Aging Gracefully?


Cher

Cher at age 67

Ah youth. That time of life before gravity makes you it’s bitch and your skin still fits. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘aging gracefully’. In the past month I have been happily losing those ‘I quit smoking pounds’ thanks to a full-time job and a lot more walking. The down side of weight loss in your late 40’s, however, is that your chin starts to hang like mud flaps on either side of your jaw and your neck begins to pool just above your collar bones. It’s not a pretty picture. As Bette Davis once said, “old age is no place for sissies”. Middle age is no picnic either.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I have been getting yearly Botox injections for the past 12 years. It started as a preventative measure, foolishly trying to ward off the ravages of time before they became indelibly engrained in my face. I spent about $800 per year on Botox, which may sound like a lot, but it works out to just under $70 per month and, unlike anti-aging creams, lotions and serums that many women pay as much or more for, it actually works. This past year is the first time I have foregone my Botox injections (mostly due to financial reasons) and I find myself in an odd conundrum of sorts. Part of me is horrified when looking in the mirror and seeing the crows feet, the forehead lines and the sagging skin, while a new part of me is beginning to emerge… a braver part. This new voice is asking if maybe, just maybe its time to let go of some vanity and let nature take it’s course all over my face. I have been asking myself questions like, ‘if you are so strong, then why are you so cowardly when it comes to wrinkles?’. The reality is they’re just wrinkles and everybody gets them if you are lucky enough to live past the age of 40. Just because I feel 16 on the inside, doesn’t mean I should try to look 16 on the outside. I have done a lot of living and should be proud of the lines I have earned. But, then vanity rears its ugly head and I start craving that needle. It’s an odd seesaw to be stuck upon.

I find myself wishing for a happy medium between this,

Joan-Rivers

Joan Rivers at age 79

and this,

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Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson at the age of 54 (just 6 years older than I am now… eek!)

Perhaps, I am desperately seeking role models in this era of surgical enhancements that look great without all the nips and tucks. Maybe I should summon my inner strength and try to be my own role model. These are obviously quality problems that can only be found in a youth, celebrity and beauty obsessed culture. As I type this, I am realizing that there are women all over the world who are currently struggling with issues like freedom and basic human rights and it makes me feel small and petty to be worried about aging, which for those women is a luxury. I am thinking that I have fallen prey to the North American way of keeping a woman from attaining too much power… keep her insecure about her looks and distract her with the possibility of eternal youth in a jar (or needle).

Maybe the answer is to get more involved with causes that are close to my heart and move away from the mirror. So, from now forward, I will hold my head up high (with pride, and because it stretches the skin on my neck) and say goodbye to Botox and hello to more worthwhile endeavors. Maybe that’s what aging gracefully is really all about.

On the subject of dates.


For the past five years or so this is what I thought of when I heard the word date.

cluster of dates with leaves on a white background

Or, more correctly, this.

date-squares-2

But last week something interesting happened. I was asked out on a date… you know, the social interaction kind. I had forgotten they even exist. The even more surprising thing is that I found myself actually considering it. You see, whenever anyone asks me why I’m single, I usually laugh and say, ‘because it’s safer for everyone that way.’ (which is funny because it’s a little bit true).

But here I was, considering making dinner plans with a perfect stranger. As a matter of fact I was seconds away from sending him an email with my available dates (the kind found on the calendar) when I thought, maybe I should Google him first. (I use Google in general terms here, as the search engine I actually used was Yahoo, but I digress.) The second link down the line was very telling. It was a site where people air grievances about dates (or, more correctly the people they had dated). It looked to be run by a small group of young women and it read like a high school slam book written by the mean girls. There he was, with photos and everything, the guy who had asked me out. He was accused of all sorts of unacceptable behavior. Now I usually like to get to know a person before I begin to believe gossip and rumours about them, so I didn’t judge the man on the alleged misdeeds.

I deleted the email I was about to send him because he comes with a lot of young girl drama and I am too old to be dragged into that quagmire, thank you very much. I was likely saved from having to wade through a lot of crap because of these girls, so I suppose I am thankful that they chose to air their personal laundry in public. I also suppose that they are achieving their goal in some small way in that I chose not to pursue even a first date (the social interaction) with this guy because of something they had published.

