When I was in my twenties, attending one of my high school reunions, I remember looking over at older alumni sitting in the pews during our special Mass. I especially noticed those who were in their mid-forties and fifties. I stared at them in awe. They looked breathtakingly beautiful, filled with assurance and wisdom. I softly said to myself, that's what I want to be when I grow up.
Today is a different story. Almost every other middle-aged woman I see has had some "work" done on her face. Celebrity magazines are filled with women who have had their skin snipped, stitched, pulled, or removed - all in order to look as though she is perennially in her twenties. How ironic that it was when I was in my twenties that I thought older women looked fantastic.
I saw a photograph tonight of a political giant whose wife looked as though she had one Botox session too many. It just looks unnatural for a woman to obviously be "a certain age" and her forehead looking like a taut peach. And what does it communicate? "Please let me continue to be relevant! I know my worth is only as important as how young I look!"
There is a fear in our culture of aging. Perhaps there is even a greater fear in looking old. When I allowed my natural gray to go wild on my scalp, I received the harshest criticism from my brother. For almost two year, every time he saw me, he'd laughingly say, "Get a bottle! Why are you letting your hair go?" Meanwhile, my husband, who strongly encouraged me to embrace it, loved my gray hair. And after I got used to seeing what my hair really looked like after decades of coloring it - so did I.
Recently, my fifteen-year old niece remarked, "Aunt Mary Rose, why do you and my parents have this vertical line thingy between your eyebrows?" I laughed and told her it was life. I was able to hold off the effects of aging until just recently. A few months ago, before I turned 47, I looked in the mirror and finally saw the faint hollows under my eyes. Now they could have been there before and I ignored them, but I now saw them very clearly. I smiled. Shrugged. Went on with my day.
I thought about the beautiful women in my life, some who are older than I am but filled with the joy of the Lord. When I meet them, I don't stare at their wrinkles. Instead, I stare into their eyes, which are filled with a deep, abiding love they have for their Lord. It is evident in everything they say and do. This is the beauty that women receive as they mature in their faith and love for those in their life. Love will always soften a person's face. Always.
So when you look at some of the more "perfect-ified" faces of the celebrities, remember that they are chasing the elusive butterfly of youth, and age eventually catches up with us all. Meanwhile, the wisdom of a woman, her assurance and generous love for those in her life - will always trump a plastic surgeon's knife. See if you don't agree.