Aging Gratefully by Lian Dolan


“Do you do a lot of driving?” The aesthetician fingered the side of face, then held up a large mirror and made me scrutinize the wrinkles around my left eye. “Look, crow’s feet around this eye, but none around the other. Either you do a lot of driving or you sleep on that side and gravity is doing the damage. “

Thanks loads. Wouldn’t it be ‘crow’s foot’ if it were just one side? And who in Southern California doesn’t do a lot of driving? I barely go anywhere and I still manage to do a lot driving. Finally, please don’t force me to confront my wrinkles in a mirror while uttering the word, “damage.” All I wanted was an hour of someone rubbing things on my face and telling me I was doing a good job with my daily sunscreen. The news of my crow’s foot was a Zen killer.

The facial was part of a spa day package that my sisters had given me for my 50th birthday. It had taken me nearly ten months to carve out the time to indulge in the pampering. I have a hard time unwinding– like ever– but after an excellent massage and several cups of chai tea, I was doing my best to breathe and relax during my second treatment. Until the woman with the perfect skin made me face the fact that I was aging.

After spending a week staring at myself in the mirror, gently massaging the tiny lines around my left eye. I decided to seek professional help. No, I didn’t go to a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist; I went to my friend Sally who is a professional at seeking skin care treatments. She is knowledgeable, provides ample free samples and her fee is one hour of aqua jogging at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. During our swim, Sally outlined my options from fillers to injectables to something called Dermaplaning, which is basically shaving for women, if by shaving, you mean taking off several layers of the epidermis. Sally’s comprehensive vocabulary in the world of today’s cutting edge anti-aging treatments is impressive. And intimidating.

Here’s the thing: I’m not against beauty enhancements in theory, just in practice. For me. Because I’m a big old scaredy cat. For starters:


  • I am convinced that if I got Lasik surgery on my eyes, the doctor would sneeze at the exact wrong moment and I’d be blinded forever.
  • I have heard stories, mostly from sketchy Internet sources, about Botox going straight to your brain causing permanent facial paralysis and I’m pretty sure that would happen to moi.
  • I know that I’d suffer a bad reaction to any kind of peel and that would lead to leprosy, although there are no documented cases of such an occurrence.
  • I believe the extreme swelling I experienced after that one eyebrow wax in 2004 would be multiplied by a factor of a million if I ever had plastic surgery, leaving me bloated and bruised for life.


In other words, I’m not a good candidate for anything that goes beyond Nivea and Noxzema. (Yes, you can still buy Noxzema just like it’s 1979! Same tingle, people, same tingle.) But in the battle against my crow’s foot, I’m willing to invest in wildly expensive lotions and potions and the occasional laying on of hands. But any treatment that involves needles, knives, lasers or micro-anything is out.

So where does that leave me in a world of beautiful people wiling to embrace aging by embracing the latest dermatological miracle cure? Frankly, it leaves me old and wrinkled on one side of my face. Which, I have to say, is not a pretty picture. But that’s when I dig deep and go back to my New England roots.

images-2I grew up in the Connecticut before the hedge funds and Range Rovers arrived, when a Yankee sensibility prevailed. Meaning, the older something was, the better—your Topsiders, your Volvo, your sailboat, your skin. Last spring, I went back to my hometown library to give a talk. There were women in the audience who I hadn’t seen in 30 years, friends of my late mother’s who were now in their mid- eighties. And they looked great, just great, in their Ralph Lauren sweaters and sensible loafers. All that gardening and leaf raking and those little jars of Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference had served them well. Were they wrinkle-free? No. Age appropriate? Yes. Plus, they were clear-eyed and so was I.

I’m willing to accept that for the next few decades, my more adventurous peers will win the race when it comes to outrunning Father Time and Grandma Gravity. But when we hit our eighties, that’s when all that Nivea is really going to pay off for me. I’d love to Age Gracefully, but I’m willing to settle for Aging Gratefully.


Lian Dolan

Pasadena Magazine