The truth is age never much mattered to me. I have always joyfully celebrated every birthday-especially the ones that started a new decade. I remember my 30th birthday party with the slinky male belly dancers gyrating around my Berkeley living room with plates of lit candles on their heads…….And my 40th birthday party with all my friends stuffed into my tiny Mabel Street living room. And that short black dress I wore to my 50th and the long skirt I had on for my 60th birthday……..hmmmmmm……maybe that was a clue of what was ahead……..
My enthusiasm about birthdays was not always in synch with those around me. Some of my friends were devastated at turning 30 (yes, that is true) and some of my friends wouldn’t tell their boyfriends or husbands, or even their girlfriends how old they were (how could they get away with that? If you were their boyfriend, or fiancee or husband, or girlfriend, wouldn’t you wait until they were in the shower or fast asleep and sneak into their wallet to look at their driver’s license? I would……). And then of course, there was my parents generation, where not only did women not tell their age, it was considered rude to even ask or hint at her years. And, if there was some legal or compelling reason that you had to ask her age, there was the obligatory, “You certainly don’t look your age” lie.
But the truth is age never much mattered to me…….until now. And to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s really the age thing…..I think it’s more of what I see and notice and feel….. Where is that energy that allowed me to go out partying at 11pm instead of now being asleep by 9? Why do I prefer to be home before dark instead of arriving home as the sun rises? Where has happened to the thickness of my skin….? Now, if I happen to poke myself with a bracelet or tap against something, I get these purplish, red blemishes that sprinkle my skin. And then there are those things they call “age spots” that appear all over my body. Can’t they call it something else, like wisdom mounds or beauty dots? I have a special relationship with the ones on my face…..I just bought a product at Aveda this week called a “concealer” so I can hide these facial intrusions. I keep forgetting to put it on……
And then there’s my neck……that protrusion of soft skin that no longer wants to adhere to whatever it was attached to before…….and the gray hair that I strive to color back to its natural state that I can no longer even remember. And, oh how I miss my naturally wavy hair that the grey hairs insist on keeping straight. If I happen to be in “just the right light” (really the very wrong light), and I look at myself in a mirror, sometimes I hear myself saying, ““Oh, my God, who is that person peering back at me? Look at her skin. When did those wrinkles move in? Then I feel a sense of shame about my judgmental self. And then I feel more shame and guilt because I shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, at all. But I am.
“Well”, I tell myself, this is just superficial crap. It’s the youth mentality of our society or the fault of the media for not honestly portraying real older people and I don’t buy into any of it……But I do…..on some level at least. That’s why I color my hair and I bought “the concealer” the other day. I want to look good, be considered attractive, pretty…….young???? Younger than I am??????. And while I probably would never really consider plastic surgery, I can kinda understand why (mostly, but not only) women spend huge amounts of money buying all kinds of cosmetics and promises of a youth returned, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to remove wrinkles and tighten up that loose skin. And yet, not long ago, when I was watching the Academy Awards, I was shocked and revolted when I saw the new and improved John Travolta who looked mannequin like and other worldly. Or have you seen Joan Rivers lately? I don’t want THAT either.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I too, am a victim of the youth oriented society and the ageist language and imaging of the culture we live in. But with that said, never liking to consider myself a victim, I am also a survivor. And while I haven’t come to completely embrace my physically aging self, I have stopped trying to hide it or deny it or fix it…….I am moving towards acceptance of it and of myself as a beautiful 67 year old woman with some wrinkles and beauty dots.
Oh, and if you happen to see me in the middle of the summer with a gorgeous shawl wrapped tight around my neck, remember, I am a work in progress……and wink at me in solidarity.
By Roberta Teller