The woman who taught us how to apply theatrical makeup for our high school play one year chose me for the “old age” portion of our lesson. She told me the lines that formed around my eyes when I winked provided her an “easy template.” She also let her 4-year-old daughter run around the classroom wearing a greasy chicken bucket on her head. I should have taken her words in that context. A 16-year-old kid already equipped with low self-esteem doesn’t understand context.
I think about that woman and her bucket-wearing child every now and then, usually when I’m washing my face in the evenings or applying eye liner in the mornings. I’ll wink and watch the lines feather away, arrow fletchings along my skin. I’ve gained new lines since those “easy template” days…lines that curl upward and join the creases that undulate along my forehead or loop across my nose. If I crinkle my brow and wrinkle my nose in just the right way, I can form ridges like a Bajoran. I’ve practiced this move several times.
I notice the lines. I rub them with SPF lotion (for I am pale and freckled and love the sun). I clean them with face wash. I sometimes run my fingers along them. Every now and then, I confess that I try to smooth them away, revealing for fleeting moments that younger me, only now with a perpetually shocked lift of her brow.
Better to look shockingly young than dour and old!
And yet. I like my lines. They tell me stories. They mark my worries, my thoughts, my moods, my years. They remind me parenthetically that I love to laugh, that whole flocks of glee have marched across my skin. They map summer journeys and connect the dots that sunshine left behind.
These lines tell you nothing. They are my prologue to the story I know. They tell you nothing of my joys or my sorrows. They don’t tell you who I have lost or who I have found. They don’t teach you anything about me deeper than those superficial creases.
These all seem like obvious statements, logical sentiments.
Your body does not define you. Your body is not beautiful. It is not ugly. It is a shell for the beauty or ugliness you choose to cultivate within.
You are you. Make that mean what you want it to mean.