Recently I have been following the “body positivity” movement on blogs and Instagram. Women who are larger than those depicted in the main stream media (i.e. most of us) are demanding that they be recognized not only as normal, but also as beautiful. These demands have resulted in real changes in the independent sewing pattern industry. Some brands, like Cashmerette, were founded to fit a larger size range. Other brands, including Helen’s Closet, Liesl and Co., Scroop Patterns, and others, are expanding their size range to fit more people.
Inspired by all these women celebrating how they look, I’m wondering if I can’t do the same with my wrinkles. As you can see in my photo above on the left, I have a lot of them. My sister, on the right, has far fewer. She is a true red head and has used sun screen all her life, which may account for the difference. Our mother, in the middle, has a face full of wrinkles. Clearly I take after her.
Although I’m sad to admit it, I’m ashamed of my wrinkles. They make me think that I should have taken better care of my skin in my youth. I’m not willing to undertake drastic measures like surgery, but I do invest a lot of money in skin care potions. None has made me look like my sister.
But maybe a better solution is just to accept my wrinkles as a sign of aging. I am old—closing up on seventy—and being old shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of.
A recent New Yorker article by Allan Gopnik, “Younger Longer,” stopped me in my tracks. He asserts that few people buy or use products that label them as “old.” The most dramatic example is the personal emergency button that you can buy to alert services when you fall. Only 4% of older people in the US buy one; in Germany one study found that over 80% of those who had such a button didn’t use it when they fell. “In other words, many older people would sooner thrash on the floor in distress than press a button—one that may summon assistance but whose real impact is to admit, I am old.” (The New Yorker, May 20, 2019, 37)
Growing old is a privilege not granted to everyone. Can I change my mind to see my wrinkles–the result of a life spent laughing, frowning, smiling, and crying–as a mark of that privilege?