Sliding into Sixty

I honestly don’t know how it happened. I swear 40 wasn’t that long ago. And inside I’m still 25. So what’s the deal with this 60 thing?

I used to like telling people my age. It was a kick to see the surprise on their faces when I cockily announced, “Heh, I’m 57.” My all-time favorite response was from a young woman in my spin class who looked at me incredulously and said simply, “Get out!”

“Well, gee – it is dark in here,” I replied modestly, but deep down her comment made me feel giddy. Age’ll never get to me, I thought. I’m one of the lucky ones.

I drew from an Italians-only gene pool, whose surface was marked by a slick of olive oil. For nearly 30 years I wore that shiny badge of heritage on my face, only to emerge in my forties with the relatively unlined skin my mother always promised. My Mediterranean ancestry helped me out in the sun-abuse department, as well. My days of using baby oil and iodine as my only barrier against UV rays left me with less age spots than might be expected, and I gleefully referred to the ones I had as “freckles.” I might have gone on with that delusion for the rest of my life, were it not for an episode that occurred when I was in my late fifties.

I was sitting on the exam table in my dermatologist’s office, waiting for him to arrive for my annual lemme-look-at-every-inch-of-your-skin examination. His young assistant was entertaining me with small talk, when she suddenly pointed to the little brown garden on my chest and asked, “Do those spots bother you? ‘Cause we can fix ‘em, ya know.”

Bye, bye, freckles. Hello, Fraxel.

Looking back, that might have been the pivotal moment when my mindset started its subtle, but definitive, shift. I finally came face to face with the fact that I can no longer count on perky breasts or long, glossy hair to open doors of attention or opportunity. These days, the best I can do in the physical department is flex a moderately impressive biceps, whose majesty is somewhat dampened by the bat wing of skin that sways gently beneath it. And so what? This stage of life is not about youthful beauty.

It’s about the incredible feeling I get when I successfully add ten pounds to the bench-press bar…or when one of my 50-something friends runs her sixth marathon…or when another cycles 100 miles for leukemia…or when another travels to India with Freedom from Hunger to encourage teenage girls to stay in school. And I realize with an enormous flush of pride that we are wickedly wondrous women.

So bring on the turn of the calendar page. We “women of a certain age” are ready to respond with dignity and grace.