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say cheese

My daughter pointed out my deepening smile lines the other day so logically I went down an internet rabbit hole. What’s the best way to minimize them? Injectable fillers? Retinol? Laser treatments? What WAS Benjamin Button’s secret?

“You're starting to look older,” she'd said. Has she been contemplating my eventual demise?

I felt assaulted, and self-conscious. “Yes, I have been looking into removing the lines,” I told her, truthfully. As in, I’m debating consulting a doctor about injecting poison into my face.

I’ve explained to her that surface beauty is not the source of happiness and that it comes and goes but she’s not dumb -- she’s learned from what she’s seen that she must chase outer perfection; that having beauty and the means to achieve it -- THAT is the good life. I’ve been cutting short the width and duration of my smiles ever since.

But then… the other day… my smile lines met their nemesis: an experience so full of joy that they couldn’t be contained — a parade.

As I bounced around, in the center of town, fluttering my American Flag -- watching my son and nephew dab to the high school marching band; catching a friend’s gleeful wave from the driver’s seat of an antique fire truck; spotting my daughter and her friends beaming from behind their Girl Scout banner -- I knew I must not contain my smile. My smile has no business being contained.

My smile’s job is to reflect and amplify the beauty rejoicing inside of me -- the most powerful and fulfilling type of beauty there is. And when I contain my smile, then I limit my joy inside, which wouldn’t be fair to me or to this parade -- this celebratory show of heartwarming connection and community pride. THIS PARADE was beauty — the very best kind. And I didn’t need to chase it; it marched right up to me.

My face will wrinkle, with the passing of years. What will those years stand for? Years of truncated happiness? The privilege of having outer beauty is meaningless if it means you must stifle the joy within.

What'll happen if my cheeks wrinkle? What will that mean for me? Less love? No. Less respect? Less power? Could be. But if I can figure out how to love and respect myself, regardless of looks or presentation, then I don’t need to rely on other people’s respect to feel loved and whole. Whenever I manage to locate and feel my exquisite beauty inside then I feel like I have everything I need.

Don’t get me wrong, I *love* beauty — a stunning sunset, a frilly dress, duck lips in a dimly-lit mirror -- but outer beauty for me is sometimes nothing more than armor, and armor keeps love out — whereas inner beauty welcomes love in.

When you sidle up to a crowd; when you see a woman ten years older on Instagram, what do you focus on first? We are RAISED to focus on the exterior -- on the crow's feet; on the smile lines. Maybe we aren’t looking deep enough. Maybe it’s time for me -- for us -- to redefine what true human beauty looks like: that which we can’t see. Outer beauty should not be our defining characteristic as women. Looks aren’t meaningless, but I wouldn’t throw them a parade.

So will I inject fillers into my face? Dunno yet. I left a message for the doctor and they returned my call…

but I have not returned theirs.




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