Crow’s Feet are Good, Actually
I love crows. You look into their beady little eyes and know: that is an animal that’s got its priorities sorted. Crows can be fearsome parents, love to socialize, remember those who wronged them, apparently despise cars as much as I do, investigate the deaths of their fellow crows, and they’ve got a statue dedicated to their love of fries. They make tools, have an appreciation for shiny objects, and hang out in the H-E-B parking lot. Crows soar through modern fantasy novels and ancient mythology alike, where they are alternatively bad omens and loyal friends.
Suffice to say, we’ve amassed many references to crows as a society. You can measure the quickest path between two objects as the crow flies, brag about your accomplishments by crowing, and if you have a sore throat you’re probably as hoarse as a crow. The one that sticks out the most to me is crow’s feet — the wrinkles at the edge of your eyes that splay out like the forked toes of a crow.
I don’t remember when or where I first learned the term. But one day in college I looked in my dingy dormitory-supplied mirror and noticed that these dramatically-named wrinkles had formed on my own face. Panic superseded rational thought as I wondered if my skincare routine was too inadequate (probably) or if my schedule was too stressful (it was). I lost hours searching articles and beauty brands for a way to combat this change to my appearance, weighing my unwillingness to spend money on anti-aging serums against my desire to remain youthful.
Eventually I read or recalled or realized that these lines were the result of squinting and smiling. As a perpetually confused and often joyous person, these are two of my favorite actions! Squinting and smiling are how I interact with the world, a way of demonstrating curiosity and happiness without opening my mouth. As the pandemic rages on, my primary interactions with people outside my household happen while masked, meaning the top-half of my face is doing double-time. If this were the Academy Awards, my crow’s feet would be hauling home that shiny best supporting actor statuette.
The conversation around beauty standards — with the advent of social media, body-positive campaigns, and calls for greater diversity at popular fashion and health magazines — is shifting frequently these days. Allure magazine stopped using the term “anti-aging” in 2018, and skincare companies shifted their language from “making wrinkles disappear” to “making your skin glow”. There are thoughtful critiques of this rebranding, because it still tries to sell us something, but overall we’ve tipped the scales from criticizing bodily “flaws” to embracing this writhing mass of flesh, blood, and neurons that makes us human beings.
These days, a lack of energy has whittled my skincare routine down to four regular steps. The seemingly endless isolation wrought by a government-prolonged crisis has many of us reevaluating our relationships with makeup, skincare, and other products meant to make us look and feel better. My urge to simply survive has overridden any insecurities about the composite parts of my face, leaving me with a new appreciation of their persistent, hopeful functions. When I manage to laugh (rare) or need to squint across the park to assess if that group feeding the ducks is wearing masks, my crow’s feet are there for me.
Honestly, the beauty companies bombarding my email and social feeds with tips for “practicing self-care” in these “unprecedented times” that always involve their overpriced products should thank their lucky stars the only part of a crow I possess are its feet. Otherwise, I’d be getting revenge for the decades they spent convincing me that my body needed fixing by stealing all the shiny little vials from their lab. Or, since we’re still in a pandemic, Zoombombing their meetings to belligerently caw into the camera.
I sincerely hope that crow’s feet and other wrinkles get their due soon. I don’t fault anyone for how they treat their skin, and if you personally want to keep the outward indications of aging at bay, that’s completely fine. But whether they’re on Nicole Kidman, Bernie Sanders, Angela Davis, or Elliot Page, wrinkles are a sign of survival. To any brand that capitalizes on the notion that they’re the enemy, eat crow!