February 23, 2020

Put Down the Body Battle: An Aging Woman’s Manifesto.

 

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Last year, I went on a lunch date with a man who told me I didn’t look like my photos.

“Maybe he meant that he wasn’t expecting any wrinkles,” a friend mentioned.

I am at the age where I have wrinkles that don’t yet show on a camera, but do show when I am tired, dehydrated, haven’t eaten well, or am just living my life and having lunch.

I refuse to get Botox in order to make someone else more comfortable with the idea that I’m aging.

What aging has taught me about aging is that culture teaches us to fight our bodies, our faces, our exercise routines. We are forever supposed to be battling some “flaw” with a cream, routine, or fashion fix. It’s taken me almost a decade to put down the gauntlet and let someone else fight the supposed aging “battle.”

I am no longer as young as I once was. I have given a great deal of thought to this, and I would rather take a vacation than spend money zapping forehead wrinkles in an effort to appear young. I might change my mind about this later.

My mantra for aging is this: aging doesn’t matter if you know who you are and feel good about yourself. 

In my 20s, I was always self-conscious about what I was wearing. I wore a one-piece bathing suit until my friend relentlessly coerced me into a bikini. I took an epically long time poking at myself and gazing at myself in an endless parade of bikini options at a specialty boutique shop. I eventually spent a fortune on a mix and match suit with a cover-up because I wasn’t really comfortable with that much exposed “flaw.” I still have that suit, so I guess it was worth the hundreds of dollars of shame coverage. 

My body has added years, but I don’t feel the aches and pains and other things that are presumed and expected to happen when everyone talks about aging. But I also do different things for my body than I used to: I do yin yoga and Yamuna Body Rolling now, rather than running and spinning. I’ve embraced my body shape and how it functions, and I do things to help it, rather than try to whip it into submission. 

While I enjoyed the years of higher intensity exercise, whipping didn’t carve me into some different shape. In those years, no matter how much I worked out, I still picked my clothing based on how I could best present my pear shape, which I deemed must be somehow offensive to others.

These days, I am grateful for my waist and feminine curves, and I show them off in body-hugging garments. I put down the body battle and as it turns out, I like my body. I don’t even notice flaws, and I’m sure I have more of them by cultural standards than I ever did in my 20s. 

My face has aged. I look exactly the same except older. This age on my face is more comfortable to me and I therefore notice it’s more attractive to others as well. I feel like I’m doing a George Clooney and getting more attractive as I age, rather than less. But that also could be because I spend less time worrying about fine lines and flaws, and more time savoring the process of putting on makeup and tending to a skincare routine that I didn’t used to bother with. 

My face is the opposite of my body: I put more care into it as I age, rather than less. I do not do this to cover up flaws, or out of fear that I will start to look less attractive. I do this because I have a care for my face the way I do for my body: I like it and want to tend to it.

Feeling good about myself has never been a body or face project. It has been a decade of connecting to who I am and what I offer. I’ve worked to accept and express my emotions, and to learn boundaries and relationship skills that weren’t part of the curriculum in households or schools in the years of my youth. (These were, after all, the years before Oprah found her spirit.)

So, coming to peace with my opinions, expressing myself, and being in alignment in my life, career, home, and friendship circles went a long way toward being at peace with aging. Those are my secrets for aging “gracefully.”

I felt for years that I was too much: I have opinions and I have always said them. I wasn’t really comfortable with that, so I pushed that lack of inner alignment to the external: how I could present my body and face in a way that I would appear “just right”?

The war against aging is a war on alignment. We aren’t supposed to feel aligned or good about ourselves, because society’s assumption is that when we do, we might do yoga at home instead of a gym, or spend less on a bathing suit, or put on one less layer to hide our body.

But here’s something to consider: we might also spend more on truly stunning clothes, quality skincare, or classes and hobbies and books and travel. Maybe that’s just me.

What aging has taught me about aging is that it’s not much to do with your body and it’s everything to do with alignment.

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