I was on a bus idly looking around at the other passengers. Several women, clearly over fifty, seemed very similar yet I could see that their hair color and facial features were completely different. It was the clearly defined lines of disapproval, those deep creases which run from the mouth down to the chin sort of pulling the lips down too, thus creating an effect of permanent dissatisfaction with the world at large. Any lines and wrinkles may add to one’s age; the lines of disapproval make us automatically perceive a person as old.

An acquaintance used to come to us as a young girl when I was a child. She asked my mother’s permission to practice in front of our full-length mirror, and explained that her younger brother was “an absolute pest” so she could not do her exercises at home. I watched her, mesmerized. She would strike a pose, twist and twirl, put her hands on her hips, pull in her stomach, try on various outfits, check her height and her walk in different shoes. She would sway her hips and move her arms, take a step up and sit down, cross her legs and stretch them in front of her. Then she would try out various expressions, smiling at her reflection, trying to move her eyebrows, flutter her eyelids, and open her eyes wide in fake astonishment. It was quite fascinating! Though I never went to such extremes, I would often remember her, and check a few things myself. After that bus ride I studied my face in the mirror and concluded that I did not have any lines of disapproval. My lips looked fine, and I had no problem smiling at people and things.

This led me thinking about age and the various factors that affect our appearance. Extra weight for instance always adds on years. “Quite old”, I thought looking at an obese man. It turned out he was just 25. A woman with a sour expression never looks attractive; nobody wants to get acid looks and words, so strangers steer clear of her. Do we really think in terms of age when we see a man or a woman, does it matter if they are thirty or sixty or a hundred? A kind silver-haired smiling grandmother often evokes an answering smile; we don’t really even try to determine her age. A father praising his son or daughter for any little achievement or consoling them for a failure, a mother saying a kind word to her children and their friends is always “cool”. Why do people like the actress Betty White who recently turned 95 so much? Her age of course is impressive; anybody over 80 who is still in possession of all their faculties brings about the feeling of wonder and awe. But also it is her face, her smile, her sparkling eyes which show her zest for life and her benevolence. No, we don’t think, “OMG she is 95!” We just enjoy seeing her.

At a reception, the hostess, a rather plain woman over fifty, greeted all her guests graciously with a nice never faltering smile and a little compliment. “Your hair looks so lovely today… What a pretty dress… Your kids are amazing… You look so fit… Glad to see you here…” All the women smiled back at her, and most men said later, “What a pretty woman!” Nobody commented on her age. Age is never a factor where kindness and understanding are important.



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