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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Age Never Mattered to Me Until Now

By Roberta Teller

The truth is age never much mattered to me. I have always celebrated 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. Hmm. 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 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? 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.

So, 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? What 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 friends don't tell me I'm looking good, I immediately think, “Oh, my God, I must look really old and be showing signs of aging.”

Then I feel a sense of shame about my aging 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 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 it and of myself as a beautiful almost 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.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh yes - I remember those feelings - but now at 75 I am mostly happy with the way I look - I was delighted that my fair hair which I had coloured for years turned fully white and I could stop colouring it - I think it looks good and laugh because people often think it is the result of a good hairdresser.
Most women are going to stay conscious of the way they look but hopefully we all reach an age/stage where we are happy to look good and look the age we are.

Roberta, Well done. I've also come to terms with these age-related changes. In addition, after two large birth-weight babies decades ago, my abdomen looks the worst for wear.

But there's also good news:
*** my hair has turned white and looks great.
*** after cataract surgery this year, I can see better than I ever have.
*** my brain is working well and
*** my husband loves me the way I am.

Awww, Madeleine, that is the best, the last line. You know, we go dancing often at the clubs for oldies, and I see a lot of very plain women with nice looking men. Then I see the ones trying too hard
who have men that are not worth the effort at all.

There comes a time when all of us women will probably be alone, an maybe that is best to accept that.

Roberta, you did a really good and funny piece.

Roberta, your story could have been written just for me! I had a very short haircut today, now I look just like my grandfather.
I will have to wear large earrings to prove I am female!
The cataracts keep me from seeing myself too clearly in the mirror. Fine by me.

Gives me a lot to look forward to. Thank you.

Very nice article Roberta. I feel that aging is a great opportunity to predicate feelings of self worth or appeal on features other than youth-like activities and good looks. It is a good time to reveal things about ourselves that were here to for hidden by youthful pursuits.

Been there, done that and now at almost 85 I am just trying to keep myself fit and with a smile. I have so much I still want to do, so I will just keep plowing ahead, beauty or not.

I'm 82 and can hardly believe my hands are my own hands, they're so wrinkled and rough-looking! But they are, they are--

My snow-white hair I like, although I wish it weren't so thin. However, I will go around bald rather than ever wear a wig. They're far too hot for me.

I can no longer get out and shop for clothes, so I order via the Web. I do find it mood-destroying, to say the least, to have to pack up and return so many of the things I've ordered.

But still: it's a blessing to be able to stand up every morning and greet the sky and huge trees which surround me. My appearance counts for little in their presence, I think.

Barbara Young

Do you see, Roberta, how you've done the world a favor and a service with your article? Bravo and congratulations for sharing a universal experience.

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