Today I was at the park with Ray (age 2) and there was a group of kids there who looked to be in their late teens, playing basketball. I said to the one girl: “Did you guys just graduate?” Meaning, from high school (there’s lots of signs up in the neighborhood). She was like “No, I teach 8th grade in Milwaukee.”
Am I now one of those people who thinks “kids” are much younger than they actually are? Is this how out of touch I am? I constantly ask my husband, Derek: “do you think they are the parents?”
Man, it’s tough for me to put a kitschy spin on aging. I’m in the thick of it at 46, and I don’t appreciate it. Derek can put a baseball cap on and get by looking ambiguously aged. My brother Maffy’s dishwater blond is now all silver fox, making him look better than ever.
While men seem to get more attractive as they age, we ladies have it tough in the beauty-standard department. As we age, we tend to get relegated to the background. It doesn’t feel awesome.
These Days it’s Either: Forever Young or Hello Elastic-Waist Pants. Can I Get a Happy Medium?
I am not feeling very graceful about the whole thing. I connect looking young with being young, dutifully absorbing our cultural/mass marketing beauty standard tyranny. I’m at that awkward age of still wanting to look attractive against ever-more impossible expectations. I’m waiting for that freedom of being past it all. Who am I kidding – I am currently wearing elastic-waist pants!
But am I ready to be the one in the orthopedic shoes at the zoo? Exactly when are people going to start assuming I am Ray’s doting Grandma?
Our Cultural Message: Never, Ever Age
Ann Imig, creator of Listen to Your Mother, writes about what she calls “Peter Pam” syndrome:
We Peter Pams make the first-generation of hot moms, MILFS, and cougars. Congratulations and condolences to us. For the first time in modern history mainstream middle-age dresses Forever-21 and has a proclivity for behaving accordingly.
Imig writes about how beauty standards (and procedures) once reserved for the residents of Hollywood have trickled down to the regular people. The goal is youth at any and all costs. I, for one, find it exhausting.
My Mom never dyed her hair, and she went grey early, a lovely salt and pepper, feathered to the hilt. This was her generation: they aged gracefully. My Aunts, Sylvia, Mabel, and Margie (grey-heads, the lot of them), were my role models of womanhood. Margie had the confidence and infectious laugh. Sylvia was independent and exciting. Mabel had the warmth of the Universal Mother, and I never, ever wanted to leave her kitchen. They had fun with us. We played cards, we went to bookstores, we drove the tractors around. Lots of laughter was shared. They didn’t seem young, or old. They seemed just right.
These days (see, I’m giving myself away as old. These days, geez), more than ever, youth is Everything. My friend Maggie got herself botox for her 27th birthday. Word is, we have to inject botox into our wrinkles before they even appear (preventative botulism. Phew).
We are all indoctrinated in this beauty imperative. There are scientists who are paid to figure out how to “program” us so that we will Buy Things to get the Youth-ness back. It’s big business.
Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again…John Mayer
“Keeps you young” say the retirees on my street about having a toddler while old(er). This is categorically untrue.
Feeling Groovy Post-Youth
I am working on getting to the acceptance phase regarding the clear evidence (I’m typing this with one eye closed in order to see with my “good” eye) of my aging self.
I mean, I love being older. My 20’s were a ball of insecurity and living WAY too much under the influence of What Other People Thought. My default state was fraught and uncertain. My 30’s were relatively wonderful (in retrospect). It was gratifying evolving into more of who I am. Learning to trust myself a bit (with many growing pains) felt amazing. I hit 40 without blinking. But now suddenly at 46, the decade is creeping up and whispering in my ear about aging. Some things don’t come as easily. And if I eat too much sugar, my joints ache.
“Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy” – Cat Stevens
There’s a lot to look forward to as we age, and an extensive body of research has shown that people tend to enjoy greater happiness, lower stress levels and increased well-being later in life. A recent report found that while young people tend to seek out novel or exciting experiences, older people are able to find more value and enjoyment from ordinary life. So day to day living becomes more satisfying as one ages. Simpler pleasures.
And the Fountain of Youth Is…
Taking care of ourselves is what we do, ayurved-ishly, but we will still age and that is a beautiful thing (or at least better than the alternative).
