As I was packing for our long-awaited move to Istanbul, one of my college friends paid a visit to bid me farewell. I was on the floor surrounded by boxes and suitcases, and my college albums spread open. I smiled at her and shared our photos from 20 years ago. We were a group of attractive Afghan-American men and women full of dreams. She smiled as she eyed each picture with careful scrutiny. Then she closed the album and said:
“Fariba, out of all of us, you’ve aged the most.” Then she opened the album again as if the observation should be a known fact with no room for emotional comebacks.
It was a painful truth I already knew. I was so hurt, I let it go.
“Well, I guess so,” I simply said and continued to pack.
A month later, I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what I would change. The answer came quickly: nothing.
I wish I had told her that I was proud of how I had aged. My aging was the physical manifestation of many tales in my life. I probably began to see the changes after I had my firstborn at 35.
The roundness of my stomach told the story of my two pregnancies, both little girls with sincere brown eyes. They light up my days as they exhaust me.
The gray strands in my blonde hair are highlights of my worries as I watched my father wither from Alzheimer’s. Each strand was a night in the hospital, holding his hand.
The skin gathering under my chin was the echo of my voice calling for justice on stages across America. I spent eight years public speaking about women’s rights.
The wrinkles on my forehead are hereditary from my father’s side – the lines belong to a family of storytellers and poets. They were etched in my body at birth.
The laugh lines around my eyes are testament of treasured moments filled with giggles and cackles in the bosom of family and friends.
My once round face has elongated, an affirmation of a lengthy journey, a full life with little fear and endless roller coaster rides of emotions and incidents.
So my dear friend, thank you for the compliment that I look like I have aged. My spirit lives within me. I don’t need botox, plastic surgery, hair dye so you or others can tell me I’m young. Pretentions erase memories, they take away the rich stories our aging body can tell. And I prefer those stories to be transparent than a flat stomach and wrinkle-free face.