My face has changed. Of course to people in their 80s laugh at me when I say this. Their faces have really changed they tell me.
Mine will change much more should I have the good fortune of living a long life.
But I do notice the changes over time..looking in the mirror day after day, we watch the baby fat dissolve and the young adult face elongate. And if you're a woman, you probably spent more of your young adult mirror time comparing your face to the "perfect" faces of the world rather than appreciating the youthful radiance of your skin.
What a waste...
In the past few years, I have noticed changes in my own face. Mostly sun spots. Trivial as they are in the grand scheme of things, it's a change and reminder that time will have its way with all of us.
To make peace with them, I have renamed them "Surf Spots"
They appeared after several surfing trips where applying sunblock proved difficult when we were out for 3 hours at a time.
This makes me proud. I was burned by the beautiful sun reflecting off the water.
The past few weeks I really have been communing with the idea that the goal of life is not to get through the whole ordeal with perfect skin or a youthful glow.
Yes, keep the sparkle in your eyes by living a life of wonder, whimsy and contribution. Yes, take care of yourself- eat well, put on sunblock...But, honestly, I would never trade surfing in 4 oceans to have no sunspots. Or have skipped trips to Africa, Fiji, or Indonesia just so I could have porcelain skin.
The Worship of Porcelain Skin
Porcelain skin and the worship of it probably derives from the days when young wealthy women spent their lives in English manors. They could not leave their homes and spent most of the year inside hiding from the winter. This skin has become a representation of white privilege- even rich Southern woman who could spend the days under hats while the slaves worked. The worship of this skin continues to absurd proportions today. It has convinced the world's most beautiful Asian, Indonesian and Indian woman that they need skin whiteners. If they only knew how beautiful white women think they are.
I remember reading that Scarlett Johansson, in order to preserve her skin, had some rule about not being outside more than 30 minutes a day. This may be total hogwash. Regardless, the reporting of such a fact (true or false) highlights the extremes that one might go to to preserve the look of a porcelain doll.
A doll's life was never for me. I never played with dolls or found them very interesting; they required lots of care and never wanted to go anywhere.
So perhaps, it is no coincidence that I would not trade my months trekking through the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Utah Canyon Lands so the person in the elevator doesn't see my sun spots.
That wonderful children's book The Velveteen Rabbit talks about becoming real by being loved so much that you kind of fall apart. This stuffed rabbit lacked all the shininess and softness of a new stuffed animal because he has spent years being loved.
A face well-worn can show a life being lived. It's a liberation to not have to hide from the sun to stay a doll. Or to have no scars because you've never dared to leap.
If you want to die looking like a doll, you need to die young with your beauty in tact like Princess Diana. She probably grew up with massive skin protection and then died when it was still perfect. She'll be remembered as beautiful, always, but it was life half-lived. It's not worth it to me.
What's the Point?
Next time you look in the mirror and are about to critique freckles or spots, think about whether you would really have preferred a life in an English Manor house reading about adventure or never going outside so you can look perfect for your colleagues or the people in the airport.
Anyway, if you really want to look porcelain, you can just airbrush yourself on Photoshop.
In conclusion: live large and airbrush your photos.
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.