The banner headline posted on the cover of the latest "National Enquirer" at the supermarket check-stand today was framed by pictures of famous women -- those who had and had not had -- plastic surgery.
On the left side of the cover were photos of Katie Couric, Barbara Eden and Connie Francis without make-up, looking more or less their chronological ages, which ranged from 55 for Katie Couric to seventy-something for Barbara Eden and Connie Francis. I looked at their pictures and what I saw were normal, attractive women in various stages of (more or less) natural aging.
Why is that a shocker?
Why are women -- famous and otherwise -- criticized or, worse, penalized for looking their age?
When I see my friends -- long-time and new -- I see that they're not young. But I see the signs of lives well lived, of loving, of building character through the years. I see kindness and sadness and joy. I see a wealth of lifetime experiences in the faces of my friends.
I see that in my husband Bob, too. We met when I was 30 and he 31. I see the young Bob as well as the older, wiser and more experienced Bob when I look in his face. I see the intelligence he has always had as well as the wisdom and compassion he has grown into through the years.
When I look in the mirror, I do see the extra weight, the wrinkles, the white hair.
I also see my mother's face. Who thought I would ever grow to resemble my mother? It's a surprise but I am at peace with that. I look at myself in the mirror and I see kindness -- both hers and mine -- and rejoice in the fact that I've been given the gift of years to grow and become a better person than I was when my figure was lithe, my hair dark and abundant, my spirit strong, but largely untested by time.
What a gift it is to have a chance to grow older. So many of my friends have not.
And yet, our youth-oriented society -- epitomized by the the age-porn of "The National Enquirer" -- considers it a blunder, a shame, an indiscretion when a woman looks her age. (Older men look "distinguished" while older women just look old.)
The older I get, the less I care what others think. I'm at ease with my own face, my own body and my own thoughts.
I think that growing older is a gift -- and I'm grateful for every day, every wrinkle, every new experience and every wise and treasured friend.