For many years I prided myself on not having wrinkles on my face. (In my defense I have to say that the lack of wrinkles barely compensated for years of red-nosed rosacea.) I never minded the well-earned crows' feet and laugh lines, because one has lived and laughed, after all. But I seemed to have escaped the crumpled mosaic that hits women (men, too, but who notices?) when they are no longer "women of a certain age" but actually "older women."
I attributed this smooth face to vigilance. To small-batch moisturizers from alchemists in out-of-the-way studios. And yes, to good genes (although my mother died when she was six years younger than I am now, so I hardly have a reference point).
Several months ago I had cataracts removed from both eyes, three weeks apart. The clarity with which I saw the world after that was astounding, and I wrote about the experience. In response to that essay, a friend wrote me saying she had had her cataracts removed as well, and the most notable result was that she could now see her wrinkles. I chuckled at this—but saw no parallel.
And then one morning I looked in the mirror and saw a ruined face. I saw the map of tiny surface lines that say nothing about me except "old, old, old!" and I realized that I had gone from wrinkle-free to Holy Cow! virtually overnight. What had I done wrong? Was I using a new moisturizer that promoted wrinkles rather than plumping them up into smooth, dewy skin? I was at a loss. What should my next step be, to keep this sudden phenomenon from spreading and deepening?
About two weeks after I received the note from my friend about how her cataracts revealed her wrinkles, I made the connection. It's quite embarrassing to tell you that it took me that long to connect the dots.
My wrinkles were not new. Before the cataract removal, I never examined my face with my glasses on, since any examination occurred at the sink where I washed and lubricated the skin, without glasses. I had never seen the wrinkles. The newly replaced lenses in my eyes simply showed me what had been there all along, even as I was taking pride in my smooth skin and, ungenerously, compared mine favourably to the skin of my contemporaries, whom, of course, I always saw with the aid of my sharp-seeing glasses.
Let me humbly admit it now to one and all: I am human. I am normal. I am mortal. And I am aging, the same way we all have aged, do age, and will age.