Facing the Truth

I stood in the dim hallway outside our farmhouse bathroom, alternating between knocking on the door, and noisily snuffling into the door frame. On some basic, instinctive level, my five-year-old mind knew that when a little sister pounds on the bathroom door long enough, big sisters usually forgo their desire for privacy.

The blond wooden bathroom door suddenly swung open. With an exasperated tone of voice, Agnes, my eldest sister said, “We have another toilet in the house, you know!”

I didn’t really have to ‘go’, but I wasn’t going to tell my sister that. All I really wanted was to be in the bathroom with her. Stepping in, I closed the door, pulled my pants down and sat on the toilet. The room was warm, and the mirror fogged over from the hot bath Agnes just took.

Scolding, but not really sounding angry, my sister questioned, “Why are you so scared to use the toilet in the basement? It’s a lot better than our old outhouse.” Then Agnes sighed, and went back to performing her daily ‘beauty treatment’.

I watched as my sister dipped her long, slender fingertips into a pretty, blue, glass jar. When she pulled them out a second later, they were covered with a white, pungent-smelling cream. I sniffed appreciatively, and memorized the big, important-looking letters printed on the jar’s label…N-O-X-Z-E-M-A.

At the time, I couldn’t understand why my sister liked to rub this strong-smelling cream on her face twice a day. Then, the years passed and I became a teenager. To my horror, an absolutely embarrassing thing started to happen. Huge blemishes began to pop up on my skin.

Without anyone telling me to do it, I began rubbing the white, silky, NOXZEMA cleansing cream into my skin morning and night…just like my big sister did. Did the cream’s magic formula help make my pimples go away? I can’t say that it did, but each time I opened the classic blue jar and took one sniff of the strong NOXZEMA vapors, any doubts about the product dissolved into thin air. Yes, I continued having blemishes despite using NOXZEMA…but they were clean, well cared for ones!

One night many years later, I experienced another beauty cream revelation. Home alone and watching TV, only half my attention remained with the TV when the commercial came on. Then something caught my attention, and I instantly sat up.

A beautiful, clear skinned, almond eyed young woman was looking directly out into TV land and saying, “So you’re 25 years old…a quarter century…and you feel like you will be young forever. Remember…you need to take care of yourself. Even at 25 years of age, your facial skin is starting to dry out, and wrinkles are beginning to form.” Her phrase, “a quarter century” started to spin around and around in my mind like a hamster wheel.

MY 25th birthday was coming up very soon! I went to find a mirror. There weren’t any wrinkles on my face that I could see…yet. Looking at my latest jar of Noxzema, I make a decision…I had to step up my facial defense by adding a moisturizer.

While our children were growing up my husband thought it was funny to tell our children that Mama was MUCH older than he was. The little dears believed their Daddy. Meanwhile I continued to pile on the cream, and forced myself to smile often and fully…convinced that smile wrinkles are much more pleasant to look at, than wrinkles formed while frowning.

More years passed. Our children grew up and moved out of the house. Then, like a dreaded, scheduled dental appointment…the wrinkles started to show up. One day while looking into my magnifying mirror…the only mirror that still allows me to make eye contact with myself…Arnie leaned over my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. Chuckling, he asked, “What’s next? Industrial-strength moisturizing cream?”

His jest was closer to the truth than I cared to admit. I graduated from Noxzema a long time ago. Since then, Aloe Vera, emu oil, vitamin E, Alpha-Hydroxy Acid, and grape seed anti wrinkle cream have flowed past under the bridge. My last LINE of defense (please excuse the pun) has been something mysteriously named…Q 10.

Looking at Arnie through the mirror, all I could see was the magnification of his nose and bushy mustache. “For your information,” I told him haughtily, “I was just admiring my face. That Q 10 cream is marvelous. I don’t believe that my wrinkles have ever looked as nice as they do today!” I couldn’t resist adding the sassy challenge, “What do YOU think?”

Arnie wasn’t able to answer. He was laying on our bed laughing. I lay down next to him and childishly said, “OK, so I still have wrinkles…big deal…at least they’re clean, and well taken care of!”


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