Some small part of me is relieved that it didn’t go any further, but I have a feeling that I may be ready to unleash the havoc that is me onto the dating world (even those who eat dates while on a date on any date the calendar deems appropriate) sooner than later. I may have to question the sanity of this… just when everything in my life is settling down and going well, I’m ready to muck it up with the whole dating conundrum?! It might not be smart, but like Amy Farrah Fowler before me, I must follow my endocrine system… but this time my brain comes along for the ride.

endocrine

The age old question


Since the dawn of time there have been good girls and bad girls. Since the dawn of time, men have been asking each other which they prefer, virgins or sluts… or to put in terms of the complex, Madonna or Whore. This question has had many faces over the years. Two of the most famous are Ginger or Mary Ann.

ginger-or-mary-ann

There have been magical choices like Samantha or her cousin Serena.

BewitchedSamSerena

There has even been a cartoon choice with Betty or Veronica.

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The faces may change but the question remains the same, would you rather be with a virgin or a slut? On its face, the question is highly insulting, as it only takes into account a woman’s sexuality (or lack thereof). As a feminist, the question is offensive… but it’s hard t be offended when… women are guilty of the very same behavior.

We choose between the nice guy and the Lothario. We have made this choice since the dawn of time. This question has had many faces over the years. One of the most famous examples is Danny or Tom.

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in 1978  movie " Grease"

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A very young Lorenzo Lamas as Tom in the movie Grease.

Of course Sandy picked the bad boy, Lothario, Danny and she changed for him, even though he was willing to change for her. The better choice would have been Tom because neither of them would have had to change who they were… but it wouldn’t have been as entertaining. There is a correlation between a woman’s age and the choice she will make when faced with these two stereotypes. When a woman is under the age of 35 she will be much more likely to choose the bad boy. Some young women choose the bad boy because he represents danger and adventure, some will choose him because they have this delusion that they can change him or save him from himself. Once a woman is past the age of 35 she is far more likely to choose the nice guy because she has known nothing but heartache at the hands of the Lothario and she now sees what should have been obvious from the start, that a more quiet life with the nice guy who will treat you well is a better long-term bet. Excitement and danger is fun for a while, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

I wonder if the choice between virgin and slut also has an age correlation? Do younger men prefer the virgin because they too are inexperienced? Do older men prefer the slut because they are looking for someone with a more open mind, sexually? Or do men just like what they like from cradle to grave? I would be very interested to hear thoughts from some of my male readers on this topic. Please feel free to post a comment below.

Word of the day


Women around the globe know that you don’t have to be sad to cry. You don’t have to be angry to lash out. You don’t have to be hungry to eat your weight in sweets. For a few days each month women go through a nonsensical time called Pre Menstrual Syndrome, or PMS. It’s a time when we are not in control of our emotions, but rather, our emotions are triggered by surges in estrogen. Within the course of 24 hours we can go from this,

happy-woman-smiling-475x350

to this,

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to this

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This hormonal spike can also occur during menopause. There is a word for this phenomenon… HORMOTIONAL.

Why is Hormotional the word of the day? I just cried during an old episode of Ugly Betty and not even at the sad part.

Bad Penny. The evolution of women in sitcom culture.


THE BIG BANG THEORY

Penny and Leonard from the Big Bang Theory

I was raised on sitcom culture. One thing I have noticed in the past decade or so is a shift in how women are portrayed. Unfortunately, it’s not for the better.

Women used to be shown as the subservient wife and mother who surreptitiously leads her husband from behind in order to get her way, like June Cleaver, Donna Stone, Samantha Stevens and Lucy Ricardo. There was always an unspoken (or even sometimes actually spoken “One of these days, right in the kisser.”) threat that she was risking violence if she were caught going behind the back of her husband in order to get what she wanted.

Lucy_desi_1957

The Ricardos

Then, in the 1970’s women were portrayed as feminists for the first time. Maude, Mary Richards, Margaret Houlihan and Emily Hartley to name but a few. These were women who are unconventional and ground breaking. Maude fought for women’s rights and raised an independent daughter. Mary was the ultimate working woman who, not only didn’t need a man, but refused to settle. Major Houlihan worked alongside her male counterparts in the most dangerous of settings. Emily Hartley was seen as a woman who chose to work and a true partner in her marriage with her husband. These women were much healthier role models then the women who came before and after them. These sitcoms are proof that female characters can be well written, fully actualized, real women who are also funny.

