Reflections (no, opinions) on aging...
Because I will be entering my late 60s next month, I decided to take some time to pause and analyze my feelings about it. A few years ago, I wrote a little post about raging at age stereotypes. And there is plenty to rage at. More and more, I see photos showing older women drenching themselves in bright colors, dressing wildly bohemian, and sporting huge glasses — just to show the world how aging is all in your head. It’s not my style, but I do find older women cinching up the belt, wearing the skin-tight leggings under flowered tunics, and showing off pretty toes in wedged flip-flops with glitter applied to them. Hey. Whatever works that makes you feel vibrant.
The problem here is that I have pretty strict rules (i.e., hang ups) about playing up assets and downplaying detractors where my physical appearance is concerned. My 1950s-style mother taught me (brainwashed me?) well. If you have a waist, show it off. If you don’t, find ways to make it look like you do without revealing the entire waistline —like revealing a belt from the front but wearing a jacket or long sweater to cover the rest of it. I guess it’s kind of like seeing a normally slender but very pregnant woman from behind. You can’t know what shows in front. Ahhh… those chirpy old Doris Day movies with long gowns cinching the waist only from the front? There’s the ticket. In the end, however, I am truly a Hepburn girl — Audrey in her turtlenecks and Katharine in her stand-up (punked) collars and tailored clothes.
I have never been tiny, but in my younger years I was fairly slender. My Greek child-bearing hips kept me from wearing low-waisted bell-bottoms because my waist-to-hips circumference made the hourglass too pronounced. I envied women with boyish figures and small boobs, but I knew I would never prance among them. One-piece swimsuits showed off my curves, while bikinis made them look too extreme. Now that my post-menopausal body has thickened at the waist, things are more in proportion. Too large a proportion, but more balanced nonetheless. Speaking of menopause, I can’t say enough good things about it. Apart from finding a solution for night sweats (which I did), and developing the multi-tasking habit of wielding a pair of tweezers to attack chin hairs as I watch TV, the liberation it has offered me is endless and I sympathize with those still experiencing the “curse” each month.
The next issue is wrinkles and sagging skin. For some silly reason, I am enjoying seeing my mother’s “laugh lines” appearing around my eyes. I avoid the knife to correct the signs of aging simply because I feel I haven’t gone to great enough lengths with skin care, food intake and exercise to correct it naturally. I leave room open for cosmetic surgery in the future, but only if I’ve exhausted other means to achieve change. Flabby underarms? Get thee to a strength trainer and whale on those triceps. I am more concerned about maintaining balance and flexibility than being a hard body so that I can continue to wear all those gorgeous pumps that grace the shelves of my walk-in closet. There is something about a pair of faded skinny jeans with sexy burnt orange stilettos that float my boat, and I don’t intend to stop this practice any time soon. So I sweat. I can now jump, squat and lunge along with the 30-somethings even if my body can’t compete with theirs at the gym. And I continue to walk confidently in my leg-lengthening heels until extreme old age robs me of them (if I get there).
Having a tan was once more important to me than life itself when I was younger. The moment the sun’s rays were warm enough to turn my skin brown, I welcomed it. No, I was manic about it. Until I wasn’t. That was caused by a few melanoma scares in my 50s which fortunately were “in situ” in nature. Now when I go sleeveless, it’s not so much about the color of my skin as it is covering up the many freckles and age spots that have multiplied on my arms from all those days of sun damage. So I use a topical spray tanner to help them blend — like a connect-the-dots canvas. Yes. The interior of the beige leather driver side door of my car must be regularly cleaned because my arms leave telltale clues there in the summer months. And I have no shame about it.
As for grey, thinning hair? This past year I did something bold. I gave up the dark dye and went platinum, as many of you know. I suppose I never thought dark hair and aging skin looked that great together and it had gotten to the point that I didn't like what I was seeing in the mirror any more. I think I must have seen too much bottle-black hair on old Greek ladies at church. First I collected online photos with dozens of much younger women wearing anywhere from a blond platinum color with low-lights to bold shades of silvery platinum. I already wore my hair short, so all it needed was an edgier style. I interviewed several stylists and pummeled them with questions about going blond. Once I found the one that felt like the best fit, I came home looking like someone else, but it felt great. It just took me a few months to recognize myself in the mirror each morning. While I never asked permission of him to make this change, my husband now delights in having been married to two different women with the same face. Where the hair parts and shows too much scalp? They make keratin fiber powder for that. Smoke and mirrors, my dears. Whatever helps make you feel beautiful without being too obvious is my motto. Marilyn Monroe and I would have gotten along great. Look in the mirror and see what doesn’t fit, then change it until it all balances.
I do want you to know that I take nothing for granted - my lifestyle, my work, my DNA, my adult child nor my amazing partner in life. I know I am blessed beyond measure in many ways. But I’ve also done some serious work on myself. I have only one time to get this right, after all. Because I strength train several times a week, my legs are stronger than they were in my 40s and my arms (although still larger than I’d like them) are firmer than ever. A marvelous wellness doctor has balanced my hormones, healed my gut, and solved my sleep issues, making me slumber in technicolor. I realize more than ever that aging isn’t about giving up — it’s about getting going. When you’re younger, you take the fact that you can get up off the floor mostly using your legs (not rolling onto all fours) with a grain of salt. Those idyllic horseback riding days of the past? Did it occur to you that getting your foot up high enough to reach the stirrup from the ground and lift and swing your body over the saddle may someday disappear? I didn’t. When I found I could no longer do that, I waged war and began looking for solutions instead of selling out to the natural ravages of older age.
You’d think that my life were constantly preoccupied with all this, but I assure you it’s not. I’ve just never expressed it all in one blog post before. Most of the time I hang out in yoga pants, an old sweatshirt and a baseball cap. When I leave the house, however, my routine takes a total of 20 minutes on a good day, and 25 minutes on an indecisive one, often making me wait for my husband to get ready. Workouts take up only a few hours a week if you don’t count the commute to the workout studio. I am so used to being exercise-sore, I don’t really think about it any more. Early mornings find me editing articles about the financial markets and writing copy and content for a company out of Phoenix. I also remotely handle email inboxes for my baby girl’s female empowerment media company - something that has me seeing life from refreshing new perspectives and learning to speak the language of her generation. I sing karaoke with my amazing husband on Saturday nights (my low alto voice is suited to sultry jazz and ‘70s classics). And I travel with my spouse as well as solo to the continent to visit relatives in the old country.
To me there is a difference between being boastful and being open enough to share your life with others who might find inspiration in reading about how one proud old lady is dealing with the fact that she is “pushing 70”… I hope you consider what I have said here to reflect the latter, because I truly cherish the ability to do all of it. I know something could happen tomorrow to change all that, which makes me doubly appreciative.
If so much of aging is truly all in a woman’s head, then my philosophy is that she must use her brain to help her make the physical changes that enable her to be as healthy and happy as possible. All this work may very well extend my life a tad, but then again, it may not. All I know is that the quality of my days is even more important as I rapidly advance to an age I considered “elderly” not too long ago.