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ESSAY
Living With Mature Skin
Karen Zey

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A silver-haired woman with still-taut cheekbones smiles from the ad. A pitch for magic potions aimed at women with crow’s feet and creases. A woman like me, experienced in flutters of self-doubt and twinges of loss. Vulnerable to the seductive pull of junk science and sly text—serums with proven clinical strength, the latest in anti-wrinkle technology. Sweet-smelling fruit extracts to moisturize, rejuvenate, illuminate. Who doesn’t want to glow with renewed vitality?

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Cheap cold cream releases a greasy, medicinal smell. For years my mother slathered it on her face every night before bed. A beauty regimen scrimped out of grocery money. Now 85, she looks 70. My haphazard routine? Pumping paraben-free, all-purpose lotion for both sets of cheeks. You should try something new, my mother tells me. You’re not getting any younger. Maybe she has a point.

*

Aging celebrities chase youthful beauty. Tabloids thrive on their stumbles. The grotesque masks of failed facelifts. Outlandish puffed-up lips. Brows frozen in Botox confession. The blurred horror of a once famous face displayed at the check-out aisle. Posted as click bait. A public outing of a woman’s naked shriveled self.

*

Grizzled first wave feminists wear age spots as badges of a full life already lived. They take pride in their wrinkles, every furrow and fold a testament to past romances or long-time love. Their weathered faces proof of devoted parenting and passionate pursuits. Sipping free-trade coffee, buying organic, posing in yoga class. First-wave liberated voices sounding shrill. Is resisting the map of wrinkles on my face such an unenlightened choice?

*

My face reveals bumpy decades of small triumphs and survived hurts. But I want the world to see the smoothness of my self-worth. Take in the fine lines of my understanding. I want to look in the mirror without a wizened reminder of the past. I want to look in the mirror and dream of possibilities.

*

A glass counter near the entry of the department store beckons. I carry home a purchase wrapped in self-forgiveness—a small, opaque glass jar, embossed with silver-lettered promises. I tuck it away in my bathroom cabinet. Every evening I dip one slightly arthritic finger into the rich, emollient cream and inhale its rosy perfume. I raise my fingertip to my mellowing face and smooth a brilliant white dab into every one of my pores.


Karen Zey is a maturing Canadian writer from la belle ville de Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Burningwood Literary Journal, Crack the Spine, Hippocampus Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Riverteeth's 'Beautiful Things' and other places.