The damage has been done

November 7, 2007

When I turned forty, a group of three girlfriends gave me an Estee Lauder beauty treatment voucher. It included a facial, free skin assessment and a massage. I had never had a facial before this (nor since). It’s not generally my thing, Possums. I couldn’t understand why some women, including many of my friends, liked to sit for an hour doing nothing but have someone else clean their faces. I have also never had a manicure or pedicure for the same reason. A clip with the nail clippers does it in less than two minutes and that’s really all I require.

However, I went to have the facial out of a sense of obligation to the girlfriends who had pre-purchased the service. I remember chatting to one of my male friends, Rod, after I had the facial done. I was relating to him my surprise that the facial had made my skin feel good, eventhough outwardly it was impossible to see any difference. He was (is) skeptical. I remember him saying:

Maybe they strip away a layer of your skin and its the repair process that makes it feel rejuvinated?

Anyway the treatment included a skin assessment with a largish machine that was designed to show areas of your skin that were oily, dry, sun damaged, or whatever, so that the young woman operating the machine can treat you right (and recommend products to you afterwards, of course). Under the machine my skin showed up as pretty normal except for areas of sun damage around my cheeks. I was then informed that the sun damage had caused my skin to become thin in those areas. I’m not sure what she expected me to do about this, except perhaps start worrying… ?

Today I went for a half hour run along the beach. There was a gentle breese blowing, keeping it cool despite the sun being out. A few people were out on the beach, eventhough it was too cold to be swimming. I passed a dad playing in the sand with a little girl dressed warmly in jeans and a jumper, but with her fairy outfit over the top of this. She was wearing a large sunhat that didn’t match the fairy outfit. Her vigilant dad had obviously remembered to protect his little fairy against the sun’s harmful rays.

I, myself, had put sunnies on, and sunscreen but had forgotten to slap on a hat. I thought of my sun-damaged cheeks. But instead of worrying I started to reminisce about how the sun damage had most likely come about. My skiing friends and I would camp for weeks out in the snow for back country skiing in the New South Wales ski fields every spring. The weather was usually hotting up and we would get some great skiing in, sometimes in just T shirts and shorts. I remember one year it was so hot that by the end of a week we were plastering our faces with blue zinc (that’s all we happened to have) and wearing silk scarves around our necks and ears to protect ourselves from the sun. In the snow it is particularly easy to burn because in addition to the direct rays, you get a lot reflected back at you. The underneath of our nostrils used to burn, for example. We must have looked funny when, at the end of our trip, we skied back through the resort covered in blue zinc with silk scarves trailing. After these fabulous trips I would always end up with a distinct goggle tan on my face.

As I was running I reflected that the experience of those times were well worth any skin damage I have now as a result. I decided to treat the damage as a mark of life, part of my character, a story for the telling. Its part of me and I will never cover it up or be ashamed that my skin is nolonger perfect.



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