So there I was, thumbs moving fiercely to delete any inconsequential photos among the thousands stored on my phone. I tired of the incessant warning that my phone storage was full, so I was trying to clean house. But, it was an impossible task: Who can choose which photos to unceremoniously delete forever of your ever-growing toddler? So, I spotted a picture of boring ‘ole me to delete and accidently opened it up on my screen. What I saw horrified me to my core. There, clearly strewn across my face in the picture appeared one of the most dreaded creatures in our culture today and the reason airbrushing is all the rage: Wrinkles. Those squiggly lines that somehow show up on our bodies when we aren’t looking; slowly slowly creeping in, settling in, and never leaving like a hungry bed bug in New York City.
I honestly could not and still cannot believe my eyes. Could this be premature aging? I got home and stared at myself in the mirror for an embarrassingly extended period of time. As I searched out the now clearly visible lines shooting out from the outside of my eyes, I could not believe it took a simple phone picture to reveal to me the aging that has evidently been going on for some time now.
As I furthered my inspection, my mind started to wonder back into my teenage years when sun toasting with baby oil was having a moment. Then, I thought about my 20’s when I was living in California and sunscreen was about as far from my brain as monogamy is from anyone in Hollywood. Damn you younger, bronzed, carefree self! Didn’t you know sunscreen would be having its moment in your 30’s on up? Now the wrinkles have set up shop, and once you’re cracked, you’re cracked.
After the initial panic and self-discipline subsided, I began to let up on myself a bit. How many Asian/Pacific Islanders/Hawaiians do you ever see putting on sunscreen in their younger years? Only the smart ones? (That’s a trick question, by the way, we’re all smart. Gotcha!) In fact, as I thought about it, I went to college practically on the beach and I cannot recall a single moment where I observed any of my classmates lathering up the sunscreen and worrying about future wrinkles. Probably because we were too busy having the time of our lives and “catching some rays, man!” -- Ok, no one ever said that. Ever.
But as I gazed into the mirror inspecting every inch of potential aging skin, I laughed at how my mindset has changed not only because of the pesky lines, but because I’m a mother. Today we all know the very real risks of skin cancer — and some chemical laden sunscreens -- and you better believe all of us former sun goddesses are out dressing and lathering our children as if they are headed for a safari in the Sahara Desert. But, somehow the thought of protecting my own skin has always been far from my mind … until now.
Besides exposure to the sun, I did some research on wrinkles and their causes and found them almost laughable. First of all, wrinkles are a byproduct of aging. So that’s a gimme, there’s no stopping aging no matter what Neutrogena tells you. But some of the other factors that experts speculate contribute to the formation of wrinkles include worrying, frowning, not always eating healthy meals, lack of exercise, erratic sleep patterns, not getting enough sleep, and stress. So, basically boys and girls; the list of risk factors for wrinkles and premature aging essentially defines our lives as parents as we know it.
Break out those needles during naptime, it’s time to start throwing Botox parties STAT.
That’s a joke. I hate needles.
As the days went by after my wrinkle discovery, I began to feel less and less horrified about them. First of all, no matter what our culture’s odd obsession with airbrushed alien skin; wrinkles are normal and inevitable. Aging is normal and inevitable. Second, I’m getting older and I may be the first woman to admit this; but I like getting older. Sure, my younger years were sunkissed with adventure and spontaneity, but I like the woman I see staring back at me in the mirror today. She is more confident, she loves better, and she is more compassionate than she once was. And my hope is, 10 years from now, I will have learned to love even better and learned even deeper compassion. I’ll probably even have the wrinkles to prove it.
So, as you can see, I adequately talked myself off the proverbial cliff when it comes to clear signs of aging. I like to view them now as mere evidential lines of wisdom. I do, however, wear sunscreen on my face everyday now. I’m sure my 40-year-old self and my future phone photos will thank me.