February 9, 2002

They're called "Marionette Lines," according to Complete & Total Real New Woman Magazine: these faint vertical lines bracketing my mouth, like parentheses. 

I have no idea how long they've been there. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know I HAD them until earlier this week, when I accidentally caught a glimpse of my face in noonday sunlight. (Something I strive at all costs to avoid, usually.)  I was sitting at my desk, sneaking a peek into my pocket mirror after lunch, checking for apple peel stuck between my front teeth, and there they were: twin up-and-down furrows, etched into my face on either side of my mouth, like wagon ruts in a country road.

They're not unattractive. They lend my face a sort of wry, ironic expression, especially when I smile. I think I'll probably keep them.

They were just sort of a surprise is all.

That very same afternoon, in the sort of amazing coincidence that only happens on WB sitcoms (or in *FootNotes* Land),  I happened to stumble across the New & Real Total Complete Woman magazine article, all about the progression and development of facial lines. Certain types of wrinkles, apparently, show up at predictable times in a woman's life. That's when I learned that these particular lines  --  the vertical lines on the side of the mouth, appearing typically during a woman's forties  --  have an actual name.

"Marionette Lines."


While I suppose it's better than "Nasolabial Folds" or "Glabellar Furrows"   --  it's certainly more elegant than "Crows Feet"  --  to me it still conveys a certain throwing-hands-up-in-the-air/what are you gonna do? fatalism ... as though some demented cosmic Puppet Master is up there somewhere, pulling the strings, controlling the how and the where and the when of how our faces reflect the years.

I don't mind getting wrinkles. Honestly I don't. I just want them to be *MY* idea.

And *I* want to be able to name them.

"Marionette Lines," for instance?  Give me a break.. From now on I'm calling them "Irony Grooves."  I feel this is appropriate, not only because of the subtle way they alter my expression, but also because I have spent much of the past forty-four years grooving over life's little ironies.  (The irony of finding true love once I stopped looking for it ... the irony of becoming a better mother AFTER I became separated from my children ... the irony of sobriety turning out to be the best *high* of all.)

And how about those deep vertical lines between my eyebrows? The skincare experts at Newly Complete/Totally Real Woman Magazine call them "Squint Fissures." Popular culture refers to them as "Worry Lines." From now on, *I* am going to call them "Welfare Lines," since I probably acquired most of them whilst worrying about the welfare of people I gave birth to/people who gave birth to me/people with whom I gave birth.

Then there are those two deep horizontal slashes on the bridge of my nose ... the result, I suspect, of sitting hunched over tablets and typewriters and computer keyboards, for most of the past five decades, cobbling together wordswordswords for all the world to enjoy. Those are my "Ink Creases." 

Or what about the network of tiny lines criss-crossing the area below each eye ... a by-product of all those late nights spent boyfriend-shopping on the Internet?

Those are my "On-Lines."

As for the dreaded "Crows Feet," I don't think it takes a big bunch of imagination to come up with something nicer  --  and more flattering  --  to describe the little crinkly lines one gets from a lifetime of smiling at people you love.

How about "Grinkles"?

I have to say: I feel better about this whole getting older/getting wrinklier business already. Simply wresting control of the naming process away from the Puppet Master  --  not to mention the dumbass writers at Totally Total/Completely Complete Woman Magazine  --  gives me back my sense of power and makes me lots more comfortable with the idea of my face collapsing like a November jack-o-lantern.

Who knows? Maybe next week *I* will decide to go gray!  I'm already planning to refer to it as "The Silver Lining."

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