Getting Old(er)

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Aging has been a topic on my mind a lot recently, because…well…it’s happening, even as I type.

It’s happening to all of us, all the time, albeit in such incremental steps that it tends to creep up on us, unnoticed, until one day we catch a glimpse of ourselves reflected in a storefront window, and think “Who the heck is that?”

When I was younger, I naively thought I might be (at least partially) immune to being sensitive about the changes aging brings on in our looks.  I rationalized all the crap that popular culture tries to sell us: “Age is just a number”, “40 is the new 30”, “50 is the new 40”, etc. Mind over matter and all that.

And, since I have always primarily lived in my mind, rather than solely focused on my body, I thought maybe I would be spared some of the insecurity about appearance that aging often brings.

I was wrong.

Lately, I find myself bothered by the inevitable march of time.  Just this morning, I wasted an hour searching Amazon for “best anti-wrinkle cream”; a precious hour of my life that I can never recover.

Although there is some truth that we perhaps have (at least partial) control over our looks through diet, exercise, clothes, hairstyles, and the myriad anti-aging and beauty products filling the shelves vying for our money and our hope, I fully realize that the bottom line is: I am never going to look the same now as I did in my 30’s.

I could slather 10,000 ounces of the finest anti-wrinkle cream on myself, and guess what? I would still not look 30. Or ~ who am I kidding? ~ not even 40! I would look like a well-moisturized version of my current age.

I am quite obviously not at the acceptance phase of aging yet, and I strongly suspect that it will be an ongoing process with newly discovered issues cropping up on a regular basis.

But: I am in the process of accepting some facts about my age. I have accepted, for instance, that I now have to work out twice as long to get half the results. I have (almost) accepted that I will need to work my ass off (pun intended) for the rest of my life to maintain a healthy weight, particularly since I battle with hypothyroidism. I have not yet accepted the fact that I will need to eat less and drink less than everyone else at the table to maintain a healthy weight; but I now can at least acknowledge the truth in that statement, which is the first step to acceptance.

It helps me to have a supportive partner, who loves me unconditionally and who likes to eat healthy and to also work out herself.  It helps to have a partner who helps me cognitively process that everyone is bound, in varying degrees, by the societal “gender straitjacket” which, among other things, dictates our subconscious opinions of attractive/unattractive, and my partner helps me to always question and challenge all underlying beliefs.

It also helps to constantly realize that aging is certainly better than the alternative.  My friend Debra died when we were only 32 ~ long before it was time to worry about wrinkles. From many conversations with her in the couple years of her illness prior to her death, I know for a fact that if fate had given her the choice, she would have chosen wrinkles over death.

So, I am now trying to focus on the benefits of aging, while simultaneously trying to accept and make the best of the drawbacks.

The best benefit of aging, so far, is my ever-increasing willingness to say what I actually think, rather than walking on eggshells all the time, trying to mollycoddle people’s feelings.

And that is one Hell of a benefit ~ one that I would not trade for the dewy skin of youth.

10 thoughts on “Getting Old(er)

  1. With the exception of not being able to mow my lawn as quickly say 10 years ago, believe me when I say that every year that goes by I am happier and definitely more wise. Thinking about my youth, I have little desire to go back there. Now, who said “Youth is wasted on the young?” Oh yes, George Bernard Shaw.

    Embracing my age, my physical appearance is a good place to be. Being a woc, I probably am aging more gracefully, at least that is what my honey claims. 🙂

    My adopted mom was nearly 100 years of age when she passed (she was in her 60’s when I was adopted) She put tape on her forehead every night to slow down those creases between her eyebrows. I thought that behavior to be so funny as a young person. She still had all of her original teeth, now THAT was amazing. She was quite vain, dressed like a queen, even when golfing. She was lovely and quite beautiful right up to the end.

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    • Hi Chonky, yes, embracing age rather than fighting it is the way to go, and I agree that I wouldn’t trade my current wisdom/life for youth. Interesting about your adopted mom and her tape on the forehead (like those expensive Frownies)! Might have to try that, LOL! 🙂 My mom passed away at 90 with all of her original teeth too; motivates me to floss! Thanks for your comments!

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    • What a honey your honey sounds! As for us, looking through old photos, I said: “Oh, look, I was quite cute back then!” If there’s a more obvious cue for “You’re still cute now” I have yet to learn it. I certainly wasn’t fishing for “You were alright, I suppose.”

      Like your Mom, my own Mum died (aged 86) with all her own teeth in her mouth. She had a fear of dentists bordering on pathological, which (in the way moms do) she transmitted to us. It’s 40 years since I consulted a dentist, and I still have all my own teeth too, so does my sister. Must be a lesson there somewhere, though I suspect rather un-American.

      As it turns out, the external physical signs of ageing are among the least of things that bother you when you grow properly old. My Mum was (absurdly, if you knew her) vexed by the fear that she might “go gaga”, i.e. suffer from dementia. And I confess that I too, every time I have difficulty in recalling a name or a word, put myself through a battery of mental ‘tests’. My cruel friends say “How would we ever know, Petre, you’ve always been crazy?”

      As a side-note, and since there must be some clever-dick accountants and lawyers reading this (the Americal [sic] ground is thick with them), how do I quantify my thinking-time in a way that will satisfy the IRS?

      But the worst thing is that your friends are growing old too. Just this week I’ve written two letters in which I’m “shocked” or “enormously distressed” by someone’s death or illness. I used to be bowled over by how casual old people were about the death or sickness of their friends, but now I begin to understand it. One is obliged to impose a certain economy of grief/sympathy, otherwise what do we have left for the genuinely “God forbid” situations? Situations involving our children or younger siblings, I’m too superstitious to be more explicit.

