Monday, July 18, 2011

A Bit of SELF Examination

I call this blog "Women of a Certain Age" yet I seldom write about the topic.  I started it with the idea it would be about women what they think, what they do, who they are, where they see themselves at different ages.  Instead, I found myself seguing, time and again, into politics.   I probably should have called it "Woman of a Certain Age"  and let it be about my opinions and not feel I'm off topic.  But, it is what it is.

I've just read a very nice article in the August edition of SELF magazine, titled "Bring on the birthdays!".  It's under their self expression category swhich offers personal opinions of women of certain ages, in this case from 28 to 78.  Each person describes what her coming of age means to her.  The first vignette is by a woman aged 42 who describes overcoming her fear of being too old and too afraid to learn to surf.  She finds a "bald, wiry and short" guy to teach her, hangs in there and finally learns after years of wanting it but being afraid.  She describes it this way,
("A benefit of age is that you care less about looking foolish and you know the value of persistance.")
I certainly agree with her perspective; not sure I'd go surfing, but it gives me something to think about with respect to facing my own fears.

The eldest contributor writes of her reluctance to attend this year's family reunion at a lake.  She positions her dilemma:  sit on the shore in a coverup and watch her grandchildren cavort or participate?  Her decision,
"I will look at my 70 year-old sister, Susie, and grin.  Together we'll watch the grandchildren, so joyously alive, just like the two of us.  Then I'll shed my cover-up and there I'll be in my new bathing suit on my old body which, despite three mornings a week at the gym, continues to succumb to gravity."
Whew!  I know how that feels even if I'm not 78.   We've been going to a nearby lake and I've been in three of my bathing suits and they're all torturous.  I need to get a grip.

Another woman's essay, titled "At 50, I'm keeping my vow", writes about her decision never to lie about her age.
"It's because of a promise I made to another friend back in 1981...I was sitting on a metal chair in a hospital watchiing Ed die of AIDS.  He was I watched his chest stop moving, I could think only of what Ed would have traded for the chance to grow old.  So I silently vowed to honor the life he never got to finish by celebrating my ability to finish my own.  I promised myself I would never complain about my sheer luck at having the gift of another day.  Another decade."
I never lie about my age.  My reasons are not dramatic or because of an epiphany. I simply never lie about my age because my mother never lied about hers.  Her friends continued to get younger but Mother never budged.  I always admired her for that. 

Speaking of age, the MIL took free subscriptions to Glamour and SELF magazines, thinking they were age-appropriate for my taste.  I've enjoyed reading them even though they feel somehow like a guilty pleasure.  That said, when it's time to renew, I think I just might keep the SELF subscription.  It always has one article that resonates.



Ruth said...

This is a wonderful, timely post for me, as I have my 55th birthday coming up next month. Like yours, my mother was a fantastic role model for aging. She was proud of hers. I love these vignettes that you've shared from the magazine. Self. Yes, something I was not allowed to think much about growing up in church, but now, I feel quite comfortable with mine. However, I hate to say it, but like you, I am more comfortable with my inner self than my outer one in a bathing suit.

DJan said...

I don't lie about my age, either, unless I exaggerate a bit, like "I'm almost seventy" when I'm only 68. Better to have someone think I'm in great shape for my age than decrepit and ten years younger! :-)

Susan said...

I'm not a liar of age either. Don't see any reason to make people scoff my efforts! LOL And anyway, no matter what surgery, tuck, injections you might succumb to, the hands don't lie. They're a dead giveaway. And anyway, there are more of us (middle-agers) than there are of them (youngsters). We win.

Mel said...

Thanks for this great post, just what I needed to read this morning. I'm struggling so hard with an aging and painful body and I'm going to reread that paragraph about Ed over and over until I have it memorized. Perspective is so important, but hard to maintain in the day to day, or more specifically in the hot flash riddled night to night.
I'll check out Self Magazine too, thanks.

injaynesworld said...

I used to lie about my age when I was in the toxic environment of Hollywood, but now I'm proud to be 62. Hell, life didn't even start to get good until I hit 40!

And I like "Self," too.

Deborah said...

Ah, this was nice! I like reading about the personal you - not that your political writing isn't interesting, but as a Canadian I can't always relate to it.
The Self article will provoke quite a few of us to think about an equivalent experience in our own lives, and might even result in a post or two!
You and your mother have the right idea - there is nothing to be gained by misrepresnting age, ever. Well, unless to get into a bar at 17, I guess. It feeds society's lack of respect for the elderly when we, mostly women, buy into the idea that ageing is something to be hidden.

I'm glad you wrote about this.

California Girl said...

Ruth: Happy to hear this helps. I remember when everyone called the pending age of 55 "double nickels". I'm past that now! As for the bathing suit, oh well.

