Pearls Inside Wrinkles

March is National Women’s History Month

Every age has “inside” wrinkles! Human brains are quite wrinkled; folds in the brain exist to enlarge a surface area of the cortex to increase brainpower within a small space. Peeking inside a human brain, you would see about 1/3 of its surface; 2/3 is enfolded in wrinkles. If you could spread out the wrinkles, the brain would be 2500 square centimeters, or the size of a small tablecloth. There are more wrinkles in the front of the cortex (responsible for most abstract thinking).

However, our culture suffers from a fixed mindset about outward-facing wrinkles and aging in general. Physician and gerontologist Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” in 1969. In medical school he was shocked to hear of older patients referred to as “crocks” who were viewed as beyond  medical help. Raised by his grandparents, perhaps Butler had a head start in experiencing the competence of wrinkled adults.

While men also have wrinkles, it is women who seem to experience harsh judgment about  wrinkled faces and necks. Columnist Gail Collins points out: “We’ve expanded our vision of what women can do at any age–Ruth Bader Ginsburg working out with her personal trainer at 86 before a day at the Supreme Court…but that doesn’t mean our prejudice against growing older has been erased. If it had, the 7000 or so cosmetic surgeons in America would be way underemployed.”

Collins researched age discrimination against women throughout the decades; a 1929 study showed reluctance to hire older women or “…almost everybody who had failed to keep that fabled 19-year-old complexion.” In the U.S. in 2023 the market size of cosmetic/beauty products is $48.8 billion.                                                                                                               The earliest known use of cosmetics was 6000-10,000 years ago in Egypt, although people did not live long enough to develop many facial wrinkles. Women surviving childhood had a life expectancy of 30 years and men, 34 years.

Egyptian make-up included incense oils for sun protection, but an elaborate use of eyeliner (for dramatic almond-shaped eyes), rouge for cheeks, and henna-stained nails were meant for beautification. Both men and women applied make-up as it was believed that Egyptian gods appreciated it. Perfumes also were popular and may have contained myrrh, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, cedar, rose, aloe, olive oil, and/or almond paste.

Wrinkles rattle people. Thinking he was delivering a high compliment, an 89-year-old man said to a much younger woman, “For a woman your age, you really don’t have very many wrinkles!” Phrases like “over the hill” are applied more frequently to women than men, although there are more hill-walking gals in their 80’s than men.

During the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009, The Dalai Lama declared, “The world will be saved by the Western woman.” I do not think he was too concerned about whether such a woman had wrinkles. There are pearls inside wrinkles.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz                                      

167.What do you think when you see a person wearing wrinkles?   

                                                           168. In what ways can Western women “save” the world?     

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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