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Saving Face -- A Love Story (of Sorts)

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"The prospect of surgery scares me. I'd like to observe how my face changes with time. I'd like to see myself grow old, to discover what I can discover truthfully. I want to take that on."
-- Charlotte Rampling

The lines -- on each side of the outside of my eyes -- are from laughing too hard or crying too loud. Take your pick. Often times one has led to the other. From crying to laughing with the jostle of a good friend who knew how to make it all "okay." When laughing morphed to crying it was often surprising, oh so necessary, obvious, in hindsight. These lines that are the sideways exclamation points of the windows to my soul are my favorite. Gorgeous I think, like a tightwire across my eyes, blue and icy and knowing, holding up my very essence, for the long haul, I can tell. Every dash represents a very good friend (so bring'em on!) and the lines from the tears? Well I pay them no mind after their labor. I don't attribute. It's not worth it. Instead, I hope that I've washed him and her and them and that away when they rolled down my cheeks, into my mouth, where I swallowed them, salt and all, be gone.

Around my mouth are my own parentheses from smiling too much or screaming about the latest injustice in the daily news. I can only hope to smile at the simple things -- tonight's sunset, a brisk wind that feels like it cleanses me during a walk, my daughter's text at just the right time I was missing her and then her twin's call to tell me about a boy she just met, or a very good grade -- (at this point, they are equally pleasing), my husband and our sweet, sweet moments of connecting even if they happen on the couch during Better Call Saul or Game of Thrones. These make my heart sing because nowadays there is just too much to scream about. Rightfully so. Why are we not kinder, gentler, more tolerant? Why are we not considerate, more polite, and loving, and forgiving? What has happened to us? (Am I not right? See "11s" below!)

The ones cupping my nose, encroaching my cheeks when activated, are from wincing. Wincing is peculiar. It cannot be so easily labeled or boxed. It's tricky and it knows it, hence the wince. It's usually accompanied by pursed lips, which share space with several razor thin lines from having puckered to inhale and exhale a few too many cigarettes, of all varieties, in my time. These sealed, pouched lips are the gatekeepers to the harsh words that boil up from my belly and stand at attention on the tip of my tongue ready for fire. But more than likely now, with age, they never see battle and are swallowed to be reformed, refitted and regurgitated for a future dishonor; to be verbally set to sic, unleashed, or perhaps not, not yet, or not again.

Moving up, the bags under my eyes, on any given day, or maybe just dark circles on any other day, or at any given time, will tell you how I slept and how much weight was on my mind, in my head, on my pillow, in my bed. They, like jelly-lined cloth bags of water carried from an African well by a strong, but oh so tired African woman, for way too long from way too far, hold worry. And worry is fat and heavy and bold and irrefutable. It needs to be held, like a baby who won't stop crying, endlessly. Ugh!

I'll save the best for last, because. So let's jump up to the horizontal lines across my forehead. The crevasse right below my hairline (which is beginning it's first spooled harvest of gray that I prefer, ironically and vainly, to call silver) is for world peace. It sits at the top and holds down the fort of epidermis underneath and rightfully so. It is the umbrella tip of concern because it is so hard to maintain, but also so vulnerable, always, all the time. It holds the top position for the reason that it has to. Without it, we are gone, and all other lines would also disappear, and then what?

The middle line is for my passion for equality -- in particular women's equality. I like all equality but my skin is light and I champion her because she is my monkey on my back in this life in this vehicle with this light skin, small breasts and vagina. Another life, I will probably have another monkey and I hope (please! no shallow incarnations!) I will fight to get it off my back, and your back too, if relevant to you. Take your pick -- a plethora of options are available when the bodies are doled out, I'm sure.

The bottom line is personal. General concern for bad hearts, bullied lungs, and lost memory. Sometimes there's too much alcohol (some other drugs... some... times), a possible death wish (or two?), borderline undiagnosed "fill in the blank" mental flaunts -- or diagnosed but vehemently throttled. These cause heads to tip sideways in wonder, stirring a pinch of alarm, but with stoic, resolute DNA and a penchant for privacy, the genus holds firm, stands strong. Add a few daydreamers who would rather be lost sailing at sea but are too loyal, too loving and hold the hands, always, of those in need. Friends divorced or suffering children, sick or god forbid lost, or any other maladies of health and life on the palette of breath. And, or but, those two lovely daughters who are doing quite well right now, thank you.

Which brings me to the best: the "11s" between my brows! These are the warriors. These perpendicular lines -- holding off the protrusion of a horn perhaps? -- are the ones not to approach and never to deny. They represent anger -- proud and true. One day there was nothing and then a bump. Could Worry be hoarding real estate? Fucker. Well, maybe. It was disguised, at first, as worry over babies and mothering and balance acts. Then it repositioned, sinking deeper, cutting harder, enforcing a regiment to compartmentalize and secure a household, a job, taxes and other strange details of life's rote maintenance. Then came the jutting fissures and each had a name but both were labeled, for ease, as teenager; fighting hard for identity by twisting every course feasibly possible, trying to secure a freedom not far off, but not yet close enough.

My "11s." Not to be filled nor sanded nor deadened. To uphold intimidation and instill fear? Maybe. Why not? They are not going away. From teens to more nebulous, evolutionary angst of young adults, "bigger kids, bigger problems" was the saying, and my "11s" stand at attention now, on call, ready to ward off the known evils adulthood might try to sell them. If crossed, they will be the first thing right up in your face, menacing, taunting, daring you to hit me, come on, go ahead, and the last thing you'll remember before you go to bed that night. You've been warned. Stay away from my babies.

It's not that I don't think about how poison might make my face more acceptable or possibly more approachable. I like the word poison. Sounds like it might work. Could it really help get me that gig or maybe keep my husband's eyes "over here" and not on that amazing round ass of the woman who just passed us on the street -- the one young enough to be his daughter? I've thought about it -- I still do. A lot. Sometimes endlessly. It is a layer of thought that was not there two generations ago. It had just started to stalk my mother's generation. My grandmother's time was consumed with a list of worries a mile long and while she aimed to look grand, like a lady, she never stood in the mirror and pulled her face back, or tucked her neck, or rubbed her "11s" hoping they'd wear down. It is perhaps a waste of time to think about it but when your daughter comments about the young, pretty actress on the television, who is wonderfully perched in her 20s, "I think she's had work done," my heart sinks. I wince.

Friends, who I do not begrudge if they've made friends with the needle or the knife, surround me. Their choice. But I decided it won't be mine. I'm going to make a friend group with Tommy Lee Jones, Mick, Keith and Robert (as in Redford). I want to crawl into their gorges and gullies and burrow (I'd do more but I'm married). And I know I have enchantresses on my side, Charlotte and... Tina (as in Fey) who stated outright she wants to see real human faces, that move, with original teeth! Over here Tina! Over here! And I am begging, hoping, praying Meryl? Helen? Gloria? Hillary? And... and... and... please step up.

My face is my history. It is a unique, very detailed map and at anytime, if you drive long enough, sitting across from me, spending time with me or living a life with me, you'll find road signs to all my passions, my deepest thoughts, my desires, my hopes, what defines me, how I think, what I feel, where I've been and probably even get a clue, several clues, as to where I'm headed. Another line, another cause, another ravine, another worry or injustice. Like Charlotte, I want to take that on and to some relief (Look! At my face! Relax for one second!), I'm glad there are no more teenagers.