When I turned 25, I remember crying. It was in the early 80s and the sexist stereotypes in television ads still prevailed (yes, I know they still do, but they were more overt then.) Ads for lotions and creams such as THE mother of all wrinkle removers, Oil of Olay, hyped its benefits for women "over 25". That's right, I was now old enough to need wrinkle cream, and I bought it.
As another old sexist commercial used to say, "We've come a long way, baby."
Now 30 years after that momentous age-defining moment, here I sit surrounded by bottles of elixirs and potions that promised to make me look like I'm 25 again. The labels make me feel like maybe I should have majored in chemistry: Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and poly hydroxy acids, peptides, tea extracts, retinol -- they all promise to reduce the "fine lines" and wrinkles on my face.
My husband looks over at the pile around me and laughs. His eyes crinkle at the corners and the smile creases around his mouth are now permanent. He doesn't care. The only time he's used a wrinkle cream is when I've forced it on him. It adds character to his face. I still see the same 20-something I fell in love with when we both had fewer fine lines and creases.
"You don't need those you know," he said.
Ah, but I know better. The creases on my forehead are becoming permanent. I see a lot of fine lines below my eyes. But I'm not diligent as the ads and the instructions on the lotions tell me I should be about putting this on every morning, noon and night. And, it's confusing. Some are "day wear", others I'm supposed to use only at night, and then others under the day wear stuff.
These magic potions must work. My mother, who's close to 80, didn't really start getting noticable lines on her face until her 70s. She was a believer and religiously used her face cream and body cream every morning and night. It was a ritual. We would sit on the bed and talk with her as she applied and rubbed in the lotions, glowing all over when she was done.
So, I pick out a few and start to slather. This one is for under eyes. Another for my legs, arms and body. The one in the pretty pink bottle, which is probably what attracted me to buy it, promises to make my forehead look as smooth as an injection or two of botox.
My husband looks on in amusement. "So why can't you just use the same lotion all over? That's what I do when I feel dry."
I sigh. I explain to him that fine lines and wrinkles don't add character to my face. They just make me look old.
"But honey, I don't see any lines and wrinkles. You're as young and beautiful as you were when we first got married."
I crawl out from the pile on the floor and go sit with him on the couch and smile. Someone should bottle that sentiment up -- because it just erased all my lines and wrinkles. Of course later, I'll slather some more magic potions on my face and body because I know my husband was not wearing his glasses and he probably really CAN'T see the fine lines and wrinkles.
Aberdeen, NJ - AARP
5 weeks ago