Friday, November 19, 2010

The Truth About Aging: It Grows On You

Barbara: The other day I read this interview of Diane Keaton—who is a wonderful, quirky
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 08:  Actress Diane Keaton poses before greeting fans and signing copies of 'California Romantica' at Barnes and Noble at The Grove on May 8, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)
actress and an icon of aging gracefully. She was quoted as saying that when she goes on lecture tours––despite all her adventures and achievements––the number one question from her audience is how she deals with the aging process.

Man, we’re obsessed with this, aren’t we?! Of all the things we might want to discover in our older years––but this, apparently, is the conundrum that most distracts us. (Proviso: I know many people, women included, who do NOT focus on this at all, or have made peace with it. If you’re reading this, come along for the ride anyway, and please feel free to leave tips and thoughts in the comments section.)

Okay, now for those of us who have thought about it—even a little—here’s my latest aha moment. Aging? You get used to it. No, really. You just think you’re constantly worried about those sags, bags, and lines. Aching bones and weak eyesight. But the truth is—like adolescence and parenthood and renovation hell and debt—you get used to it. Sure, you might obsess for moments at a time that you’re not doing the right thing or the best thing (or anything) to combat it. Sure, the latest unflattering change can be surprising or depressing. But, think about it, it’s just a matter of time before that new reflection in the mirror is as familiar as, well, as an old pair of shoes.

I know that at 47, I’m on the upswing of the road of major aging changes, but I remember vividly my shock and dismay at finding (ten years ago) that the smooth waist I’d kinda taken for granted was suddenly resting comfortably on top of my pants’ waist. Or (seven year ago) when I realized that my mouth was beginning to turn down at the edges and two neat lines were forming between my eyebrows, both conspiring to make this normally upbeat, positive gal look dour and angry no matter how happy I feel. (My husband routinely asks me what’s wrong when all I am doing is calmly, relaxedly, even happily reading a book.)

Each time something major has changed on my body or face, I've panicked. Oh, it's been just a slippery, slippery slope and I've been flailing and desperately grasping for any tether around me. What can I do to stop the carnage … how really, really bad is it going to get … will I ever be able to make peace with it???

Let me take this minute to remind us all that we do get used to it. We do. We wake up one morning and we don’t begrudge those lines and sags anymore. We hardly notice them. They just are. And our reflection is simply that: our reflection. Ourselves. Let me get hokey: our beautiful selves. And instead of berating Diane Keaton for advice, we should hold each other’s hands in solidarity and remind each other that we will all get used to it at some point. Maybe not at the same point, and maybe not for good (there are bound to be regressions for every triumph), but we can be here to remind each other of that. You know, like we did with labour pains: “Don’t worry, the pain doesn’t last long and pretty soon you won’t remember it.”

Deb: Barb, you have no idea how great this concept is. You are right. It does grow on you. And for me, after the bombardment of aging surprises that accompanied menopause and post-menopause, everything else is lame. Like, hey, new liver spot. Already have two. So ... whatever. Hello, new grey hair. That ship already sailed.

So I truly agree that it is a wonderful thing––which I shall be adopting––but it is also a slippery slope of acceptance. There is always that day when you meet someone you went to high school with ... and they don’t recognize you. BAM!

Barbara: And that’s when it’s their turn to get used to it.


  1. At my age 62 you just accept the changes and as you say you get over it. Age is in the mind and if you forget about it you will see how young you really feel and then proceed accordingly. I feel young and more centered than probably anytime in my life. Great advice today.

  2. WOW,I have said once I really don't want to get older now,but who can stop it really. I think the one thing that I would even care about at all really when I get older is my mind. I really don't think I will care about anything else that is happing to me as long as my mind still works. My mind is bad now I can't imagian what it will be like 10 years from now.I mean can my mind get any worse. I hope not.

  3. Aging: as my dad says, it's better than the alternative.

    Now excuse me while I try yet again to pluck this damn whisker sprouting from my chin. Where do you buy decent tweezers these days?

  4. Yes, Madge, was thinking of you when I wrote that. You seem so supremely accepting and at peace. Love it.

    Don't worry, Lyndsie, the "bad mind" thing is epidemic!

