Face as Map
That faint tracery of grooves first manifests for every woman in a different part of her face. It feels sudden, like discovering your smooth shiny vehicle door has been keyed by someone with a grudge. So-called ‘crow’s feet’ branch from your eyes across your temples, stress lines become furrows in your forehead – both vertical and horizontal, the slight indentations where your mouth laughs sadly evolve into the hinged-jaw look of a marionette.
Ultimately they all merge, your whole face a web of wrinkles. If live into my 90’s, just two decades more, I expect to acquire that facial topography. I’m not there yet, but my face is full-on into a relentless mapping exercise.
That relentlessness of facial alterations can be a shocking, a daily source of distress. Until you stop counting. Until you think with more affection about what these ‘etchings’ mean. They map out our years, our life experience. They confirm that we have survived for a long time, that we’ve achieved ‘elder’ status in the Human Tribe.
Looking ‘old’ in America simply has not been acceptable for women. And too often by women. Women spend a LOT of time and money tending or fending off this worry. To hide the evidence that we have aged, we spend over $2.2 billion every year on anti-aging creams and moisturizers and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. That’s not even counting facial cosmetic surgery. Or the ubiquitous consumption of cosmetics.
I’m as vain as the next woman, but I wasn’t going to bite on this misguided notion of what looks good. I decided instead to tend judiciously to my hair and skin and let my genes do the rest. I missed early induction into secret society of face painting. So I opt for just the basics. I’m not willing to pony up as much as it costs to be elaborately ‘made over’ every day.
Crowning Glory Story
White- or grey-haired women have ‘disruptive coloration’ [defined in the world of birds as a type of ‘cryptic’ coloration catching the eye and distracting the observer from recognizing the whole organism.]. On some, their un-pigmented hair looks fabulous; for others it represents a dispiriting loss of youthfulness.
Between 75-90% of American women color their hair. Most often to cover grey as it begins to assert itself. A vast industry devotes huge resources to analyzing and projecting what women will buy to mollify their terror of aging. I loathe being predictable to such corporation predation.
If we women let go of needing even half the stuff we buy to soothe our vanity, we’d free up hundreds of millions of dollars for few pressing social needs: mitigating the planet’s climate crisis, or making sure every human gets enough to eat, or providing the means for all girls to be educated, or a million other tiny or vast efforts to improve our collective experience of life in the 21st century.
For me, there’s Women’s Centers Movement. It’s necessary we do what we can.