Friday, July 9, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Teacher, you look very old.” Manal gazes up from her desk with a cheeky face poking out of her black headscarf. “And your skin is not nice. What do you call these?” She pulls the black fabric back and points to the outside temple next to her eye. “Wrinkles? You have too many. Yes, Miss, maybe once you were beautiful. But not anymore.”

I know she’s a cheeky lippy fifteen year old, but no one likes to hear that you’re getting old and losing physical appeal- no one. I sigh and try not to let it bother me. “Let’s see what you look like at thirty-seven.” I mutter under my breath, eyeing the Pepsi, chocolate bar and bag of spicy red potato chips she eats for breakfast in my class every morning.

I’ve had Muslim ladies tell me that Arabic women have better skin that Western women because they keep out of the sun and wear the veil. I tried to point out that bodies do eventually get wrinkled under our clothes in Canada though there are parts of me that never see the sun either. But in their minds, my points are mute, because there is nothing better a women can do than wrap up and stay home, away from the prying eyes of men and the damaging rays of the sun.

Yes, I have wrinkles. True, I’m not as young as I one was, but who is? When it was time to go to bed that night I washed my face and applied a routine layer of night cream to save my skin from the air conditioning I need to allow me to sleep in this country. And then I leaned into the mirror for a good look.

These wrinkles over here, I got by worrying about how I’d pay off my student loan from university. These lines over here came from the pain over losing a great friend in a nasty car accident. These lines were from the pain of my own accident. These lines are from all the times I was faced with making a decision and wasn’t sure I made the right one. These lines came from missing my family at times when I was far, far, away and missing out on Christmases and birthdays of the people I love.

But these lines also came from too much time spend among friends in the sun on sandy beaches. These lines around my mouth began forming in high school when I discovered kissing boys was a great way to pass time. My laugh lines around my eyes are deep, reflecting a life filled with amazing giggles with great people and cherished experiences. Worrying about a student loan meant I received an education that I achieved completely on my own, my first real life goal completed.

Yes, I lost my friend in a car accident but I am grateful to have ever known her in the first place. And my own accident? Well, shit happens. And I’m still healthy. Could have been worse. And worrying about making the right decisions is quite poignant as I sit in a country where women’s choices are rather limited, or made for them by brothers, fathers and husbands who have the full legal right to make decisions for the ‘weaker’ sex. At least my decisions, good or bad, are mine. And missing my family only reiterates I come from a fantastic group of people who miss me when I’m away too.

“Our lines are the road map of our lives,” I was recently told. If God arrived in front of me tomorrow and offered me perfect sleek skin in trade for my experiences, I’d gladly keep every single wrinkle I have. When people say to me, “You are getting older, you know.” I ask in return, “For what exactly? What exactly is this expiry date? And when that moment in time comes, what will happen? Will I spontaneously combust? Cause I know I am nowhere near my expiry date. My life continues to tick at a speed that most people can’t fathom, and I like it that way.

So little Manal, with your pale, olive-coloured fifteen year old skin, you can suck it. Because I wouldn’t trade places with you any day. Lines and all.

But there is an amusing end to this story:

Manal was shocked to find out my real age of thirty seven, which was much older than her own thirty-three year old mother. She thought I was only twenty-five!


  1. I have just gained one more of those wrinkles myself; caused by empathy and admiration having just read this :-)

  2. you are a beautiful person, inside and out! wrinkles and all ;-)

  3. I always think wrinkles mean you've done something with your life living each day to the full instead of sitting back and letting it happen to you.
    With my sisters we were a little upset/worried about our parents' relationship which was full of full-blown arguments followed by kissing and making it up. Then we looked at other people's parents who were so horribly Britishly polite to each other - we called it "bread-and-butter existence". I am glad I've had jam and sometimes chillis on my bread and butter.
    Be proud of your wrinkles !!

  4. Dawn & FamilyJuly 10, 2010 at 7:13 AM

    "Suck it" gave me a good ol' hearty laugh out loud this morning. Thanks you and we miss you over here!

  5. Really Love it, I now feel prouder of the first wrinkles on my face... thanks for sharing ;)

  6. Great piece. Suspect I have a motorway map of Britain etched across my own face, but am not complaining about the drive either.

  7. I really like this blog, Melany. Especially the recounting of the origins of the wrinkles. Good humor mixed with thoughtful reflection like that makes for great blogging. And frankly, your famous smile and the laugh lines that go with them are extremely attrative from a male point of view--just so you know.