    And Katie May, good tweezers! Ha! Shopper's???

  5. When I was younger, I always said that growing old wouldn't bother me. I could never understand why women would lie about their age or even worry about it. Everybody else is growing old along with us, right? Then I started to notice the changes: sagging skin, age spots (I too have 2), wrinkles, hair loss in unexpected places. The decline has been gradual and at times imperceptible and then one day it hit me. I am not as young as my imagination is. That was the hardest thing.
    I don't think about it all that much anymore. It just is the way it is. Like Katie's Dad says, "It's better than the alternative".
    I know this, that by working on keeping healthy and fit on the inside as well as outside, I can be much happier at any age.
    For the record, I am 47.

  6. I am 52 and I have decided just to ignore the fact that I am aging. I am having a ball. My children are adults, I am single again, and I am doing all of the things I always wanted to do. No more excuses. The greatest thing about maturing is the confidence all of my life experiences have given me.

  7. Melissa, a 47-buddy! At least we're okay in embracing our ages.

    And, Susan, that's the best part about this age -- the chance to break out!! Love it.

  8. LOVED this post, guys!! And, I also really enjoyed all the comments. I don't need to tell you where I stand on this: I believe we have to embrace, respect and love whatever age we happen to be. Getting and staying as fit and energetic as possible is more than half of it, and staying engaged, and having fun, and keeping a little style going, like DVF and Diane Keaton. It's all good, and as one of the commments said "it beats the alternative!"
    Thanks for this and YAY!!!!!!

  9. Yay, Barbara (of the amazing blog -- see Monday's link). You always have the best advice and most inspiring outlook. Yes, yay!!

  10. I'll be 47 in two weeks, btw....
    This year the aging thing really hit me. I saw dramatic changes in my face (goodbye jawline), my strength, my eyesight, all the things I just thought were "me" and would be forever. I've always been active, danced, hiked, done yoga. this year I noticed I was weaker, and I really didn't like it. So I'm exercising daily as always, taking good care of my skin like always, eating healthy like always. And changes be damned.
    I look in the mirror a lot less, so that saves me some time.
    and yeah...whereas for a while there I was a bit obsessed with worry over it, these days I'm more apt to say "eh, whatever."

  11. As I have a birthday (38) next month, aging is very much on my mind these days. Most of the time, actually, I look forward to being older. 44 1/2, to be exact. Because, that's when I go off full-time mommy duty and can begin my Life 2.0 Not that I'm counting the days or anything (kiddo graduates in 6 years, 7 months). I didn't sign up for single motherhood, and this shit is hard! As much as I love my son, frankly, I hold onto the fact that I will have freedom again someday.

    The bad take on aging for me, though, is the regret of missed opportunities in the body department. I have some icky chronic health problems and some nasty, painful back trouble. And, I'm a lumpy blob. Now, even if I managed to somehow miraculously conquer the back and the health problems and get all skinny and buff, I would STILL be past my prime. I will never know what I could've been in my prime. That battle is lost. Trying to fix my decrepit body, now, has a vaguely futile closing the barn door after the horses are out feel to it.

    Then, there are the dark nights of the soul (much, much rarer nowadays), when I'm basically like, "Oh God, would you please just f'ing let me go ahead and die. I am so tired of this shit!"

    I do have one real aging fear, though. All those years as a beach rat snorkelling around are catching up with my pale, freckly self, and I know it's a matter of when not if the skin cancer starts. All I ask is that, please, I not get cancer until my son is grown.

