Aging is not a crime.

I recently saw before-and-after photos of Madonna from a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign. The photoshop work was obvious…no surprise there. In a culture that idolizes youth and beauty, both model and client are usually eager to express both. What disturbed me was the glut of comments ridiculing Madonna for the “before” shots. Excuse me? Is is now a sign of failure…of some dreadful infraction…to grow older?

I wish that all the teens and 20-somethings who criticize aging celebrities could be whisked into the body of a 50-something just for a day. Surprise, all you Ashleys, Jessicas, Amandas, and Brittanys. It wasn’t planned, was it? It’s kind of a shock, isn’t it? All the things you took for granted are different now: the body, the skin, the hair. You’re trying to adjust to the changes, and then some cute young thing walks by and says, “Wow! You’re really old! You look like hell.”

Losing your looks is never pleasant, but it’s not like you have a choice. (Okay, there’s cosmetic surgery, but that’s another post entirely.) You have two primary options regarding aging: do it or die. If you choose the former, you can either accept the process gracefully or explore the treatments that purport to keep wrinkling and sagging at bay. Unfortunately, neither option will give you the radiant beauty of your youth. And unless you are taken from this world at a tragically young age, it will happen to you, too.

Do I need to say that again? It will happen to you, too.

Aging is not a crime…a defect…a downfall. It is a natural process…a fact of life…an inevitability. So back off just a tad…please.

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An Ode to Aging

Aging is a state of mind
Be wise—avoid the mental bind
There’s really nothing new to fear
It’s just another stinkin’ year.

Okay…it’s true your boobs will drop
Your bones will start to crack and pop
Your brain goes soft, your gums recede
You can’t remember if you’ve peed.

Your hair goes thin atop your head
And sprouts up someplace else instead
Your vision blurs, your hearing fades
You’ve lost the point of panty raids.

You’re gray in places no one sees
Small mounds of fat embrace your knees
Your feet get wide, your butt keeps pace
You’re winded if you hum in place.

But keep in mind it could be worse
A gypsy could intone a curse
A witch could cast an evil spell
A warlock damn you straight to hell.

Instead it’s just an aging thing
With many years to dance and sing
Your book of life’s not nearly shut
You’ve still got lots of stuff to strut!

A New Brand of Youth

The aging process. Dontcha just love it? As women, we spend years convincing ourselves that we look good—better than good, dammit!—and then one day the mirror reflects back a face we hardly recognize. (“Mom? Is that you?”)

We realize we can no longer pretend that the eighteen-year-old supermarket checker finds us mysterious and intriguing and sexy, albeit in a Mrs. Robertson sort of way. (Okay, I’ll own that one, and it happened a very long time ago.) We have crow’s feet, laugh lines, and jowls. Sure, we’ve earned them. And yes, they are indeed a testament to a life well lived. But they are also visible proof that we are no longer young. On the outside, anyway.

It’s time for denial to pack its bags (of course, it will graciously leave behind the ones under our eyes) and slip from our mindset for good. We’re older. We’re different. It’s a fact of life, and it’s not going to change.

Basically, we have two choices. We can spend gazillions of dollars on cosmetic surgeries—or we can genteelly slip into a new brand of youth. The latter is all about being open to new things…to listening to what others have to say…to being willing to consider a different perspective…to reflect an inner spirit that absolutely shines with agelessness and wonder.

Sounds to me like it’s worth a try.

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.