It is, to me, the most offensive word there is about getting old: “anti-aging.” To be anti-aging is to be anti-life but even so, the word, the idea, is ubiquitous on the packaging of hundreds of brands of snake oil that promise to remove wrinkles and restore lost youth.
You know as well as I do that contrary to the claims of manufacturers, advertising, celebrity spokespeople and even some accredited physicians, nothing will make anyone young again or even young-looking.
So it would save a lot of heartache, not to mention money, to not only accept the physical signs of aging but to glory in them.
If you have been hanging around here for even a short while, you know that in the 12 months since March 2013, I have lost 40 pounds. Wanna know what happens to the skin of a 72-year-old who loses 25 percent of her body weight?
A year ago, my hands had about half as many wrinkles that were about half as deep as these. Nowadays I am the poster girl – well, poster old woman – for wrinkles.
And don't think this wrinkle explosion is confined to the parts of my body I'm willing to show you. There are now collections of fine lines, permanent ripples and a sag or two or three just about everywhere – arms, upper legs, belly and, certainly, face.
Yesterday, I had need of some photos for a story in the New York Daily News about self-written obituaries for which I was interviewed. (You can read it here and you can read another feature quoting me on the same subject at USAToday.)
I prevailed upon my friend Ann Adrian, a gerontologist and director of the Adult Community Center in Lake Oswego, to take a few shots for the Daily News piece. Here is one of the outtakes:
See those three or four lines on the right side of my mouth? A year ago, there was just one. It was about five years ago when I first noticed that it was becoming permanent. (It had always been there when I smiled.)
In a private experiment on the progression of aging, I kept watch day-to-day over the ensuing years as it grew deeper. Even with that attention, it was a bit of a surprise when the additional lines arrived toward the end my of weight loss, as did those wrinkles and crinkles about my eyes.
The thing is, I like them all even if, the older I get, the more I look like my mother.
The most important reason I would not have cosmetic surgery is that I would never know what I really looked like in old age. Never know what all the living, good and not-so-good, had done to me and how it becomes written on my face.
And more, I would feel a fraud even if I had not spent 10 years advocating for elders just as we are, without surgical intervention.
You wouldn't know it from our popular culture, but there is nothing wrong with growing old nor with the accompanying wrinkles. Each era of our lives is unique unto itself and I want to live this one as thoroughly and authentically as the earlier ones without pretense to being something I am not – which, anyway, never fools anyone.
We laughed a lot, Ann and I, while she was clicking the camera for the shots I needed. She told me that like that line near my mouth I have monitored for several years, she (about 15 years younger than I) has been tracking one she first noticed just above her lip last November.
There is an ancient - more than possibly apocryphal - anecdote about the actress Delores Del Rio. It was said she believed that if she never smiled or laughed and slept 12 hours a day, she would not get wrinkles. Here, thanks to Ann's photography, is how I feel about that - the same photo used in the Daily News:
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Just Another Challenge