    Vanitywise? Meh. Who cares? If I were thin and pretty and desirable and had men waiting with baited breath to bed my passionate, flexible self, the physical "flaws" of aging might bother me. But, I have no reason to care. *shrugs*

    *note to self: probably ought not comment on blogs when hormonal and headachy*

  12. Thanks for this post Barbara - and the wonderful comments by all you youngsters. At 66 I can now look in the mirror and blow kisses at the face that is the youngest it will ever be. I used to whine about school photos and headshots for work - if I only had higher cheekbones or smoother skin - or blonde hair - it never ends unless we say - The End. I am beautiful today - I am perfect just the way I am - our lives become instantly better. I'm just counting the liver spots on each hand and wondering what design they'll make when I'm 70. Okay beauties - and you are - I just noticed my hubby is home and he's picked up a new kind of KY to try - so gotta dance - And so do all of YOU...xox Linda Lichtman, The Inner Giggler

  13. Hollye, another 47-er! And both Hollye and Rigel -- birthday girls soon!! (Rigel, sorry about the hormones, etc, never a fun thing)

    But Innergiggler, you get the prize for 'tude! LOVE IT! Inspired me to dance, baby!

  14. wow...back fat, age spots, cellulite, loss of hair where you want it and sprouting hair where you don't. Mamme from the box boy, AARP discounts, eye lift cream and hemorrhoids. Fiber pills and analgesic rub, cold feet and bifocals...the trend is not UP. But on the other confidence, the ability to say no, never missing an opportunity to vote, sweet and endearing sex, being your own boss, sleeping in, no more panty hose and the priceless faces of babies(that belong to some one else). Don't miss a moment of any chapter, that's my best advice. We truly do not get to go backwards, no matter how much we may want to. So let's embrace forwards.

  15. ah the downturned lines at the mouth that look angry, especially when I'm trying to look... SEXY!?!? WTF??!?!I'll try to make a really alluring face in a photo and when I look at it: pissed off old broad.

    Oh well. I guess i'll just go with it. :)

  16. Kristine, love LOVE your best of list. So true!!

    Gae, ha, yes! The "sexy" look just ain't happening (I want to add "anymore", but I can't actually say I was ever able to rock that one)

  17. Barbara and Deb,
    Life is way too short to worry about such but that said I do know it bothers some so much and I feel for them who fight with this or have trouble dealing with this situation.
    It is something that just has never bothered me. I had a mole on my face a tiny freckle and got bit by a mosquito. In my sleep I must have scratched it and it bled so I went off 18 years ago to a surgeon who cut it and his remark to me was it will leave a tiny scar that will blend into the wrinkle you are going to have within the next 10 years if you do not stop sleeping on your stomach. Well, heck he was right. Not that I would ever do it and not that there is anything wrong with doing it but I could be the first person to not need a facelift at 60 but a facedown from sleeping on my stomach and yes I still sleep on my stomach only because I need more room. When I sleep alone I sleep on my back but I take up the entire bed. Maybe it is time for twin beds to preserve this face.ha.ha.
    Yes, I am weird for most of my girlfriends were insane turning 25,30,35 now we are 56 closer to 60 which I just told someone while on a ferry boat (she does not swim) I swear she was going to jump overboard when I mentioned 60. Age to me is all in the mind. Oh at 56 I do not move as quick as I did at 26 but it is inevitable so embrace it along with the lines and wrinkles and oh Deb what did you call those spots(liver spots) this summer my hands became more spotted I blamed it on gardening and I wear gloves. ha. The gray came at 50 and I have yet to dye it. Get compliments often on my hair highlights when I mention it is natural they cry that they wished they were as brave and regret dyeing theirs years ago. My reply is brave has nothing to do with it. You have to do what your gut wants and what makes you feel good about yourself. Rockin' Peace All.

  18. Barbara, you need "advice about aging" you can not get this from your soul mates with the same age and fears, you need experience ...!
    Let me tell you, you will get very old! Your Grandfather was 99.3/4 the other over 90, one Grandmother still lives and most of your Aunts got over 90, your parents pretend to be 47 still (but with more wrinkles) so ...
    Here is my advice: Never look in a mirror it is the greatest lying device in our houses when it comes to beauty. We confuse beauty with smooth skin and no liver spots, but beauty is inside everyone of us and it is not the look "you" see in the mirror.
    Real beauty comes from within, from knowledge, understanding, caring, Love and compassion and if you have that, it is imposable to see wrinkles. .....I know that you are beautiful and will be when you are 90+

  19. Well said, Anon (aka Dad?). Great and beautiful "advice"!


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