Salt and Pepper: On Turning 60 (by Sasha)

This week as I celebrate my 60th year, I am more attuned than usual of the dual messages about how to successfully age in Sarasota—a city that given our older demographic honestly strives to be age-friendly (thepattersonfoundation.org/age-friendly-sarasota.html)

On the one hand, we are encouraged to “age well” which means to eat well, exercise, keep learning, socialize, find our bliss, and embrace ourselves.

But the even more ubiquitous, and I would argue, powerful message is this: as you age (and ladies, we do mean especially you) please do something about yourself. Fix your:

  • Sagging eyelidsIMG_1949
  • Eye, face, and lip wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Sagging chin line
  • Thinning hair
  • Less than pearly white teeth
  • Turkey neck
  • Facial hairs
  • Eyes that require readers
  • Extra pounds
  • Loose skin
  • Large pores
  • Love handles
  • Toenail fungus
  • Undefined upper arms
  • Low-hanging breasts
  • Scars
  • Crepey skin
  • Corns and bunions
  • “Barnacles” of aging
  • Varicose veins
  • Grey hairs

The reminders of what is wrong with aging women appear throughout advertisements in all mediums, as well as in fashion magazines, political commentary, mailings, and on storefronts. Some clinics even offer free lunch at an informational session so you can sign up to get an injection, surgery, laser; be tucked, plucked, and have fat sucked; raise this, remove that, tighten and brighten.

Sarasota is a mecca for “having work done” so that a woman can look great “for her age.” And, no doubt, many women here have and do.

Not only does preservation of the younger self feel like a duty, but also a costly privilege since it takes time and money to create and to maintain the illusion of youth. And so, aging now has the double whammy of not only looking old but also looking poor—which are both paths to invisibility and lower status in our culture.

The American celebration of youth is so pervasive that even when we recognize its oppressive nature, it still seems impossible to resist. Yes, we want to look good. So I try very hard neither to judge women who do whatever they do to feel good and look good, nor to reprimand myself for failing to resist this pressure.  Hey, a girl’s got to live, right?

But this fight against aging is depleting, and it makes me sad because it feels like I’m denying a part of myself and a natural part of the cycle of life. We spend the first third of our lives trying to grow up and look older, more mature; the next third we try to maintain ourselves where we were at 30; and the final third we look in the mirror hoping to see signs of what we used to look like. When have we ever been satisfied?

…She’d always thought of herself as pretty and, in a certain light, still was. But sometime in the midst of life she had passed the apex. In the past, when she’d looked at her reflection, she had still seen the little girl she’d once been; the woman in the mirror had still been an extension of her girlhood self. Now it was the future she saw. The wrinkles would deepen; her skin would sag; the lights of her eyes would dim. Her youth was fading, easing into the past. {From The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, 2016, p. 39}.

When I read this passage from an unlikely source—the final book in a Zombie trilogy—it made me pause and think. I do not want to spend my coming days and years looking into the mirror and feeling sad and wistful for the girl I was. Instead, I want to look into the mirror in anticipation, welcoming the woman I am becoming, embracing my age, accepting myself.

IMG_1947

 

 

So today, I’m going to look into the mirror at my 60-year-old-self (who foreshadows the 90-year-old who will emerge if I’m very lucky to live that long) and I’m going to do something simple; I’m going to smile at her.

Please share your thoughts…