As a small child, I was incredibly scared of wrinkles. Yes, wrinkles. Not the dark, not the boogie monster. WRINKLES. Later in life, I did develop a fear of some “normal” things like snakes, spiders, rats and generally anything that slithers. But at the ripe old age of 5, my biggest fear was wrinkles.
How does a 5-year old develop Rhytiphobia? Betcha didn’t know that the fear of getting wrinkles even had a name, did you? Well, dear reader, I Googled that shit. Duh. Fun fact, did you also know that Consecotaleophobia is the fear of chopsticks? Or that Hellenologophobia is the fear of Greek terms or complex scientific terminology? Damn, sometimes the internet is useful for more than shopping for bikinis and false eyelashes online, trolling politicians on Twitter and looking up the lineage of the British royal family, the House of Windsor. Oh. I’m the only one that does the last one? What can I say, you can take the girl out of the history class, but you cannot take the history class out of the girl.
So, as I was saying, how does a 5 year old develop an irrational fear of wrinkles? Better yet, how does this child’s family even realize that she’s developed this affliction in the first place? I must start at the identification of the phobia in the first place, which probably lends insight into the origins of the phobia.
It all began in the bathtub, you see. Bath time was a nightly ritual and it probably took place about 10 minutes after dinner was finished. The sooner the bath was done, the sooner bedtime was up. Didn’t matter if the kid next door was still out in his yard shooting hoops and it was still light out, bedtime was sacred and non-negotiable with my mom. My damp head still smelling like Suave Strawberry Shampoo, snug in a Holly Hobby nightgown, I can still remember thinking it was utter bullshit that I had to be in bed so early when Danny next door was allowed to shoot baskets in the waning summer light.
We did try to extend bath time for as long as possible and that’s one area where mom was amenable, probably because it gave her some evening peace and quiet. So my sister and I would soak in the Avon bubble bath, pouring water in and out of various Tupperware measuring cups and bowls. We had a LOT of Tupperware to spare in our house when I was a kid; plenty to be used as tub-toys. At some point, mom would stroll back in and it would be time for that ultra-luxurious Suave Strawberry treatment.
On one particularly memorable evening, as mom knelt by the side of the tub, I happened to look down at my fingers and LOST MY MIND. My fingertips were completely puckered from sitting in the tub, but in my 5-year old mind, they were WRINKLED. And WRINKLES were BAD. Wrinkles were something that NEVER WENT AWAY. Wrinkles were like the worst thing that could happen to a woman, EVER.
As a mom myself, I know that sometimes we have to call on an inner genius to solve problems like this. Someday, I will tell you how the Binky Fairy came and magically removed every single pacifier from my youngest daughter’s grasp. Quick as a flash, my mom’s eyes got really big and a huge smile crossed her face. “You have LUCKY WRINKLES!” she crowed. “Didn’t I ever tell you about lucky wrinkles??? You get them in the bath and they are good luck!”
I calmed right down, mom had clearly saved the day with her quick thinking.
How did I develop this irrational fear of wrinkles, you ask? That’s a damn good question. I blame commercials from the 1970’s. You’re talking to a kid who was obsessed, for example, with the bumble bee from the Bumble Bee Tuna ads. I loved that bee and wanted to marry him. Every now and then, when I am explaining how something expands exponentially, I use the phrase “I told two friends, and they told two friends and then they told two friends.” If you don’t remember that one, you know where to go. Hint – it was a shampoo ad (just not Suave Strawberry).
So at some point, I had assuredly seen an ad for some face/wrinkle/anti-aging cream and clearly it did some damage to my developing psyche. Wrinkles were BAD; the pretty ladies on TV all agreed. The glamorous ladies on the Love Boat and Fantasy Island acted like wrinkles were the worst thing that could happen to a woman. Yep. wrinkles.
“Lucky wrinkles” is the stuff of legend in my family. My girls know all about them. My sister and her sons and grandson know about them. All the kids that have been subjected to our collective care over the years (here’s looking at you Abby, Skye and Kayla) learned about lucky wrinkles and maybe their kids know about them as well. All because I lost my marbles one night over my pruned-up fingers.
I will freely admit that I still have a HUGE problem with wrinkles, though probably not the way you’re expecting. Today as I looked in the mirror while putting my makeup on, I barely glanced at the laugh lines around my eyes. Thanks to some good genes from mom, my oily skin has frankly staved off a lot of facial wrinkles thus far, even though it was the bane of my existence as a teenager. And they are laugh lines, yo. That’s the marker of a life well-lived, a life lived out loud, always. A life of filled with driving fast and taking chances. A life of YES.
Nope, the wrinkles that gave me pause this morning as I got ready for work were the wrinkles on the camisole I was wearing under the sharp khaki jacket I had picked out that matched the new snakeskin heels I just bought. That shit WOULD NOT DO. But, because I still have a healthy case of Rhytiphobia, I have an ironing board set up at all times in the closet to combat wrinkles. Because wrinkles are BAD.
Keep on resisting, friends!