Learning to Love the Lines on Your Face

For Bruce Tretter, getting older shouldn’t affect how you treat every day.

I’m sure you’ve heard it when you’ve wished someone happy birthday. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. “Oh, please, don’t remind me; I feel so old already.”

There’s a line I use when I hear that. Actually, it’s something I try to live by: “You’ll never again be as young as you are right now. So, enjoy your youth.” Hey, it usually gets me a smile.

Sure, all I have to do is look in the mirror, and I’m quickly reminded that I’m not 18 any more. My hair jumped off my head about two-thirds of my life ago. The bright side of that—and there’s always a bright side—is that I’ve got a wash-and-wear head that hasn’t needed a comb in decades.

The rest of my head? Yeah, you bet. It takes me a little longer every morning to unfold my face. But that’s fine; I love using power tools. “Bruce, the only thing that’s really gonna’ help is smiling—a lot.” Smiling makes me feel a little bit better, and it’s also the best way I’ve found to make my wrinkles line up symmetrically. I love symmetry.

That symmetry applies to much more than lines on my face. It’s about enjoying every moment in life: the ups, downs, and everything in between. I sure know the downs can be painfully devastating. Life, at times, sure is not fair. But who ever said it had to be? Without the downs, there’s no way to feel how great—how full, how satisfying—those ups should really be. Knowing that alone is worth a smile.

So, yes. It’s true. I’m not 18 anymore, but I’m still as young as I’ll ever be, and I’m sure gonna enjoy my youth for all it’s worth. How about you?

—Photo Bruce Tretter

About Bruce Tretter

Bruce Tretter helps people feel comfortable making practical, flavorful and quick & easy meals for themselves---even if they’ve never boiled water---through Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook step-by-step picture book and short video directions. He’s a father of 3, Former Naval Intelligence Officer, current school board member, and avid cyclist.


  1. GirlGlad4theGMP says:

    I’m in my early 30’s…and the two sexiest men I know are in their mid to late 40’s. Every line holds a story, lessons learned…and that’s what makes them truly sexy!

  2. For those still in the breeding season, what i meant by The almost indifference to the beauty of women and men is liberation too. An explanation of the indifference follows.
    For those who did not have sexual thoughts before puberty, the state is similar. You see the person’s physical appeal, but the desire for sex simply doesnt action. Which is still quite weird to experience for me.
    Also people are not as attractive as i remember them in the breeding season. I look at pictures of people i found hot in my teens and twenties – and they are not as attractive as i thought at the time. I suspect the breeding season machinery made me see through sex-googles

    In the summer, I shared my experiences of aging with a guy in a pub who was in his 60s. I expected that the ‘wisdom’ gap between different ages (eg.45yo and a 65yo) would plateau once a man reached 40/45 or so. However, he leaned back in his chair and mused for a while before saying due to his experience with friends in their 40s, the wisdom gap between someone is their 60s and their 40s, is as large as between someone in their mid30s and a 20yo

    On a more personal level the nature of ambition has changed. When younger i would hurl my very being into achieving my goal – full on, and it had to happen by yesterday. Ambition was like a compulsive sprint. Now, ambition is like a gentle walk in the park – ‘thats, the direction im walking, at this nice sedate pace’

    Would be interesting to hear aging experiences of other men and women. The comparisons and observations between different ages

  3. My gift to my self on my 18th Birthday was one gray hair – for my 21st birthday it was a total gift!

    After that aging is not an issue! Getting people to believe you don’t need to be helped across the road is!

  4. As you approach your 50’s your ability to empathise or sympathise will increase again, yet there is a particular detachment, as you’ve learned that some types of pain / angst are necessary in their life stage.

