I’m standing in my bathroom preparing for bed and having just finished brushing my teeth I decide, for some unknown reason, to turn on the light over the sink. You know the one. Every bathroom has one. It’s what I like to call the interrogation light because it is alarmingly bright and it casts nasty shadows on your face from overhead. I don’t turn this light on very often, and neither should you because it brings to light, pardon the pun, all the imperfections of your face in all its aging splendor. My face is fifty-five years old and under the glare of the interrogation light it is enjoying a rare and horrible reality check. Of specific concern is the space between my upper lip and my nose. Where had all those lines come from? At first I think it’s just the awful light throwing monstrous shadows on my too-long facial hair until I do the unforgivable just to be sure – I get closer to the mirror. Never, never do this just before you go to bed especially if plan on sleeping. What I find with this increased proximity to my reflection includes over-large pores and wrinkles on what I had previously perceived as the smooth surface of my face. I mean honestly, I know that my face is not without age and is not in fact, smooth. I know this but I haven’t taken the time to really look at it.
I back off quickly when I realize that yes; in fact, these lines are a part of my face. One of them is so pronounced as to cause my hand to fly up and fingers probe the spot tentatively. I remember this line in my face now. It’s actually a scar that I earned when I was about nine years old and playing in the back yard of our house on Lisa Way in Sacramento. I was hanging a bamboo rake on the roof gutters and to this day I still have no idea why. Anyway, it fell, of course, and scratched in a nice line just below my nose where it healed and scared and faded into oblivion until today. It is huge today. It is a quarter of an inch long and seemingly as deep and I gasp to realize that I walk around with this hole in my face every day for all to see. Something, I think, must be done.
The Clinique encounter: My 82 year old Aunt Chuddy lives in Waco, Texas and she has been telling my mother about a “miracle” serum that she has been using. She went to the Clinique counter at her local equivalent of Macy’s (I don’t know what store they have in Waco where one can purchase Clinique but I don’t think it’s Macy’s), and told the counter girl (her words) that she was very satisfied with her skin overall but that she would like to do something to lessen the appearance of the “smokers lines” above her lip. She, like my mother and me was a smoker and these lines are thought to be caused by the repetition of inhaling cigarettes over a course of many years. This is actually the biggest danger from smoking not cancer or emphysema. Wrinkles the size and depth of which you can’t imagine when you are 22 and coolly sucking on your Benson & Hedges will without a doubt take over your face. In any case, my mother and I discuss the “miracle” serum and pine for improvements to our skin.
I’m a knee-jerk gal, always have been. Leaping before looking is my life-long MO which has often found me in mired circumstances. But I have just as often found myself in clover or at least something more comfortable than mire. I don’t hesitate. I go to Macy’s and approach the lab-coated “counter girl” and tell her why I am there. I do my best to keep my hands at my sides but one of them creeps up to my lip where it fingers the offending lines right there at the Clinique counter under the bright lights (worse, I am thinking, than my own bathroom light) and where I am cheefully guided to a display of “repair” products.
Repair products are so called I imagine because they are intended to frighten you into believing that there is a problem that must be fixed instantly and that it can only be done here and now at this counter. My 82 year old aunt is beautiful and she is the reason I stand here in front of this person proclaiming my facial flaws. My beautiful aunt is beautiful because she cares for her skin and probably always has (having good genes and living in the humid south help too). I am just beginning to care at fifty-five and need to take a leap of faith. So just like when I watch a movie, I suspend disbelief just long enough to reach for the vial of "miricle" serum with eager hands.
I have a friend whose face is as old as mine and I can’t detect the same, shall we say, vividness, in hers as I have recently discovered in mine, but then she has never smoked. Still, I would think that her face needs SOME "repair". Or more likely she, like my beautiful aunt, peered into the mirror very closely at a much younger age than I and understood what she saw there. I don’t begrudge her lovely skin one iota. The lines on my face were hard won and earned with vigor. The knee-jerker in me has always taken the lead over more practical personality traits and not even the “counter girl” or my friend’s flawless face can make me feel bad about the face that has grown from my life. I have to say though, the ‘miracle” serum is working somewhat. I’ll probably always have “smokers lines” and I will absolutely never lose my facial scar, but whether it is working or I just think it is belies the genius of Clinique marketing and I will keep applying it. It gives me a chance to appreciate my beautifully flawed face every day. So Happy New Year old face -- it's going to be a wonderful year.