Not grouchy. Just old.
April 24, 2016 § 7 Comments
Every one of the women gathered to discuss library business wore a catfish frown.
Catfish can’t help it. It’s simple anatomy, but as a young person I assumed the human face was mobile, and that facial expressions revealed the emotions within.
If so, I was in trouble. New at running a public library, I read the frowns of those women-of-a-certain-age as disapproval.
I hadn’t reckoned with the way age creates unintended facial expressions including the, “Hey kid, get off my lawn” glare, the “Life is one long disappointment” slump, and the face-at-rest frown.
Gravity, sun, and thinning skin conspire to make the vintage face look perpetually slept-in, but they do more than that. They alter facial expressions so much that past a certain age our faces send erroneous messages.
The eyes, those “windows of the soul” shrink, hooded by sagging eyelids. Others judge our intent by looking us right in the eye, but that open view is less available. We must be hiding what we are really thinking.
And mouths? Because gravity always wins, old lips settle into a frown when not actively smiling.
Smiles change as well. Smiling-while-old sets off a cascade of wrinkles that follows the worn path of years and years of facial expressions, becoming a parody of the easy grin of youth.
In extreme old age faces become hard to operate, setting up like Rushmore, almost always set in an unintended expression of disapproval or skepticism, and so observers misinterpret the emotional life that still unspools inside the wearer of that aged face.
In one of my novels an older character says, “There are no old people. Just young people, and young people wearing old bodies.”
If you catch me wearing a catfish frown, look past it. Behind that face seemingly stiff with disapproval is an inner young person, alive and well and still eager.
And I’ll do the same for you.