What fresh hell is this?

This past month or so has been a bit of a roller-coaster, emotionally. I’m not someone who cries, certainly not in public. Over the past 5 years, I’ve cried maybe 7 times, and always for a reason. In the last month, tears have been flowing almost daily for absolutely no reason. Yet another wonderful phase of menopause. I’ve been a whisker away from ugly, snotty, all out sobbing all month long. It has to be hormonal, as tough as life has become, I’m fine with my physical situation,  happy even. From feeling like you’re on fire from the inside out, to forgetting your own name, not sleeping, pain during sex,and now sobbing at the hair salon like an idiot. Yes being an aging woman is a real treat .
I just hope I don’t end up like this?

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Becoming a weepy crone

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.

A Certain Age

Like most women of a certain age, I detest the phrase, a certain age. It’s yet another way we have of holding on to our insecurities and doing all women a disservice. I have been proudly proclaiming my age since I was a child and my father tried to get a deal on a bus ticket by saying I was five and I loudly protested, “But I’m six, Daddy! Don’t you know how old I am?”

The other day, my mother, who is seventy, or will be in July (she hates having to say she is 69) actually said, “Our age” when referring to the two of us. I don’t remember what that phrase was in reference to because all I can recall is her saying OUR AGE and lumping me in with her generation. When I called her on it, she told me that it makes her feel younger to say ‘our age’ to younger women. What nobody tells you is that, though your body ages, your brain stops soon after you enter adulthood. If there were no such thing as a reflective surface to remind you that you are, indeed getting older, the only sign your brain would have is that your body is now incapable of doing the same things it used to do.

I have no issue telling people how old I am… I’m 47 this year and proud to say it. Most people are shocked to hear it and tell me that I don’t look 47. To which I respond, “What does 47 look like?”

For decades women have been lying about their age. In my grandmother’s era it was a sin to be over the age of 39, so she just started counting backwards once she hit 39 and pretty soon I was older than the age she claimed to be.

In movies and television, actresses have been playing younger parts for years. Doris Day was still playing virginal roles well into her 40’s. As a matter of fact, her age was lied about so much, that to this day, it’s not known what her actual year of birth was. More recently, actress Gabrielle Carteris, who played a 16 year old student in Beverly Hills 90210, was actually 29 the first season of the series. With examples like this, how are we supposed to know what 50 really looks like?

Doris Day

Gabrielle Carteris

Just last year, an aspiring actress sued http://www.imdb.com for posting her age. Her suit contended that, “If one is perceived to be ‘over-the-hill,’ i.e. approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the Plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an ‘upside’ therefore casting directors, producers, directors, agents/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance and talent.”

This kind of ageism is what leads women to be insecure about their age and their appearance even as they are gaining the wisdom that comes with aging. It’s yet another way we continue to be controlled. Instead of being lauded for our accomplishments through the years, we are being sold anti-aging creams and hormone supplements.

Women talk a big game when it comes to self esteem, but when are we actually going to walk the walk?