Learning to Love Laugh Lines

By Lisa Murphy

c57bac2826c2e5f54f74f1ce445818c2One of my favorite scenes from the movie Mean Girls, is when the three of the four main characters are in one of the girl’s rooms after school self-critiquing their every imagined flaw in a full length mirror.

The dialogue goes something like this, “God my hips are huge…oh please I hate my calves….at least you guys can wear halters, I’ve got man shoulders…my hair line is so weird….my pores are huge…my nail beds suck”. And then they look to Lindsay Lohan’s character who can only respond with, “I have really bad breath in the morning?”

As women, (and many men I’m sure), we laugh at this scene because on some level we relate. We all have one or two surface flaws we see on ourselves that no one else sees. Usually if we bring it to other’s attention, people tell will us that we’re being ludicrous. For me it’s that my nose is too wide; I have a perception that it doesn’t photograph as well as people with more narrow, dainty noses. That’s all it is though, a perception.

I’ve always thought this scene in Mean Girls was an extreme because it is trying to make a point. I mean who focuses that much on their nail beds? Of course there are things here and there that I would improve if I could, (below average cup size and man feet I’m looking at you); but I can accept it was the body I was given. Other than taking good care of myself and moisturizing, there’s not much I can or would be willing to do to change my body, financially or otherwise.

One evening not too long ago, at my twentieth or so holiday event of the season, I found myself in the middle of that exact same Mean Girls scene. In all my years of being a woman, I’ve never experienced anything like it.  I was sitting at a table with three beautiful women in their thirties, who look like they are in their twenties, comparing every single imagined facial flaw they thought they had.

One thought she had wrinkles in her forehead, another that her eyes were caving in, another that the puffiness under her eyes made her constantly look tired. Yes we’re not as young as we once were, and yes our faces don’t bounce back like they did when we were twenty-two. It might take a little more moisturizer and cover up, to achieve that flawless look, buts it’s not hard when you start with a nearly flawless canvas. The women I’m speaking of are probably rolling their eyes right now, because they don’t see what I do. Again a matter of perception.

I was speechless during this exchange of imagined facial flaws because I simply did not see what they were talking about. In order to display these lines and wrinkles they claimed were forming, they had to contort their faces. There was a general agreement that many of these lines that they were seriously considering having Botox injections on, (not for the first time might I add), were from years of laughing.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t it a good thing that years of leading a happy fulfilling life starts to show on our a face a little bit in our late twenties and early thirties?

During this exchange, I was absolutely speechless, but like Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls, I felt the need to chime in, so the only thing I could respond with was, “sometimes when I smile too big, I get crow’s feet”. I had to quietly Google crow’s feet on my phone to make sure I had described the right ‘flaw’.

Now I’m realistic, I understand that body image issues don’t disappear as we age, they just evolve. We learn to accept the things we were insecure about growing up, and immediately find new things to obsess over. Apparently after age thirty, most of these ‘flaws’ are the laugh lines on our face.

The reason I was so stunned and a little depressed by this conversation, was because most people would kill for these three thirty-something women’s natural beauty, incredible bodies and at least from my perception flawless skin. I’m not exaggerating these particular ladies’ beauty to make a point, or because one of them will be reviewing this before it gets published. It’s the God’s honest truth, at least from my perception.

But that’s the problem right there. It’s an issue of perception. How we see ourselves versus how the rest of the world sees us. More importantly as women, when we engage in these kind of exchanges, we perpetuate this cycle of perceived imperfection.

Who knows, maybe at thirty I will be having the same conversations with my girlfriends. In the meantime ladies, I beg of you, let’s learn to love our laugh lines. Let’s celebrate them, we’ve earned them! They are a gift that we don’t seem to appreciate. What better testament to a life well lived, then a few lines that show how often we genuinely smile?!?

Thirty, forty and fifty-something me may look back at this blog and laugh at how naïve I was to have had this perspective in my late twenties; but I intend to hold on to this perspective for dear life as long as I can.

We often hear the colloquialism, ‘perception is everything’, and in this case it is particularly true. I can’t imagine spending so much time and energy on examining every single line, puff, discoloration or mark on my face. The only surgery in my near future is Lasik, so when a contact lens falls out, I’m not putting people’s lives in danger if I then have to get behind the wheel of a car.

The next time you find yourself in one of these conversations, I suggest you try to throw some perspective in. I should have spoken up and said something to the ladies at this table to counter their criticisms, but instead I just sat back and watched them confirm for each other the imagined flaws on their naturally beautiful faces.  I guess I did this because I know it is all a matter of self-perception, and there’s not much I can do to change how someone sees herself when she looks in the mirror.

My hope is with this blog, and many others I’m sure are out there making the same observation, is that collectively as late twenty and thirty something women we can take a moment to try to change our perception. My hope is that the next time we find ourselves in the middle of one of these conversations, we try to make our friends see themselves the way we see them. I mean come on, didn’t we learn anything from that Dove commercial:

Laugh lines are beautiful and they should not be perceived as a flaw. Let’s change the dialogue here a little. Let’s learn to love our laugh lines and the years of happy experiences that created them.

 

 

 

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