I first noticed a change in my face when I was on vacation in Tokyo.
My fiancé and I stopped to take photos along the busy sidewalks of the city’s Electric District. It was a chilly and overcast day, so I was bundled up in full winter gear: scarf wrapped tightly around my neck, beanie pulled down over my forehead, signature fingerless gloves on. He snapped a few photos of me that he seemed really pleased with. I took a look, and yes, they were great snaps. But I couldn’t help but notice how my cheeks looked slightly deformed. They looked puffy, almost like crumpled plastic bags. On both sides of my face, there were creases just below my cheekbone and below my nose that seemed to be playing tug o’ war with each other. But instead of pulling the skin tighter, the creases were shoving this portion of my face together to make cheek cellulite.
I’m highly critical of how I show up on camera. Great natural lighting, especially on overcast days, is my best friend. It hides acne, lines, spots, and anything else that seems less than perfect. So I was confused as to why my best friend was playing tricks on me today. Instead of playing to my strengths, the natural light was making me look, dare I say it, old. I mentioned this out loud to my fiancé in a much more succinct comment.
‘My cheeks look weird,’ I said. We both blamed it on the light and agreed it was a small price to pay for a great photo in a magical place.
"I couldn’t help but notice how my cheeks looked slightly deformed. They looked puffy, almost like crumpled plastic bags."
I noticed it again recently while I was getting a haircut. I often don’t look in the mirror while I get haircuts. I like the mental comparison of my before and after. I walk in looking like the grizzly bear from The Revenant. Then, after 30 minutes, the ultimate illusion has taken place and I’m suddenly a 20-year-old human college sophomore again. This haircut was like any other with me looking down and waiting anxiously to see the end result. But when I looked up, I saw those damn creases. Why had they come back?
I started to dissect my face over the next few days in every kind of light imaginable. When I was at the gym, I’d pull and tug on my cheeks to see if they’d go away. During photoshoots for my blog, I’d ask to look at the photos to see if I could spot the lines on film. They were this mysterious facial effect that seemed to appear on and off regardless of how good the lighting was. Where did they come from, and why now?
And then, after weeks of investigating why my face was getting droopy, it hit me. I’m aging! It’s not like I’m elderly (not that that’s a bad thing). But I’ve noticed small signs of age as I inch into my 30s. Body parts seem to ache a little more. It’s a little easier to get injured. It takes a little longer to recover from a hangover. And now, my face is drooping a little bit.
And to make matters worse, I know I probably sound crazy. Because my photos don’t suggest that I’m aging any faster today than I was a year ago. But aren’t we all this highly critical of our own appearances? Noticing those insignificant changes that no one else sees? Obsessing over the smallest ‘updates’ to our bodies that couldn’t even be detected with a microscope?
"Men are expected to wear their aging like a badge of honor."
Men are expected to wear their aging like a badge of honor. There’s no pressure to get botox or facelifts. Scars, lines, and wrinkles are so welcome. But what about guys like Pharrell? Is he really that ‘Happy’ that he doesn’t have any frown lines? His face literally looks exactly the same as it did when I was in high school. He can wear his aging proudly because he’s a vampire-drinking the blood of young, failed contestants on The Voice. I want to age like him. And live in a world where I don’t need great lighting to have smooth cheeks in a photo.
But I guess I was just freaking out in the end. Aging is an inevitable part of life. It can be slowed or even reduced. But it can’t be stopped. I’ve always surrounded myself with people older than me, so I’ve always thought of myself as the baby of every group. I’ve never thought of myself as someone that ages. And when I saw those lines on my cheeks, it was the first time I really seriously thought about the fact that I was getting older. And for a moment, that stretched into a few weeks, I was scared.
I don’t see the lines today. Apparently, when I drink enough water, get enough sleep, work out a few times a week, and maintain a pretty balanced diet, they go away. I guess it’s true that I do need to keep taking care of myself. Or the cheek cellulite will remind me that I’m off track. Don’t worry, I’m nowhere near considering any enhancements or surgery. I’m slowly accepting that I’m not 22 anymore. But I just might be plotting to steal a page from Pharrell’s book on aging. I saw an MTV True Life episode once about modern day vampires. Anyone want to join me?