“To show one’s face is part of having the courage to show who one is. And coming to terms with your own face takes a lifetime.” -James Hillman
I am learning to see myself in this newest version of my face. I wish I had appreciated the unique blend of features I had in my more youthful face. I wish I had loved the high cheekbones and paid less attention to the length of my chin back when my beauty was given with my youthful skin, still adhering tightly to my bone structure. I remember listening to Nora Ephron lament about her disappearing neck and looking in the mirror wondering what she was talking about. I still remember the first time I felt wrinkles under my hand as I brushed hair back from my forehead at 37.
Now my daughter who was a baby then is fourteen. She too is not satisfied with her beautiful face. She has makeover parties with her friends, all of them stunning and not knowing it. Glamour magazines spill over the floor as they cut and paste images of beauty onto poster boards. Our quest to see ourselves as beautiful is one of the largest single economic drivers in the world. This relentless quest for beauty is about making peace with our own face but no one can tell a teenage girl that. I don’t even try.
The older I get the more that my face surprises me with likenesses of distant relatives, especially it seems of the ones that I have worked so hard to distance myself. My aging face, the one that has emerged from my baby face and holds glimpses of the teenager turned young adult is in some brutally honest ways most truly me. The photos of me with my growing family, the young girl I was when I first vacationed with my husband is the me that I still expect to see when I look in the mirror. Instead I am met with some new older version of myself that I hardly know.
It is hard to look back into the fatigue that surrounds my eyes. There is no crème that will take away the lines that surround my mouth both in smiles and frowns. I am now happy for my too long chin because it helps my skin fight the gravity that wants to drag it into the crepes of what was once my lovely long neck. The beauty of youth is short, tragically brief for most of us to realize just how beautiful we are.
Learning to love this older face is about coming to terms with not only the life that shines through the well worn expressions, but also making peace with the family tree from which I descended. It turns out that it takes a lifetime to become ourselves and no where is our real character more apparent than in the way we show our aging face in the world.