“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote has stayed with me for many, many years. I am not even sure when I catalogued it in my mental Rolodex of favorite quotes. I interpret this quote as such: When we are young, our physical appearance is largely determined by genetics. Some can be altered through diet, exercise, grooming, etc. However, the “fairest” faces are pre-determined. After a lifetime of either smiling and laughing or alternatively giving dirty looks behind someone’s back and frowning, the face becomes a canvas and tells the story of that person; a story that cannot be hidden.
Take a moment to think about the elderly people you see; the old man with the twinkle in his eyes and the sunshine wrinkles that frame them. Some people call these wrinkles "crows feet"…I am not sure why. This evokes something dark and foreboding; something unwelcoming, but they come from intense smiling! The man with the sunshine wrinkles was that guy who always did random acts of kindness. Not because it was on his “to-do” list as part of a new trend to find the path to enlightenment (not that there is anything wrong with this… whatever works!), but because it is just who he is. He waved at his neighbors in the morning and smiled at strangers. You knew instantly that this man was approachable and kind by the aged canvas, his face. Now think about the woman who was a stunning beauty; a kept woman who sat with her girlfriends smoking cigarettes and gossiping. Now, the skin around her lips is wrinkled. Her eyes dull and the skin on her face looks ashen despite the attempts to give it color with rouge. She can no longer hide the disdain she has for those around her with an instant, albeit insincere smile. Her canvas tells the story of her life. Painted in oil, it once glimmered brightly for all to admire. New layers painted many times over the years have dried rigidly and cracked.
I am not sure if my interpretation is what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said these words, nor have I taken the time to research this quote, but that is the great thing about a quote or a song lyric; it speaks in many different ways to an array of people at different points in time.