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An iconic symbol of feminism.

Now we’re seeing women who are perennially annoyed with their husbands, or single women who continually make bad choices in men. Take, for example the show Everybody Loves Raymond, featuring Debra Barone, a woman who gave up her career in order to raise her children (which is a luxury in today’s world and an admirable choice). She is shown as constantly finding fault with her husband, who is somewhat childish, but all in all, not a bad guy. One of Debra’s most frequent insults is to call him an idiot. Another example of the continually annoyed wife character is on the show Rules of Engagement. The character of Audrey Bingham who is a childless, married, working woman. Audrey is married to Jeff, a former frat boy, jock type who is an excellent provider, a bit childish and a tad oblivious at times, but again, all in all a good guy. Audrey’s default setting is mildly annoyed with her husband and it just gets worse from there. She seems generally disappointed with life for the most part. This type of character reminds me of a great quote from Bill Maher, “Women cannot complain about men anymore, until they start getting better taste in them” These women go around unfairly blaming their husbands for behavior that they were fully aware of when they said I do. I have zero sympathy for this type of woman. They have no one to blame but themselves.

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The bickering Binghams from Rules of Engagement.

Then there is the other prevalent female sitcom archetype, the single woman who makes bad choices. One of the most frustrating examples of this is Penny from the Big Bang Theory. Her father gives some examples of her previous boyfriends in the following clip.

She has dated white rappers, cow tippers, a guy who blogged about their sex life and a guy who cheated on her and had violent tendencies (Kurt). When faced with a relationship with Leonard, a genius physicist who is, admittedly, a little clingy, she pulls away thinking that she can do better. I will never understand why young women would rather be abused by the bad boys than have something real with an intelligent guy who will treat her well. Okay, maybe I do understand it… young women are inherently insecure and feel undeserving the majority of the time. What bothers me most about Penny is that she thinks that she is the catch in her relationship, when clearly the real catch is Leonard. Looks fade, but intelligence is forever.

castofgirls

The cast of the HBO series, Girls

My final example of the single girl who makes bad choices is from the HBO hit, Girls. All four of the lead characters in this show are hot messes. Yes, they are young, insecure and still ‘finding their way’ but they all have absolutely no respect for themselves. These young women were raised by mothers who would have come of age during or after the feminist movement and yet every character is clueless and self sabotaging. I would have hoped that their mothers would have instilled in them, some sort of sense of self by the time they were out on their own. For me, the most disappointing thing about this show is the fact that it was created and written by a woman.

It seems that women can’t write good parts for women in Hollywood, so how can we have the audacity to expect men to write them for us?

Can’t win for losing


melissa-nelson-cnnMelissa Nelson

This week brought us two seemingly different, yet surprisingly similar, court cases involving women. The first case is from south of the border in Iowa where a dental hygienist named Melissa Nelson was fired for being so attractive that her boss couldn’t trust himself around her. She did the only thing she could do. She sued on grounds of gender discrimination and the all male Iowa supreme court sided with her boss. Apparently it’s entirely understandable that her hornier than thou boss fired a long time employee and married mother of 2, who, from all accounts, he was in no danger of sleeping with, rather than act like a professional and keep his pants zipped. Sadly, the boss’s wife also plays a major role in this drama. When she found out that the dentist and his hygienist had sent text messages to each other, she demanded that Melissa be fired. I have news for you, lady. If he can’t be trusted around one woman, he can’t be trusted around any of them. And just exactly what does he mean that he couldn’t trust himself around his employee, who, by the way, had worked for him for 10 years? Does he mean that he can’t help but flirt with her? Or perhaps he means he can’t help but verbally harass her. Or maybe he means that, even if she says no, he won’t be able to stop himself from having sex with her. So this woman, who had done nothing wrong, gets fired because nobody bothered to consider that she actually had a say in who she decided to sleep with… or, in this case, not sleep with.

Then there was a case from this side of the 49th parallel where a Muslim woman wanted to testify while wearing a niqab.

