Tuesday, January 13, 2015

aging with (fucking) grace, a rambling and curse-filled post.


I'm trying.

Really. (Sort of).

I'm trying to be (fucking) graceful about this aging bullshit.

After all, I admire so many people who are.

In fact, when I think of the people my age and older who I admire, they are the ones who are aging with (fucking) grace.

They don't complain (at least not to me),
they embrace.

Embrace grace. How fucking Seussical.

My whole growing up, I felt judged by my family (sorry family, I love you, but there you have it) for being shallow about superficial things. Like my looks. My body. My hair.

No crease could be left unflattened in my Jordache jeans when I left the house in the mornings;

the alarm got set an hour early so I could work on my perfectly-feathered hair.

And, yes, I kept a calendar of what I wore each school day so as not to commit the offense of repeating a single outfit in a given week (so sue me. . . and did I really think anyone of value was actually paying attention to such a thing?)

So, then, I guess in some ways, I was. Shallow, about that shit, I mean.

It was hard to be a teen girl, then and now. Same as it is hard to be a grown woman, then and now. Maybe moreso, a woman over 40.

50. *coughs*

Right or wrong, so much of our identity as a gender is still tied to how we look. If you think it isn't, you're kidding yourselves. In some ways, I think this is awful. In other ways -- and I guess some would view this as anti-feminist of me -- but I actually think it's normal and okay. Or at least unavoidable as a society as we are. It's simply, how it is.

At times, I truly enjoy our gender differences, and admire good looks, admire someone who takes care of their physical body. I also admire physically many people who aren't typically handsome or beautiful, know seriously overweight people who I think are stunningly beautiful.

Maybe it's wrong of me, but I loved watching the beautiful faces and bodies parade on and off the stage at the Golden Globes . . . and, though a bit of a brouhaha apparently erupted on twitter over Jeremy Renner's rather obvious comment to JLo about her Golden Globes, what else was JLo wanting, actively seeking, but to invite admiration of her female assets by wearing that dress? Am I missing something here?

With perfect hair and my usual HS scowl,
 pre-nose job, 1982.

So, yeah, my looks have always mattered to me, which was hard since I haven't always been a fan of how I looked. After all, by the time I hit puberty, I wore glasses and braces and was diagnosed with scoliosis which was going to require me to wear a large plastic brace on my back -- not the best fashion accessory for a teenage girl.

Moreover, by puberty, my previously-cute button nose had taken on a strong hereditary Semitic bump (and low dip) that both my boys now have, which is wearable and even handsome (IMHO) on a boy, but not so much on a girl.

As I was already being badly bullied in high school, it was unbearable to not at least feel pretty when I left the house on a given day.  Maybe a less superficial person could have hacked it.

At any rate, hate me or love me for it, my looks were always an integral part of who I was, how I viewed myself, and, yes, sometimes, I think, were tied to how I succeeded at certain things. Certainly, post nose-job, I could walk into a room feeling like I'd make a positive first impression. I wanted to look good, I wanted to feel pretty, and I wanted others to think the same of me.

Having said all that, I personally don't think I was shallow or superficial. You may disagree. Really what I wanted most in the world, was what we all want: to feel good about myself, to feel loved and admired, to have friends, and to feel confident in my life. I also cared WAY more deeply about who I was on the inside, and how I treated others, and the good things I did, and so I'm not sure why that so often got lost in the translation.

At any rate, I struggled then, and still do now as so many others do, when I look in a mirror and don't love what I see.

Don't love my body -- the too-full figure, the cellulite on the thighs.

Then, in my early forties (!!!) something sort of miraculous happened: I was in the best shape of my life AND I liked the way I looked!

I think three things coincided to make this happen,

one bad (I went through a period of midlife crisis depression and literally couldn't eat much and lost every ounce of body fat I'd ever had)

and two good: I began swimming religiously -- often several miles a week by my mid-forties--  and my body, for the first time post-baby was lean and mean, and I finally got a book deal and was, for the first time, really doing something in my life I had fought hard for and only dreamed of for a long while.

At any rate. It was fun. It was exhilarating, especially since so many other good and fun things were going on.

Alas, fast forward to 2015.

My forties are somehow, unfathomably, gone.

Late into them, an age spot appeared on my hand. I kid you not, it mocks me daily. Once in a while, I take out a pen and draw a smiley face inside of it. I'd like to tell you that helps.

Late into my forties, the also-hereditary prominent eye bags started really appearing under my eyes. My flat stomach lost shape and the skin got looser around my mid-section.

And my hands. Oh dear lord, my fucking hands.

With my mother on my 50th birthday.
And, yes, I am wearing a tiara.
I have this particular recollection from when I was in my early twenties I think, of my beautiful mother lamenting how old her hands had become.

She must have been in her late forties, then.

We were in her bedroom, I, lazing on her bed, she getting ready for some function.

I told her she was being silly, and she walked over and she pinched the skin on the top of her hand, and showed me how inelastic it had become, and, thus, how long it took it to resettle. I gave her the typical eye roll and she showed me on my hand, the difference, pinched the skin on mine which immediately shot back down.

My hands have become her hands back then. I'm sure she doesn't want to talk about her hands now.

This morning, I sat on the floor playing with the dog, and bottoms of my feet. . . so cracked and dry. . .well, I don't even want to talk about that. . .

And don't get me started on my thighs in downward dog.

No one over fifty should ever go into downward dog. Well, at least without long pants on.

So, I'm trying. I really am. To embrace my own aging with grace. I'm really fucking wanting to be graceful.

My gorgeous, fucking kickass, goddess writer friend Amy Ferris wrote this the other day:

i've decided today that's my new age.
it looks just like 60, but with a little extra OOOOOMPH.

I'm trying to emulate her. Be brave. Be kickass. Embrace this fifty bullshit with grace.

Embrace the changing body, the thinning hair that's lost all its luster . . .

the aching back, sore hips and knees and shoulder (okay, that last one probably more a hazard of all the miles swum than my age, but still. . .).

I'm trying to remind myself I swam a fucking 10K last summer.

I'm trying to hold on to the truth that the numbers are arbitrary and just numbers.

I'm always grateful. I promise. Please don't tell me in the comments to be grateful, because I swear I am. And don't tell me I look good, because what most of you see is photoshopped anyway.

Besides, it's really NOT the point.

And, yes, I see so many others struggling with real health problems and I kiss the ground for this body -- this very one! -- that has done its work so beautifully, so strongly, without too many major disruptions, kept healthy for me, and keeps carrying me along. I swear, I am not without the right priorities and gratitude. In fact, I'm usually overwhelmed by an aching sense of gratitude toward my random dumb luck in this hard, hard world.

But I am also my physical body. At least for now. And I am struggling to view it with grace.

Fucking grace. It keeps on eluding me.

- gae