I am one of many boomer women struggling with aging gracefully I flip flop between being so grateful to have lived to my 66th year in good health with vigor and vitality and on the other hand, sometimes I feel like screaming, “Oh my God, what is happening to my body.?” The truth is up until recently, age never much mattered to me. While some of my friends bemoaned 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?), the truth is I have always been proud of my age; maybe that was because I always looked younger than my years, or at least that’s what people said. Or maybe it was because growing old was so far out of my way of seeing myself, that it just didn’t resonate with me; “Me, Roberta Teller, an old lady?” Disconnect!
As matter of fact, I have always enjoyed honoring my birth. I have had a long standing tradition of celebrating every birthday-especially the ones that started a new decade. I remember my 30th birthday party with the male belly dancers gyrating around my Berkeley apartment 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……..
So, the truth is age never much mattered to me…….until now.
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……I wonder sometimes if the scaly skin on my arms and legs are signs that I am perhaps a descendent of a fish or perhaps even worse, I’m a mutant specimen who is evolving back to the sea……..I am a water sign, after all. And, where has the elasticity gone in my skin…..? Now, if I happen to pinch myself, my skin seems to stand at attention like a soldier who has forgotten that she was dismissed. 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. I feel a sense of shame about my unkind and 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 culture mentality of our society and I don’t buy into 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, recently, 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 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 growing older. I am learning that the physical manifestations of aging are far less important than the richness, and meaning and vitality that I infuse into my life. And, I see myself as a beautiful 66 year old woman with some wrinkles and beauty dots who is aging gracefully as she passes each year.
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