A Wrinkle in Time: Why I’m Not Okay With My First Signs of Aging

One author confronts the first signs of aging.


My preoccupation with looking young began on the morning of my nineteenth birthday. I only half-remember my first legal-drinking-age escapade, which took place that night –prairie fire shots in a bad pub – but I have excellent recall of finding my first grey hair that same morning. Nineteen! It was the first, and still only. No grey hair since then has had the temerity to show up. Now that I’m in my not-so-dirty-thirties, I’m waiting, an assassin in the grass armed with tweezers and an excellent colourist, for another to appear.

It’s thanks to this obsessive-non-compulsive vigilance – like, my hair is usually tangled, sure, but my SPF game is on point: face done, neck done, everything did – that I’ve mostly avoided the various “signs of aging” that are supposed to plague post-adolescent women. Mostly avoided, anyway, which is useful for someone who’s still turning over life-possibilities like mesmerizing pieces of sea glass. I’m cool with not having everything totally in order – it feels safe and wide-open – in part because I’m still getting carded ninety percent of the time.

What I do have working against me on the age-and-beauty continuum, what I got, slowly and then all at once, like falling asleep and falling in love (as per a nice line in The Fault In Our Stars), is a wrinkle. Not the appearing-and-disappearing indentations of smiles and frowns, but a wrinkle, a real one. It curves under and away from my left eye like a mean sideways “C”. I mean, it’s not that bad. It is; it isn’t.

My summer job from high school onward was working at day camps, first as a counselor and then as the friendship-braceleted boss of the counselors, which involved going from camp to camp with permission slips and craft supplies, always driving with the windows down, my left arm in the sun. By August, I’d be sporting the kind of sun damage a pale teenage female will work towards, consciously or not. I also happened to be baking the left side of my face that way, and so now I have this wrinkle.

When decent skin is one reliable thing you have going for you, the development of a west-side wrinkle this belligerent can be a daily knock-down that I can’t resolve to just be okay with, like I am with my square-ish nose that I’ve broken twice, like I am with my one lazy eyebrow.

The worst part of this one stupid small immense wrinkle is what it has opened, which is the idea of age as something real and indisputable, something I’ve started considering. When the wrinkle-as-aesthetic-annoyance proved resistant to creams, from Burt’s Bees to Chanel, I started thinking more about my older sister’s joking-not-joking, semi-frequent suggestions of Botox. 30 wasn’t a problem for me – I had two birthday parties and then my mom took me to Mexico – but the wrinkle was like a hot light on the fuzzy boundary that lies between “youth” and “not really so young anymore, kid,” which is a boundary I’d been ignoring. A wrinkle is just a wrinkle, really, but also not at all.

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