Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Forever young


— She closes her eyes to memorize the five-digit ZIP code on the ID. Says it five times to herself and then repeats all her the information to her friends including her horoscope, the year she graduated high school and her crooked smile in her picture.

She is not 21 but her fake ID say she is and so will she once she gets into that bar.

But what will she say when she is actually 21. Will she pretend to be 21 forever?

There comes a point in her life when she is no longer asked for identification to purchase a bottle of wine. Her admission into high school basketball games is cheaper than the students. When she drives 10 miles per hour below the speed limit and cusses those who do not follow her lead because to her the younger generation drives too fast.

The point when she would rather spend 15 minutes holding the newspaper at an arms length in order to read the headline than surrender to glasses.

Will she return to that bar 20 or 30 years older staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she pushes back the wrinkles from her eyes?

We as society do everything to conceal our age. We do everything and anything to hide the years behind us and to postpone those ahead.

At department stores, young girls such as myself are convinced to start on an anti-wrinkle cream regime. We are pressured to wear sunscreen to prevent wrinkles more so than the prevention of cancer. And if our skin hangs more loose than it used to, we don't worry because when we are older, there is plastic surgery to fix that.

We make our face stiff with collagen because losing our ability to smile is of less importance than bags under our eyes. We dye our hair every month to hide the few or many silver strands of hair.

We can't wait to be older when we are younger. And when we get older, we wish we were 21 again.

This is the reason some never tell their age to a stranger and if they do choose to, they lie.

And then there are people like my yia yia. A woman who doesn't lie about her age but wishes sometimes she could hide it.

When my yia yia complains of her wrinkles, pushing them back against her ears to imitate the benefits a face-lift would have on her skin, I smile because I know she will never do it. She won't do it because 1) my papou would never pay for such a superficial expense and 2) she wants to hear us compliment her wrinkles.

And although she thinks we are lying when we tell her that those wrinkles are a part of her character and if taken away would take away some of her beauty, we are not.

So, for the rest of the day she forgets about that face-lift, and remembers her younger years, the years that created those wrinkles.

And the way she smiles when she remembers those years reveals her younger face again, proving that she still has it.

She still has her humor.

She still has her fashion sense.

She still has her family.

But most important, she still has it. And that 'it' cannot be taken away with age. This is the reason I am not afraid of aging like most. In fact, I look forward to each candle that adorns my birthday cake. Because I know with each candle is another year of wisdom, another year of learning.

I understand that I am only 20 years old.

I understand that I am about to embark on the best years of my life.

But I do not understand why every year can't be the best year of my life.


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