Ever noticed how your face looks different when you first get up in the morning? Usually I just glance in the mirror, take note and then push the awareness aside to focus on brushing my teeth. This morning I took a good long look. I didn't have my glasses on, so I had to put myself nose to nose with my image, but look I did.
My face looked gaunt, like the sides had fallen off in the night, yet at the same time it was all puffy, like I'd had some kind of allergic reaction, particularly the skin around and below my eyes, my cheeks and my nose.
Lines whose existence on my face I try hard to ignore were much more pronounced. The two most prominent were those upside down crescents on either side of my face, extending from close to my nose near to the corners of my mouth---two of the facial lines, most treated by botox after the frown lines on the forehead and which make me look a bit like a bassett hound.
There was a red spot forming between my eyebrows, which if I don't take immediate action and scrub my face with baking soda and facial cleanser, will surely turn to cystic acne in the next few days. Cystic acne is painful, often lasts a week and sometimes leaves a scar.
When I glanced at my chin, I saw the white postule of an already formed pimple, the kind many people take pleasure in popping, but which my mother taught me to treat with the application of a warm washcloth, the emphasis being on warm as opposed to hot so as not to burn my skin off at the same time as draining the postule. Once in ninth grade, I got so upset when I discovered a zit right smack dab on the middle of my nose, I took that washcloth, got it as hot as I could and did burn the skin off. I managed to knock off the pimple as well, but my nose burned for several weeks after that and the redness of the burned skin was much more prominent than the zit every would have been.
My face was very pale, making the discolorations on my chin and cheeks, the result of taking birth control pills for years to regulate my menstrual cycle and which did not fade away when I stopped taking the pills, much more pronounced and to my mind, ugly.
My hair was flattened against my head and I took a brush and tried to puff it up and give it some semblance of neatness, though, as no one is going to see me this morning, I don't know why I bothered.
At that point, I couldn't keep from wondering what had happened to the face I had before I went to sleep. I wasn't smiling, but I could still see faint lines along the sides of my eyes, more commonly know as crow's feet, to my mind a poor choice of a name for lines that form from smiling a lot. I prefer to think of them as "smile lines", but that doesn't take away the fact that they are definite signs that the soft, smooth skin I had when I was 17 is gone forever.
When I am in my right mind, which when I first get up I am not, I actually like the lines. I feel they give a face character, show that you have lived. Not like the heavily touched up of photos of older actresses and other well-known faces in magazines---"People" is one of the worst offenders---that make the rest of us wonder what is wrong with us for having faces with wrinkles and bags under our eyes and sun spots or age spots or whatever other signs of the stresses and joys that we have lived life has marked our faces with. It's those well-known faces in the magazines that have something wrong with them. They are not real.
I've noticed that while women's faces are heavily touched up, removing all traces of life lines, magazines leave in the lines on famous men's faces. Why is women's beauty measured by how young we look, while men are considered to get more handsome as they get older, the lines on their faces considered to be an integral part of who they are?
I don't use much, if any make-up at all. I prefer the natural look. Most of the time I prefer to see the evidence of the life I have lived right there on my face. Like I said, I feel it gives a face character. For some reason, it is different first thing in the morning. I don't see the character or the laugh lines. I see the differences as imperfections, flaws, defects and after only a few minutes of observing, I have to look down or turn away because I can't stand to see that sagging face in the mirror looking back at me. Unrecognizably me, but me all the same.