Nahla Hashad N.S., a woman who wants to testify in court, while wearing her niqab.

The Supreme Court of Canada released their decidedly ambiguous ruling last week, basically saying whether or not a niqab would be allowed in court would be decided on a case by case basis. As a feminist, the niqab fills me with all sorts of anger. The niqab, is a garment used to cover the face of women (because the burqa didn’t cover enough) so that Muslim men are less likely to be distracted by a pesky erection in their daily lives. As much as I am entirely against the wearing of a niqab, in this case I find myself with mixed feelings. N.S. is charging her uncle and her cousin with sexual assault. She wants to wear her niqab in court. The lawyers for her attackers want her to have to remove it saying that they should be able to face their attacker in court. This seems to me to be purely a power move designed to stop N.S. from testifying. If she removes her niqab in a court room full of male strangers, she will be ostracized and humiliated by her community and branded a whore, which, to me, is basically akin to raping her all over again. Because the Supreme Court’s ruling passes the buck, N.S. might still have to remove her niqab.

There have been many countries who have banned the burqa and the niqab, including France, Belgium and even Syria. If the Canadian government had the balls to follow suit, instead of kowtow to a religion… a religion, whose text, I might add, does not say that a woman must cover her face, unless she is the wife of the Prophet, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. Even a Canadian Muslim group is calling for a ban.

So because these men won’t take responsibility for their own erect penises, two more women must pay the price.

Obsessed

I hate my big breasts


This is what my first bra looked like.

This is what it looks like now. Notice the wide shoulder strap to prevent divots?

When I was on the verge of puberty, like most girls my age, I wished for big breasts. I did the whole, ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’ chant. I longed for the day I could buy my first bra. Back then, having big breasts seemed glamorous and sexy. Boy, was I wrong!

What nobody tells you is that your breasts keep growing. In my late teens through my early thirties I had a B cup and things were great. Clothes fit me nicely, I could participate in any physical activity I wanted and I got just the right amount of attention. In my mid thirties to my early forties, I had a C cup. Now my breasts were a little heavier and a bit more in the way when I ran, danced or jumped around. The gaze I was used to getting from men was migrating south by about a foot and my lower back started to give me a bit of pain. When I hit 42 (the magic number that Douglas Adams gives as the answer to life, the universe and everything), my breasts were now filling up a D cup. My lower back pain was more of a chronic worry. I had to choose my physical activities more carefully. Men now exclusively stared at my chest before looking at my face. In hot weather I began to develop a heat rash underneath my breasts. Now, at 47 my breasts are a DD cup and I am sick and tired of the damned things!

Doctors say that every one pound of weight on your front equals TEN pounds of weight your back must carry. My breasts weigh about three pounds each, which means my back is carrying 60 pounds of unnecessary weight. Is it any wonder I have chronic lower back pain? I will never understand women who voluntarily enlarge their breasts with surgery past the point of a C cup.

Back pain is not the only issue my breasts have bestowed upon me over the years. I have been blessed with fibrocystic breast disorder. I get large fluid filled cysts (multiple) in my breasts that must be drained with a large, scary needle a couple of times a year. Not only do these cysts make my breasts misshapen and tender, they add weight. I have also had breast cancer. In my case I was lucky because the small tumour I had, grew almost entirely inside one of the aforementioned cysts and was therefore relatively easy for my surgeon to remove, though I still had to undergo chemotherapy because of a tiny cluster of cells that grew unnoticed on the outside of the cyst.

This is an ultrasound image of two large fluid filled breast cysts. At the moment, my right breast has four of them.

I can’t get a mammogram (which costs nothing) because of the fibrocystic breast disease, so, instead I must get an ultrasound, which is not covered by my province’s medical insurance plan and costs me $165 at least twice a year. I am seriously considering breast reduction surgery (which would be covered by my insurance), but I prefer not to go under the knife unless I absolutely have to, so I am weighing that option very carefully. There have even been days when I have thought that it would be great if I got another cancerous tumour because then, I could just get a double mastectomy and be done with them. (I know, be careful what you wish for)

Oh yes, big breasts would be so glamorous and sexy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how my breasts are in the way of the life I want to be living. I’m beginning to feel like my breasts are taking over control of my whole body.