Today is an interesting day. I’m turning fifty-one today. Yep, fifty-one. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that being a fifty-something can have some negative connotations in our youth worshipping culture. The phrase “over-the-hill” being one that immediately springs to mind. I always find it simultaneously flattering and insulting when someone looks at me and says incredulously, and in a loud voice, “I can’t believe you’re fifty!!” So, yes, thank you for saying I look good for my age but what do you think fifty is supposed to look like? A hag?
Happily, I don’t feel like I’m too much past my prime (well…most days). That’s not to say that I haven’t slowed down a bit. I have. Or that I don’t have wrinkles and a few patches of sparkly, silver hair. I do. And some days I look in the mirror and think “ÒMG, my face has fallen and it can’t get up!” But the feeling passes and I don’t feel that my life is over or that it even has lessened really. It has definitely shifted but I’m finding that I like the changes and my life actually feels richer because of them. I’m not so interested in shopping as a sport or late night parties any more and I’ve gotten into nature in a very big way. Also, when I was younger and living in Toronto, I drank and danced enough for a few lifetimes so don’t feel that I’ve missed out on a thing. No mid-life crisis required.
Deep down I feel pretty content with my age, good with where I am in my life and excited about where I’m heading. When I let myself be influenced by the media though, things can shift rapidly. What I really grapple with these days are the never-ending beauty ads, doing their best to keep women unhappy with how they look at any age and especially unhappy when you reach “a certain age”. You know, the airbrushed, photo-shopped, almost unrecognizable faces of models and celebrities gracing various anti-aging products. All of the shadows, lines, and even pores, whisked away by computer technology. Use this product, the ad implies, and you too can have a face that looks like a perfect, blank, and ever so slightly inhuman mannequin. So we look at the flawless, porcelain faces in the ads, then look in the mirror and think, OH MY GOD!! Better run to the drugstore and buy (insert cream du jour) right now!! Since modern day marketing is so pervasive and slowly, subliminally, saturates our brains, these are the ads that I avoid at all costs.
My friend Louise, a fabulous and lovely fifty-something, and I were discussing the subject of aging gracefully at a cocktail party the other night. Our “what not to do” list included the overly filled lip syndrome, also known as “trout pout” (so loved by a certain “Real Housewives” kinda gal), as well as the frozen face look, courtesy of too much botox and too many fillers. This look, unfortunately, is becoming more and more prevalent these days as even dentists have started administering botox. As we talked, I found myself getting quite heated about the whole “be ashamed of and hide your age” message that our society sends on a regular basis. Louise and I both agreed that we feel so much more content and at home in our skin now than we ever did in our 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s and that is, by far, the biggest gift of getting older.
I think my main issue with trying desperately to wipe out our wrinkles, sags and bags is that by doing so we aren’t honouring ourselves or the journey that got us all to where we are now. If we feel happier and more self assured in our 50’s, why wouldn’t we celebrate everything about that? Why would we try to erase any of the years of our unique journey from our faces? Wouldn’t it make more sense to embrace the way we look now and the beautiful, painful, joyful, funny, tragic life experiences that have made us who we are today?
So, ladies (and gentlemen), here’s the moral of my post: Eat right, work out, laugh a lot, especially with good friends over a glass of wine. Get outside, go on an adventure, use a great moisturizer and maybe even get a little injection of botox for that special occasion but don’t try to erase the journey that has made you the uniquely beautiful person you are now. Love your wrinkles, especially if you acquired them doing something great, ie. laughing or lying on a warm, sandy beach.
Don’t hide your age. Be proud of it. Be an inspiration to everyone following in your footsteps and revel in your glorious, wise(r), fifty-something self. When you think about it, why would you want to do anything else?
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