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Aging Hopefully

At 50, I tend to click on articles about growing older gracefully, or not so gracefully. Some of them are worthy of the word ‘viral’ and some of them well, not so much.

Recently I thought, “If I read one more article that basically says, ‘I’m still skinny, but I look terrible anyway’, I’ll have to write my own article.” Partly, of course, my frustration is that I’m not still skinny so I’m a little jealous, but my bigger frustration is that the writers of these articles seem to think that we as women are universally disappointed with the process of aging.

Okay, I admit it, there is a part of me that is obsessed with finding the least expensive, most effective anti-wrinkle cream. I like the ones that are called things like “Hope in a Jar,” even though I read them sarcastically. And I get snitty shopping for bathing suits. Just ask my hubby who thought it would be “fun” to videotape me during this activity recently. Mmmmmm…

I spend a lot of money getting my hair dyed in some places, and waxed in others. No, not there. That’s one of the lines I draw. Also, no Botox. A Fitbit, yes. Crazy diets, no. Well, actually, “No” to any diet. And certainly, “No” to the knife. We all have our limits. I’m not judging anyone else’s. These are just mine.

It’s funny how clear we each are in some ways. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to go gray. But maybe, who knows. Lines shift. And that’s okay too.

But what I really want is to read articles where aging is seen as a triumph, not a disappointment. As Maggie Kuhn, the founder of “The Gray Panthers” espoused: “Old age is not a disease – it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, illnesses and trials”.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the movie, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Honestly, the plot is as meandering as the characters and it’s not as good as the original at all, but I still loved it.

I looked up Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith afterwards and learned that they didn’t really become famous until they were middle aged. Although attractive, they weren’t classic beauties when they were younger.

It was as though they ripened into something magnificent as they were aging. Relentlessly fierce, they are still womanly. Wrinkles and gray hair and natural weight gain seem only to highlight how fabulous they are, not detract from it. Is it nobility? Character? Good cheek bones? Intelligent kindness, with a no nonsense edge? Whatever it is. I want it, more than Botox. More even, than being skinny again.

There, I said it, now I have to embody it. Somehow our sense of ourselves as sexual beings has to transform as we age. When we are young it is easy to base our sense of being desirable almost entirely on our physical frame. Even then the cultural definition of what is “hot” is so narrow, unless we fit it or come close to it, it can leave many of us feeling inadequate.

Already there is a sense that physical appearance alone is not enough to make us be or feel truly desirable. But this is the gift of aging: we have to depend less on our physical appearance for self esteem. It becomes more imperative to figure out how to believe in our own inner beauty.

Are we creative, super smart, generous, warm, talented, helpful, visionary, accomplished, planners and organizers, great lovers, travelers, mothers, friends? And once we have a more deeply embedded sense of our own desirability, we also get to be pickier about who and what we ourselves desire.

Now things get fun and interesting. Of course the most important thing to desire is our own good health, and the good health of our loved ones. Still, even when our health is or has been compromised there are often creative ways for the world to become our oyster again, much as it was in our twenties, but really slowing down to savor each bite this time.

Maggie Kuhn also said that “by the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, there will be more old people than young ones”. Here’s hoping we become great role models. And not just in the, “You look marvelous darling – Sixty really is the new forty” way but more importantly in the, “Sixty is fabulous all by itself and you wear it well”, way too.

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