  5. Im 36. I was 25 when I first started to notice i was ageing. My friends(same age) and i had gone to a university student night, and the shock hit us all. We were surrounded by what appeared to be 16yos. The students looked sooo young, their pores so tight, their skin gleaming with a waxy plastic look of a mannequin (if youre 18to25, look at the face of a 13yo to understand what im talking about)

    It was jarring at 28, When i first started seeing visible lines on my face, my body. The pristine sheen of youth gone. How the skin wouldnt return to normal, like it did after staying in a bath for too long. It took four yrs for me to adjust to seeing age on me – occasionally i would literally for a split second, not recognise my aged body parts. And then realise, ‘oh, it’s MY body’. I still jolt a little when i see another sign of decay on my face, however subconsciously decay is now a part of me. The wornness of the skin, the lines – I think give men and women’s faces an augustness, a gravity (even when young i felt this).
    I found my first grey hair this Autumn. I thought something was up my nose, eventually i used a pair of scissors to reach it – to my shock, it was a white hair. My body had stopped inking my hair. The feeling was as if standing on a 10th storey window ledge looking down – I had become very very aware of my mortality. I remember my thoughts, ‘ i AM dying’ ‘i AM aging’ ‘it’s happening to me’. The feelings were similar, but not as sharp when i found a white hair in my goatee a month later.


    I actually prefer being early middle-aged, to being a young man.
    It is a superior state of existence. The maturity/understanding-life+people gap between myself at 36 and at 20, was like that between myself at 20yo and at 10yo.

    I wouldnt want to be young again: the lack of knowledge of the way people and the world truly works, the unrelenting merciless sex drive.The only thing i want is youth’s energy – they bounce around like mad march hares, with knees that dont feel like someone is sitting on your back, when you try to dance. I dont even want their appearance – the average man’s face of 25, or even 30 looks too young to me. [I wonder if when we humans are able to control aging. Will most men opt to look around 35, will most women opt to look around 25?]

    What i observed in middleaged men when i was young,
    -their lower level of fear
    -they didnt automatically empathise or sympathise – infact you had to explain things out to them, so they could get it
    -how their eyes would look at you, like you are not there or not alive
    -their indifference to women. their eyes were blank, not responsive when we youngsters were talking about or would show them attractive women.
    -their acceptance of dour clothing. These guys had worn bright and snazzy clothing as rocknrollers, or mods, punks etc in their youth

    What i observed in middleaged men when i was young has happened to me. It is almost like a 2nd puberty, and i believe the changes are biological in root.
    When i was a child, toys were at the centre of my world. They werent at the centre, or even in the same universe when i was 25. When i was 25, sex was at the centre of my world. Now sex is at the outer rim of the galaxy, hell maybe even another galaxy. It is wonderful to be out of the ‘breeding season’ (puberty to mid30s). My mind nolonger hearing the insistent barrage of orders to ‘have sex, have sex, have sex, HAVE SEX’. The almost indifference to the beauty of women and men is liberation too. Being fashionable, nolonger matters as much – breeding season related, I suspect.

    I dont feel fear in the same way as young. When young fear was like boiling water on my skin. Now it is often like mildly warm water WHEN i feel it, and now i can control it alot better.

    My ability to automatically empathise or sympathise has greatly decreased. And i can turn it off if needs be. Which i love, I was too bleeding heart when young. I am glad for, and consider vital when dealing with this species – the coldness, the hardness that i didnt have when younger. Which also extends to indifference to other people’s opinions. The presence that I noticed middle age men having when i was young, comes i believe from the combination of this hardness and life experience.


    I keep my mind youthful and i dont pretend to be young. I enjoy not being young. I enjoy the new position as ‘junior elder of the tribe'(hey, where’s my robe and staff), giving young men my perspectives as a recently-young-man.
    Compared to being young, I find being middle aged a sweeter state of existence (young men it is not as boring as it looks, infact as a middle aged man i experience and enjoy life in an emotionally much richer and deeper manner)

    • It is wonderful to be out of the ‘breeding season’ (puberty to mid30s). My mind nolonger hearing the insistent barrage of orders to ‘have sex, have sex, have sex, HAVE SEX’. The almost indifference to the beauty of women and men is liberation too. Being fashionable, nolonger matters as much – breeding season related, I suspect.

      Ive remembered something else. It wasnt just, ” the insistent barrage of orders to ‘have sex, have sex, have sex, HAVE SEX’” but the orders to ‘bond with someone, bond with someone’. That have stopped too.

      My interest in having a partner is nolonger there, I prefer being single

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