Thus far, all of my posts have contained all sorts of: eat this, do this, don’t you dare do that. Today I have no big recommendations. We already know all the things. There are some good articles out there about ayurvedic anti-aging strategies. Or check out any of my other posts, they contain healthy lifestyle recommendations that should slow the age-train (the best thing to do is to balance vata, the dosha associated with old age).
My advice today is simply this: it’s A-O.K. to get older (note to self).
I have a friend, Ginger, who is in her mid-to-late 70’s (she doesn’t discuss her age). She exudes a certain liveliness that is magnetic. It’s not in how she dresses (tastefully), or some miracle skin product that she uses (she has lots of wrinkles; she loves being outside). Ginger doesn’t apologize for herself. She takes nothing terribly seriously. Ginger never fades into the background; rather, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Adore yourself. Take up space. Saggy, baggy, frumpy McDumpster. Sexy, stylish international woman of mystery. Both. Neither. The challenge: embrace it all.
7 Comments Add yours
This is SO good, SO real and just great to name. Being in LA, it feels even more true and when my self worth gets caught up in how I look I’m truly screwed because there is no end. Better to ground myself. Thanks for articulating this beautifully!
As for aging, it also doesn’t mean I don’t look beautiful. I’m remembering that, I can choose to create beauty either in my looks (some days!) or in my art and expression. Focus not on me feels good, especially when the medium (my skin) has its own instincts.
Thank you so much for commenting, I appreciate it. This post felt vulnerable even after I deleted all the vulnerable stuff! I heartily agree: aging does not preclude beauty. It is not, in fact, really about the physical part of beauty. My friend Ginger is gorgeous because of her demeanor. Her self-assurance is just THERE, and people take notice. I remember at work, young dude resident MD’s swaggering around trying to impress her. They did whatever she said. She is always treated with respect because she respects herself. I find myself channeling her when my job becomes confrontational or plain challenging.
I definitely fall in a self-worth trap regarding my appearance; I can imagine that it is 1,000-fold in LA. I recently retired my scrubs after 20 years and I am navigating dressy attire for work now. It’s tricky, but fun.
Thank you for reminding me that some days, I feel/express my physical beauty, sometimes my creative juices are fiery gorgeous, and in my opinion, my quiet introversion is really lovely too. None of that has to be about age. It makes me think of all the diverse ways that women share their beauty.
My mom’s beauty was in her gentle, prodding humor. She was able to turn a room full of disgruntled Nursing Assistants into a cohesive group that was in it together. They loved her. Rare in healthcare.
Today I felt beautiful when I was hanging out with my sons at Half Price Books, chasing Rayme (he was very interested in the bathroom fan) and helping Will find books for an upcoming vacation. I was wearing elastic-waist pants and I had just dropped off 2 grocery bags full of jeans that no longer fit me that I had been holding onto forever – some for like 15 years. I finally chucked them. It felt gorgeous or freeing, maybe both.
Thank you so much for reading, I get a lot of encouragement coming my way from you, and it helps me a TON.
You are SO welcome. It’s good to have cheerleaders and I really jive with what you write. Love hearing about Ginger and your mom as inspirations…the wise women we are becoming as we move from Maiden to Mother to Wise Woman.
This post may be your best yet. Which is saying a lot, because of the very high quality of all your posts. I have shared it on Facebook. Note: the last time I shared an article on Facebook was…maybe never? As I said on Facebook, it is witty, hilarious (the contrasting toddler party photos are brilliant), insightful, uplifting and delightful. I applaud you for being the strong woman that shares thoughts which those of us too concerned with being left vulnerable keep to ourselves. Brava!
Gigi thank you so much! Grateful that you liked this post, because it felt different from the others. Partly because I am not trying to “fix” aging, partly because it felt more personal. And it’s pretty “-ish”. I was hoping that it was “-ish” in a good way.
Thanks again you glorious pitta goddess!
That put a big smile on my face. I hope you keep them coming. I love that you said you were not trying to fix aging. I think nowadays people are definitely trying to fix aging. I think accepting aging is far more important, and learning to do so gracefully, while maximizing health with reasonable interventions like diet, stress control, finding the transcendent and falling into joy whenever possible.
I can tell from the awesome photos to the quality of prose and thought behind your words that you must put a lot of time into these posts. Thank you. When I’m feeling too Vatta, I’ll have to chant GPG to myself! (Glorious Pitta Goddess!)
GPG! Sounds similar to Gigi! So just know Gigi is a Glorious Pitta Goddess and you can’t go wrong!