      I kinda love being able to say: “I’m too old to do that” to things I would never have wanted to do anyway in my full youth and vigour. Moving from “middle-aged” to “properly old” IS a big step in our lives. I dare say in San Francisco and in London they print booklets telling us how to do it.

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      • Yes, my honey is an excellent partner (and she’s a great match for me). I am yet not ready to move from “middle-aged to properly old” yet, & not sure when that delineation happens. Guess I’ll know it when it does, huh, LOL! 🙂

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  2. I find this theme a lot in fat acceptance circles. Excessive weight loss, botox (ya know, the stuff that kills you by paralyzing your rib muscles and hence your breathing) and other things sold to women in particular to help us achieve a certain appearance have the nasty side effect of preventing us from getting old at all. In other words, killing us. I know so many people who have had weight loss surgery, plastic surgery, dieted excessively, and who are now paying the price, sometimes with their lives. All of them would trade those things in for a few more years on this earth. That’s why I’m so dedicated to “natural,” meaning I don’t diet, I don’t color my hair, and basically, I practice good grooming and use lots of sunscreen (best anti-aging, anti-cancer thing ever) and spend both my time AND my money on pursuits that add to my life in a substantive way.

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    • Hi! I agree with the natural approach, and find it scary that many women do such extreme things (like what you mention) for beauty. I don’t always remember sunscreen but am trying! My partner and I are just trying to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, etc. I am striving for balance and moderation. I like and agree with your idea to save our money and our time to pursue things that add to our lives rather than chasing after ever-illusive youth. Thanks for your comments! 🙂

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      • Sounds like a great balance. And I am not anti-hair coloring or anti-makeup. I’m okay with those things for fun, and in moderation. However, the extent to which women damage their natural hair by coloring, relaxing, etc. do more damage than it’s worth and, ironically, just make your hair age faster. Tanning, skin lighteners, corset training for deviant bellies…it might seem harmless on the surface but what goes on, physically and emotionally, on a deeper level is scary.

        Yes, I’m all about spending my money on bettering myself and others…the irony being that I sacrifice a lot of sleep to do so LOL. Overtime queen here! Hope I’m not spamming your blog with excessive comments!

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        • The older I get, the less I can tolerate being tough on my body. No more high heels, for instance. Screw those high heels, LOL! I broke my ankle several years ago and it has titanium plates/screws in it now and I just can’t handle heels now…too painful. So many things women do in the name of “beauty” are toxic and/or painful. Not to mention expensive and often ineffective. I wear makeup to work (well, usually…unless I wake up too late, lol, and then everybody will ask if I am sick because I am pale), and when going out to dinner sometimes, but often, I don’t even wear it. The Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/about-us) is a great website that tells you what toxins are actually in all the products we use, and it is downright scary. And, I love your comments, keep ’em coming! 🙂

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  3. Numbers do matter. I turned 60 this year, and it feels a whole lot easier than being 59. Then I just had one year till I was 60, now I have a whole 5 years till I’m 65. If you have a younger partner (mine is just 6 years younger), the hardest thing can be to get them to talk seriously about aging and dying. Periodically I try to sit him down and go through the papers to understand exactly what he has to do when I die (he can claim for funeral expenses among other things). If we’re married for five years before I die, he can claim a “survivor’s pension”, so I feel a certain sense of not exactly urgency but pressingness about it (I’m not a big fan of marriage romantically, but am well aware of the financial and fiscal advantages).
    These are important and in my mind “business” questions, but he is frustratingly reluctant to discuss them seriously at all. You are a psychologist and must understand better than I the dread of one’s own or one’s partners mortality, but he is resistant and regards as ‘pessimism’ what I would simply call ‘realism’. Once or twice I’ve tried to shock him into action by saying “Once I’m lying on a hospital bed full of tubes it’ll be too late for all this”, but take it from me that is NOT a good strategy.
    My medical insurance includes a specific exclusion clause regarding consultations in the USA, so I will refrain from addressing you as D****r Bennett, but friendly non-chargeable advice from any of your readers would be welcome.

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    • I am not in my psychologist role here; I’m really in my “say-whatever-I-am-thinking-at-the-moment” role, LOL!

      Those kinds of conversations, about death and illness and wills and ‘worst-case scenario’ situations, are truly difficult to have with our partners, friends, and families, but those conversations are necessary no matter what age we are.

      And the older we get, it becomes increasingly more relevant and obvious, as we see others our own age and even younger dealing with illness and death.

      I dealt with all of these issues with Dirt in my typical straightforward fashion. I just had my attorneys draft all the appropriate documents that spell out my wishes if I could not speak for myself, and that will protect Dirt if I die first. Then I reviewed the documents with her, and put them in a safe, secure place where she can find them. (And we’re doing the same for her).

      Of course, nobody, including me, really WANTS to think or talk about these unpleasantries, but the alternative is to leave our loved ones in the dark about our wishes or even worse, to leave them unprotected if something happens to us, which is unacceptable.

      I am thankful for marriage rights, both romantically (which I did not anticipate) and legally (which I did anticipate).

      But regardless of whether gay/lesbian couples get legally married, it is imperative to put protections into place in advance of a crisis.

      So that’s my non-professional advice: to tell our partners that we are optimists but realists; we hope for the best and plan for the worst, not just for our own sakes, but for theirs too.

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