• Ilan Cooley

the gift of aging

Updated: 3 days ago

"If I can start one trend it will be to stop the word aging from being a bad word, and to forbid the word anti from ever being placed in front of it."


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My grandmother had what I call a storied face. It was the roadmap of her life – a true reflection of her personal fortitude.

She undoubtedly experienced some struggles, born at a time when, as she put it, “women could be either a teacher, or a nurse.” She reluctantly chose teacher, presiding over a rural one-room school for as little time as possible, hating every minute of it. She was newlywed during WWII, having married my grandfather soon after meeting him, right before he left to fight for Canada. I can’t imagine the stress of waiting for him to return home. Thankfully he did.

She had a tell-it-like-it-is attitude, and a thunderous laugh. Despite any hardship she faced, I remember her mostly for being jovial. Her wit could cut to both the chase and the bone, depending how she intended to land it. There was an honesty in her that was often shocking. Perhaps she liked it that way.

There are few people who are so authentically drawn and layered, they seem more like a character than just a person. Maybe it is also why I was so mesmerized by her features. She had deep set smile lines that shot from her eyes like a firework. From there they cascaded downward to rest on her strong cheekbones. The wrinkles from her smile lines almost rose up to meet them, as they rippled from her mouth like the smooth rings from a pebble thrown into still water. It was such a beautiful, expressive face.

I think it is the years spent looking at her intricate and lovely lines that I can’t imagine aggressively erasing the natural signs of aging from my own face. To do that seems like it would be wiping out an important part of my own essence. The essence of my ancestors, and the wonderful familial features that have been gifted to me. When I look in the mirror I see the faces of my family, especially the amazing strong trailblazing women who came before me, many of them now passed. Oh, how I miss them, and their wise etched faces.

I see many current 'beauty' trends that wage a war on aging. I guess it isn’t too surprising. Our society seems to be against anything that isn’t new. I don’t see the point of being hostile and combative against something that is not only natural and inevitable, but also a great privilege. The alternative is not appealing, at least not to me. I would rather have deep lines and a long life. I want to earn them.

I understand everyone is different, and I respect personal choices, but I want campaigns that promote improvement to be wrapped in a pro aging message . We should not be at war with age. It is not an enemy of the people!

The true me is everything you see. At my current age of 48 there are natural lines from pain, loss and worry, but from joy, hope, and happiness too. When I look at my face, I like what I see. I wonder if I will ever want to change it, but with each passing year I am not sure I ever could; it is doing that in a wonderful way all on its own.

I feel we have such a short time to live and our body is the vessel that carries us through. It is our only true home and it should be revered, not shamed, loathed, or feared. If I can start one trend it will be to stop the word aging from being a bad word, and to forbid the word anti from ever being placed in front of it.

Let’s be pro aging and pro expressiveness. Let us wear each hard-earned line with honour, like the resplendent gift that it is.

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