I was in the parking structure about to head to work, when I flipped down the car’s vanity mirror for one last look. That’s when I saw it—a black line on my cheek that ran from the side of my nostril curved downward and ended just below my lip. "Great," I thought. "I must have dragged some mascara across my face." I licked my finger and began to rub.
I licked, I rubbed, I licked, I rubbed, but the mark didn’t go anywhere. I looked closer. This was not makeup and it was no mark. It was a deep, cavernous groove, a fissure, a chasm. You know the kind that in nature would take, oh, 44 years to evolve. I swear it wasn’t there when I left home this morning.
In a reflexive gesture, a sort of duckling-imprinted homage to my mother, I placed my hands on each cheek and pulled backwards. Her mantra echoed in the recesses of my brain, "I don’t need a face-lift, just an iron."
While the groove disappeared, this wasn’t exactly a hands-free, user-friendly move. Neither was puffing my cheeks. Aside from looking like a blowfish, I knew talking would be a problem. For a while I stewed over the ironic injustice that my reward for a lifetime of laughter was a dented face. But bitter irony is a hard pill to swallow and stewing only made things worse. Deep furrows gouged a trough between my eyebrows, and my tight-lipped scowl unleashed an army of free radicals marching in vertical lines from my lips to my nose.
Miraculously, one thing did work—the original crime. That’s right, I smiled. Okay, so that brought out the crow’s feet, but at least I could pass through security without being frisked for that crazed-angry-woman-hiding-an-Uzi look I had going. So I opened my eyes wide, threw back my head, and tried to recall every funny thing I could.
Since then, I’ve come to accept that, as far as imposed sentences go, smiling for the duration of my lifetime isn’t so bad. Oh yeah, I also flipped that damned vanity mirror shut.