“Mommy! Mommy!” Ava yelled from the bathroom. “I have a wrinkle!”
I assumed she was horrified – who wouldn’t be? But when she sprinted into my bedroom, I saw otherwise.
Her smile was so wide it almost touched her ears. She was pointing to her forehead, which was as smooth as untouched snow.
“Here!” she insisted, raising her eyebrows to the sky and causing the slightest undulation in her forehead.
“Oh, yeah. Look at that.”
She threw her head back and her arms up in the air as if she was tearing through the tape at the Boston Marathon. “Yes! Yes! I’m growing up!”
There were other signs. Like the fact that her size 6 pants morphed into capris overnight or that she instructed me not to send her Batman cup to school because that would be “so embarrassing.” But for some reason, this wrinkle – albeit forced – was the sign she was waiting for.
I remember my first wrinkle. I was 22 and applying mascara when I saw it resting near the outside corner of my eye. I faked a smiled and watched the wrinkle deepen. When I relaxed my face again, the evidence remained – like a dead bird on the side of the road. I pressed and pulled on my skin as if trying to straighten an unmade bed. But the crow’s toe remained.
Over the years, the toe turned into a foot and spread like pinkeye. Two deep lines emerged running from the outside of my nose to the corners of my mouth. “Smile lines” I called them, because I’m so freakin’ happy. But I wasn’t happy. I was dying.
Or so it seemed.
Of course, parts of me were getting better. I was smarter, more confident, more fit and generally more satisfied with my life. But my wrinkles were a relentless reminder that gravity is a constant, whereas collagen is not.
Rather than treat the problem, I ignored it. But like extra weight or a wardrobe consisting of Keds and stirrup pants, one day I woke up and saw my wrinkles for what they were: a physical manifestation of my life. The happy moments (eyes and mouth) and the not-so-happy moments (the Levolor blinds across my forehead and the trident between my eyebrows).
I don’t want to erase my memories, but I could do without these wrinkles. This year, I invested in an age-fighting skin care system and I’m happy to report it’s helping. I even face-masked Ava one night since it’s never too early (for the record, 34 is too late). I wish my own mother had opted to slather me with a little Retin-A instead of Coppertone Oil, SPF 2.
But I can’t turn back time. I can only hope for advances in non-invasive procedures. For now, I’ll try to fight the inevitable pruning with balms and butters. And try to embrace the stripes that I’ve earned along the way and wear them as proudly as Ava does.