My birthday is this week. It will mark my 46th year in this world. If I make it to 92, then I guess I can still entertain the notion of being middle-aged.

My smiling eye.
My smiling eye.

I don’t have a problem telling my age, though I’d be lying if I denied the clock’s ticking doesn’t make me sad sometimes. I don’t want to run out of time. When I feel this way, I reassure myself by remembering that there are no guarantees to the days ahead—I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound very reassuring, but my point is that there is no set time we have on this earth, and there is no limit for striving, seeking, finding, and not yielding.

Age for the average person doesn’t come without a few wrinkles, and while they’re nothing I aim for, I accept them—at least more than some people. I remember one bizarre conversation I had when I was the ripe old age of 19. I was in a college film production class downtown when these two very upscale girls came up to me after our first class. “How do you do it??” the one girl asked me as she smoothed her full-length fur coat after placing her oversized sunglasses on her face.

“Do what?” I replied.

“Stay so wrinkle-free?” I thought they were joking, but they were indeed very serious.

“Uh…I’m 19…there’s nothing to do…”

“Oh, yes, yes, there is. We are very careful. We stay out of the sun and smile as little as possible. We don’t want laugh lines! And we saw you just laughing away in class. Yet your skin looks so nice. So what do you do?” These two were maybe 21. I was dumbfounded. I think it was at that moment that they helped me see what value I would put on wrinkles in my years to come.

“Well, I guess I’ll be the wrinkled one who’s laughed a lot as the years go by.”

With that response, they simultaneously looked at me with disdain and turned and left. I sometimes wonder where those two might be today. I really hope they have a few laugh lines.

As a kid, I was very into collecting patches or stickers of places I had traveled to, and in a way, wrinkles are a variation of that kind of collection to me. While I don’t have wrinkles specific to certain experiences (that would be interesting!), they are still a reflection of the life I’ve lived so far.

It bums me out that wrinkles are such an issue for American women. There is more value to us than the elasticity in our faces. We should be proud of the journeys we are taking. And while I absolutely believe that we should take good care of ourselves, I don’t think the aging process should be a cause of shame, but more like a badge of honor.

Lately, my 87-year-old mother has taken to looking at me without her glasses and announcing, “You have no wrinkles!” I know she is trying to make me feel good, and I also know she has a pretty strong eyeglass prescription.

I do have wrinkles. For now, they’re mainly evident when I smile or laugh. As my 19-year-old self foresaw, it shows that I have indeed done some considerable laughing and smiling in my 46 years. Isn’t that something to feel good about? I think so.

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