DJan: I remember practicing telling people I was "turning 50" when I reached 48. I wanted to be ready to deal with it. Now, I'll just stick with exactly what I am; no counting ahead or behind. :)

Susan: The hands ARE a "dead giveaway"! I notice that in movies alot with aging actresses. I see my father's hands when I look at my own. I don't have the age spots, however. They seem to be headed towards my chest and arms.

Mel: Pain is the worst part about aging. I would be happy as a clam if I didn't have pain. Drives me nuts. My husband as well. We are both arthritic and the weather really does affect that. I always thought it was an old wive's tale. Unfortunately, no.

jayne: I turn 60 in November and I wonder about it. My GFs and I are headed to New Orleans for a 4 day 60th birthday bash. No husbands. We are planning to eat well, drink hard, dance & do the Quarter up brown!

Deborah: Thanks for the compliment. I would probably be more forthcoming but my nature is quite bitchy & I try to avoid sounding too sarcastic except when it comes to politics! Yup, my mom was very good about her age. She was a person who took pleeasure in the little things; something I could do more often.

Linda Myers said...

I don't lie about my age; as a matter of fact, I offer it. I've got friends of all ages and I like that too.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Just came from my 50-year high school reunion, and I'm working on a post about it. I think we all had to face up to being 68 or so, and once there we were glad to be in a group where everyone was in the same boat.

Linda said...

I have no problem whatsoever sharing my age. I mean really, you are who you are. However, you would never see me in a swim suit. How's that for a contradiction? :-)

Baino said...

I never bothered about my age until I developed a rather deep affection for a man 20 years my junior. Actually it's a healthy obsession because it keeps me young. I'll be 55 this year and I lament the looks that keep the 28 year old locked inside but embrace the wisdom that it brings. I don't think I'll ever get used to ageing so will do so disgracefully. - the only exception? You'll never see me in a bathing suit in public, never, never ever, never never ever.

EcoGrrl said...

glad you brought this up. i never lied about my age. i accidentally make myself a year older and have been doing that for a while, don't know why (i'm 37 and say i'm 38, go figure). i love turning 30, it was a huge party, like FINALLY i can say goodbye to the 20's. and i hate when people tell me i look like i'm in my 20's - not that i don't like the intent of the comment but this IS what I look like in my 30's, why compare me to another decade? now if my body looked like i was in my 20's......but hey, i gots the brains now, hehee.

oh and speaking of 'age appropriate magazines' i've been reading glamour since i was 12 years old and self since college. my favorite magazine now is 'more' - it's designed supposedly for women over 40 but for me it's just nice to read stories that aren't about 'drop five pounds in five hours' and $70 lipglosses, and see models who are over the age of fifteen :)

Nancy said...

I've always liked SELF. I also have never lied about my age. What would be the point? I also like my hair going greyer. It feels kind of good. Like - okay now I can be the Grandma and not the woman trying desperately to appear younger.

Deborah said...

Bitchy and sarcastic are nothing to worry about, in my book.

Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress said...

in my 20's, I couldn't wait to turn 30. my friends, who are in their 30's and 40's and 50's just seemed to get funnier and smarter and wiser and sexier with each birthday. now, in my 30's, i can't wait to turn 40. i hope to value each day, because i've let too many days go to waste already.

Anonymous said...

why not...

Anonymous said...

Hello ALL! My name is Vitaliy Kokosko!!!

California Girl said...

Linda M: Yes, I've done that as well. I figure "practice makes perfect".

Grandma: 50. Wow! I remember my father taking my brother back to So. Ill. for his 50th. That was 1967. He'd gone to a one room school house with maybe 14 students? I went to my 40th reunion but didn't recognize many people. They'd changed. :)

Linda: Yes, the swimsuit dilemma: to wear or not to wear? We have a boat so I wear one but it's always a mental struggle at the beginning of summer.

Baino: Sounds like you're joining the ranks of Demi, Susan Sarandon, etc. I think that is awesome! Have the most fun you can have.

EcoGrrl: I once found a baby book my mother started for me. She listed my birth year as one year later than it is. I was super excited because, when I found this, I was in my early 40s and dreading the age thing. However, it proved not to be true. hahaha!

Nancy: the magazine is more entertaining than the name implies.

Deborah: Thanks because it's too late to change.

Elizabeth: I think that's a lovely sentiment.

Anon: Indeed.

Anonymous said...

I used to lie about my age. When I needed to be 18 but was only 16, I said I was 18. In those days we didn't have photo IDs so they had to look us over and either believe us or not. Things like Peep Shows at the county fairs would not let you in unless you were 18. I never got my money's worth at a peep show so I almost always told the truth.

Megan said...

Never read Self, I'll have to check it out!

Living in a college town for the last six months has been a bit of a challenge. I think I'm doing all right but then I'll see a group of gals all dolled up to go out on a Friday night and want to kill them. Or myself. (I exaggerate, but you know.)

California Girl said...

Abe: I lied when I was young so I could get into bars. Ahh, those were the days!

Megan: Nice to hear from you! Your comment is a scream! I know what you mean my friend. sigh.


by Cole Scott