I’m in my mid-forties and facing a divorce. Although, I’m still hesitant about wanting to date again, there’s a part of me that wonders – if I wanted another relationship – am I too old? I’m no longer a young, beautiful woman. I have wrinkles forming at the corners of my eyes, my mouth and across my forehead. I have more stretch marks running across my stomach and hips than a North to South route of a Rand McNally Atlas. I constantly battle my weight and it’s winning. I dye my hair because I’m positive it’s mostly all grey now.
Last night I was looking in the magnified mirror being thankful I’m not yet growing chin hairs, when there, situated halfway between my chin and my collarbone, was a hair. Growing in the middle of my neck! Neck hairs?!?!
Although growing old can be a – tough hair to pluck – I wouldn’t turn back time for anything. I value the inner strength I’ve rightfully earned and I like the person I’ve grown into. I’m thankful for the life experiences that have made me who I am.
I received the following by email from my lifelong friend, Jeri (who will be visiting next weekend!) Her timing was perfect. I contacted Betti, the author, and asked if I could post her article on my site. She graciously approved.
I will age, but I won’t grow old
Opinion Columns – Wednesday July 12, 2006 @ 9:00
As I approach 40, I’m finding that I’m increasingly unhappy with my appearance. Those things I took for granted in my 20’s and 30’s have abandoned me, seemingly overnight. Why didn’t I appreciate those bright eyes, smooth skin, eager metabolism and, above all, the lack of unwanted hair sprouting up in noticeable places?
When I reflected on this, I realized I was in grave danger of repeating this mistake. I’m sure that when I’m nearing 50, I will once again don rose-coloured glasses and look back on this time with much to appreciate about myself.
While I gorged on pizza and beer in my younger years, the older women in my life warned me that youth is fleeting and that one day I would have to think about such things as calories.
In your 20’s and 30’s, you blithely ignore those “your-day-will-come” sermons, confident that you are immune. But in the blink of an eye, you’re pushing 40 and, sure enough, you are suddenly giving your “your-day-will-come” sermons to another generation of twenty-somethings in the hope they will glory in the things you didn’t.
And it’s funny – OK not funny, but ironic – how the very things we despised about ourselves in the younger years are the things we’d kill for now. I was always a scrawny kid. I can go along with the slowing metabolism and increased laziness, but why can’t the eventual weight gain fill in the desired areas? As I understand it, when the weight gain does come (regardless of reducing beer and pizza consumption), a kind of Murphy’s Law comes into effect. The middle part is the first to swallow up those extra pounds. Any excess is then sent begrudgingly the way of the boobs and bum, but, by then, any hint of proportion is gone.
Karma rears it’s ugly head this time, too. I well remember, during my blissful 20s, being appalled by a woman who bore her moustache and chin hairs unflinchingly. I felt that she had not noticed them (bathroom lighting can be tricky) or that no one was comfortable enough to tell her. Now I realize she likely didn’t give a damn. Life experience teaches you new priorities, and countless hours spent plucking isn’t one of them. A glass of wine while deadheading in my flower beds is much more appealing. And really, installing a lower-wattage bulb in the bathroom takes much less energy.
I want to age graciously, but the wisdom gained through the same experiences that have aged me has given me my own ideas about what that entails. It means I must be passionate about what matters in life, and looks don’t make that list. I must focus on the moments not the minutes. I plan to enjoy, with full abandon, those things that make my heart sing. At my age, I refuse to worry about anyone else’s thoughts on how I should behave.
No doubt about it: We all age. But aging doesn’t mean we have to grow old. I want to grow, period.
Betti Stiff is a former member of the Whig Standard‘s Community Editorial Board.
Today I am thankful for the wisdom of my years that allows me to realize my inner beauty is far more important to me than my outer beauty. I’m also thankful to my good friends, who remind me when I falter.