My Crepiness

The afternoon sun can be cruel for those who care about tidiness, its shallow-angled rays highlighting each individual dust mote, both on the ground and in the air.  However, I find peace in knowing that a perfectly clean house is impossible.

This same sun can be merciless for those who care about aging.  Driving east with the sun streaming in from behind, I see the same effect on my face.  Fine wrinkles, previously invisible, are now highlighted in exquisite detail.  Even my earlobes have wrinkles.   As I raise my bare arm to the window, I see fine lines coursing across my upper arms.  I could be a poster child for crepey-skin.  Can I find the same equanimity as with my dust motes?

Crepey-skin is a staple of insomniac TV ads, featuring fading celebrities breathlessly offering testimonials promoting products that claim, for sure, to erase this stigma of aging.   I’ve easily dismissed them as something I’d never need or care about.  But now that I have seen, in full glory, the extent of my crepiness I begin to wonder.  Is it time to avoid sleeveless attire?

The internet informs me that the most common cause of crepey skin is chronic UV light exposure that breaks down the skin’s elastin.  This is the black wiry substance that provides the skin with its spunk.

However, I can’t imagine that my underarms, which are most afflicted, have undergone such exposure.  Other causes include smoking, pollution, poor nutrition, or rapid weight loss, none of which would apply to me.  Aging and the relentless effects of gravity are the most likely culprits.

I resolve to find interest and curiosity in what our age-obsessed culture has demonized.  On my next afternoon car ride, I pulled over to spend some quality time with my crepey skin.  It is fascinating and beautiful.  If I clench my fist, the skin on the top of my wrist is as smooth as a baby’s bottom or the ocean floor.  As I slowly open my hand and hyper-extend my wrist, I see a time-lapse reenactment of shifting tectonic plates.  The ocean floor becomes corrugated, mountains emerge, and I imagine the Indian continent drifting and smashing into Asia, throwing up the Himalaya mountains.

I reclench my fist and watch the terrain subside, mimicking the sculpting of wind and water over the millennia.  I see every topographical feature – I’ve got mesas, buttes, chasms, canyons, escarps, cordillera, knolls and gorges.  My wrist could be a stylish and handy geologic teaching tool.*

(Be sure to watch attached movie!)

The finer parallel lines on my arms shift as I rotate my arm.  I am reminded of the ripples that sweep across an inland lake in a light wind.  Sailors can read the wind as it darkens the water.  Skittering across the surface, the wind starts to ruffle the sails and the sailor knows it’s  time to come about.

I can do this with my skin.  The west wind can suddenly come from the east, and in unison, just like on the lake, my crepey skin realigns as I rotate my arm.*

How wind forms these small ripples is a curious rabbit-hole.  Ripples are defined as the instant effect of wind on water.  Ripples die down as quickly as they form, which is why shifting wind patterns can be easily spotted.  Apparently, ripples are based on both pressure effects and shear forces of the wind.  In the sand beneath the shallow water and on the beach,  I can see the same wave pattern, which has been described as “one of nature’s most ubiquitous and spectacular examples of self-organization.”  Add crepey-skin to this list.

My rabbit hole veers off as I think of the bumps on a washboard road.  Their even periodicity matches my crepey skin.  Scientists cannot pinpoint the underlying cause.  The distance between the two ridges is the same regardless of the diameter of the gravel, the truck speed, size of the tire or how bouncy the suspension.

A washboard road must be a nightmare for the Army Corps of Engineers.  A dirt road thrown into a mountainous corrugation would have a withering effect on equipment movement.  Of course, unlike crepey skin, the solution is just to grade the hell out of the road.

So crepey skin, rippled water and a washboard road have converged on a similar visual effect of wave patterns through different and poorly understood physical properties.  (I suppose moguls on ski slopes could fall into the same category, but my crepey skin has not reached these heights!)

I begin to see waveforms everywhere.  Nature is very economical.  A slight perturbation can throw any loose surface, snow, water, sand or skin into a wave pattern.

I have met my goal.  I find delight in my crepey-skin.  I can simulate the dawn of our world and recreate a sailboat race, think about all the waveforms that touch my life.  My crepes are elegant and fascinating.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to make age spots as entertaining.

*Please note that the pictures of my arm are only possible with the ultra-high relief of the late afternoon sun.

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  1. Nancy on December 9, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Have you been talking with my mother about this? She’s been wearing her pullover shirts backwards for thirty years so the front comes up higher on the neck to, you guessed it, cover here crepey neck. Good one, EB!

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