by Shelley Singer
Beauty is fleeting, or is it? What is beauty if not the splendid, centered gaze of Georgia O’Keeffe at 80?  She doesn’t need the photographer’s approval. She just is. The dewy mademoiselle in Matisse’s lithograph has it all ahead of her; she is merely pretty, a gay little collection of lines waiting to be filled in.

I was moved to write about these two portraits, in juxtaposition, because I feel so conflicted about the lines on my own face.  Aging, I am finding, is about being brave, facing fear and wrestling the forces that would count you out. In the two imagined monologues below, I tried to shed my ambivalence about lines to come down on the side of a life fiercely lived. But still, the young woman is so pretty….


Oh, how I love my wrinkles. They frame eyes that look out with the wisdom and world-weariness of a lifetime. The one between my eyebrows comes from thinking too hard, although I doubt thinking too hard is possible when I live to contemplate the desert light and the mysteries of womanhood every day. These, over my brows, I got from raising them, skeptically, to the fawning faces of facile admirers. These beauties here? Radiant sunbursts emanating from the corners of my eyes? Those are from too much smiling and laughter as, countless times, I gazed at Alfred’s face or lay back in pleasure on a morning after we had made love. These, around my mouth, well, they tell of cigarettes and hard drinking nights I wouldn’t trade for the world. The hash-marked undereyes are evidence of mortality faced. I would not know myself were they the taut pockets of so many years gone by. I have lived well, loved well and you can go to hell if you don’t think I am one gorgeous woman.


This face is my ticket to happiness. I just know it. I dine out regularly on my mere existence. I need hardly to speak, only to be. My hair is a cloud and a bird in flight and my eyes are feline almonds. I know I am a beauty; it shows in my eyes, but my secret  fear is that I am nothing but my face. My story, if there is to be one, is about tomorrow, but I am helpless to make a mark on my own. Who will etch the lines and write the story of my life? Surely I won’t be able to do it myself. Do I dare wish it? Do I dare write it? But no. Oh, true love, please come and turn me into myself.

Shelley Singer lives in Bethesda, Maryland and Manhattan. She graduated from NYU in 1970 and earned an M.A. in French Literature from The George Washington University. After several years in book publishing, she launched an event management company that became her work for over twenty-five years, first in New York and then in the DC metro area. She has been writing, quietly, for a long time. Now things are starting to get louder.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.