I’ve noticed that what gravity schemes to give as birthday presents, we tend to give cute names like crow’s feet and laugh lines. The people who coined those terms are probably the same ones who write things like “Older is beautiful. I want some wrinkles” in magazine articles.

Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, on the other hand, don’t seem nearly so naïve. Try this image from the short story, “A Worn Path.”

“Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead.”

That certainly doesn’t sugarcoat the issue.

I recently stood over the open casket of my 96-year-old aunt. Her face had the expected ridges and grooves, and my cousin provided a commentary: “When Mother was young, she had a baby at her breast and two more at her feet while hoeing cotton in the fields every day. She raised nine children and took care of my bedridden father for years. If ever there was proof that hard work won’t kill you, there it is,” she finished, motioning toward her mother’s now-still body, wrinkles and all, laid out among the funeral wreaths.

In such a setting, it’s almost easy to believe that laugh lines and crow’s feet are beautiful. When stories of self-sacrifice and devotion to family are etched in each crease, what else could they be? And that’s why, despite all our offensive tactics, a face should wrinkle, I suppose.

But here’s the kicker: only God—not the Zadro Max Bright Vanity Mirror—knows which lines are the well-earned marks of true maturity, and which—as a result of the summer of ’82—are not.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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