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Verdict still out on why some people develop patina

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe
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Lynne D. Schwabe was owner of Schwabe-May of Charleston, ran her own marketing consulting firm and is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Women's Wear Daily and has appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch. She currently is director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at schwabestatejournal.@gmail.com.

I have a few sterling silver odds and ends — mostly things I got as wedding gifts 143 years ago. Nut dishes were apparently in vogue back then. I never used to take out my silver, but about five years ago, I decided that since I had the stuff, I was about the right age to start using it. Somehow, sterling silver nut dishes look out of place in the homes of people younger than 50. 

As I polished, I tried not to go at it too hard. I recall some decorating pundit like Sister Parish saying that patina is very important: we don't want our things to look as if we just got them at Tiffany's. Or in my case, at Macy's. 

This got me thinking, as I looked at my hands as they rubbed. 

"My God, I have patina!" 

And I am not a fan of patina on people. Diana Vreeland had it. Yikes. Katherine Hepburn, bless her doddering head wobbles, had it. Queen Elizabeth has it.

I don't want it. I want to go to my grave patinaless. Audrey Hepburn didn't get any; she looked classically gorgeous until the end. Grace Kelly never really got a chance to get any. Lauren Bacall has eluded it. Is it because all of these women were stars and never had to polish silver, do the dishes or make a bed? Does being your own household help give you that worn-around-the-edges look? 

I remember a debate I had years ago with women friends about whether we would have cosmetic surgery. In those long-ago days, the options were all about facelifts. Rearranging, tucking or vacuuming out bits didn't occur until later. But, I was the only person in the group bravely saying, "No, I want my face to have character (i.e. patina). I want to look as if I've lived!" What's easy to say when you're 22 is far more difficult when you're, ahem, a lot older. 

Even today, severely in need of lifting and tucking if not vacuuming, I certainly don't want to avoid patina with Botox or using my own posterior fat to fill in the cracks. And, there's fear. Raw, unbridled fear, the kind that clutches at your droopy throat as the cheerful, 12-year-old doctor's assistant comes at you with a needle aimed at your face. 

Then there's incredulity. The kind that you can't help when you see Joan Rivers. Or Cher. Or that 20-something featured in People magazine a year or so ago that was so addicted to plastic surgery that nothing original on her person remained. She had been literally tweaked to a fare-thee-well: enhanced, reduced, tucked. She was in her 20s; what could there have been to tuck? Stitched and molded until most of her body was built of plastic and she couldn't really move her face anymore.

An unfortunate verification of this whole issue came alive at my last eye appointment. After the doctor and I finished discussing cataract surgery, he suggested that I might want to have the excess skin over my eyes removed. 

"Whether you know it or not, it's affecting your sight," he said. 

Tamping down my panic at the thought of having any kind of surgery anywhere near my eyes, I tried to look at the bright side: maybe cataracts and droopy eyelids will enable me to not notice my developing patina.

I started exfoliating a long time ago, but maybe that is wearing out the skin that I have. Oh, no. 

I do remember the advice of the doctor who removed some of my moles. When I asked him about the crepey stuff on my neck, he said "Well, just jut your chin out more. That tends to take up the slack." 

So if you run into me doing errands, chin jutting with an arrogant air about me, don't think that I am now a snob. It's the neck. … And, if you are tempted to comment on my developing well-worn patina, put a sock in it!