Age is Earned: An Ode to the Women Who Made Us

Women versus wrinkles is a war that’s raged for eons. Since botox and the introduction of other injectables into mainstream cosmetics, millions have flocked to what they consider the answers to their prayers. Almost all advertising for cosmetic procedures is targeted to women; and successfully so, as data shows most recipients are female. 

But why? Why do we think freezing our faces means freezing the clock? Since when has it become the natural conclusion to splice open yourself to stop Father Time?

We’ll all age. It’s inevitable. As the minutes tick by and the years roll on, the wear of the world takes its toll. But rather than stare at our reflections in horror —

should we not consider that:

our brown mothers, grandmothers, and great ancestors

have walked the same path?

Photos by Arnelle Lozada

These strong, independent, resilient women who wear their wrinkles as a badge of honor;

that they have seen things, experienced things, and most importantly — led a life well-lived.

One of my grandmothers lived through a civil war and a foreign occupation. She watched her country invaded twice by two separate foreign nations. She witnessed a country divided. She saw her countrymen die. 

My other grandmother died in childbirth. And all I can think about is the years she’s missed, the wrinkles she could have earned — the time she could have spent with her family, the mother my father could have had, the joys she could have shared. 

I look at my mother and I see my future. When I look at photos of her at my age, we look identical. When I look at her now, it’s with pride and with gratitude. She’s older, yes, but the surface beauty of her youth has been traded for the wisdom of her age. She is the woman who left our home country with me, one big suitcase, and $200 in her pocket. She is the woman who learned a new language, a new culture, and a new profession all on her own. She is the a woman who wears her years like battle armor. She is the bravest woman I know.

Then & Now: my mother is still the poshest woman I know.

Then & Now: my mother is still the poshest woman I know.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t just see me. I see all the women who came before. I see them standing with me. I see the weight of their sacrifices, the lessons of their years, the stories of their lines. 

Even when my hair is gray, my laugh lines prominent, and my youth in past tense, I want to be proud to stand for these women. I want to honor the blood in my veins. I want to do justice to their last name. 

I want to have earned my age.

I want to have lived my life.

If my hair is gray, it’s because I have the wisdom of my ancestors. If my laugh lines are present, it’s because I’ve smiled all these decades. If my youth is my past, then I’m living for the present. 

Embrace time’s caress. Strive to lead a life that’s full and joyous. So that when you look in the mirror, you don’t just see wrinkles and flaws. You see pages of memories — a story of a beautiful life etched into the canvas of your skin. And love yourself and your culture, your heritage, your ancestors enough to understand your legacy resides not in the beauty of your youth but in the strength of your soul; the former fleeting, the latter eternal.