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Ageless Aging

    Women can be really funny about their age. I don’t understand why, because the number has nothing at all to do with your physical, mental, or emotional state, other than fluctuating hormone levels. Yet, so many women feel as if admitting their age invites prejudice or makes them less appealing. Honestly, I know some older women who are shockingly beautiful (and definitely more interesting) while some younger ones can only be described as an embarrassment to the female race – how does defining the number of years we’ve been on the planet change that?


     I, for one, have never lied about my age – at least, not since I turned eighteen and could buy my own bottle of wine.


     Actually, I tend to round up when I refer to my age, something that drives Mark crazy. The other day someone made a comment on my agility and I said, “Not bad for a 50 year old, hun?”


    The woman said, “You’re not fifty!”


    Mark said, “No, she is NOT 50.”


   “Almost,” I quip.


    I figure 47 is pretty close and I was just making a point that I am up there in years. I’ve been 50 every since the day after I was 45. I’d been 45 for an entire 5 years – every since I passed the 40 mark, so it was time to head to the next round number.


    I think my rounding up annoys Mark because he is six or seven years younger than I am (depending on what month it is in the year- 6 ½ to be exact) and he feels the gap my falsehood creates makes it sound as if we are mismatched. But really, most people assume we are the same age. In fact, many people think I am younger than him, a fact that always makes him roll his eyes and sigh. (It is his gray, nothing more. I’d have it too if I didn’t help Mother Nature keep the red alive on occasion.) 


    I can’t imagine what would process a woman to lie about her age. I’d MUCH prefer to tell someone I’m 47 and have them think, “Wow, she looks great for her age. I’d never guess that.” I sure don’t want them thinking, “She’s only 40? I wouldn’t have guessed that. She sure didn’t preserve as well as that 47 year old redhead we met yesterday.”  The number you assign simply isn’t going to alter the impression people have of you. You will look as vivacious and pulled together as you look, the proof is in the pudding, not the number.


     My sister in law, Dianne, ALWAYS lies about her age. She will be 50 this Dec. She actually gets furious if we ever tell anyone the truth. (She doesn’t read my blog, so I don’t have to worry about her socking me for saying it here.) She believes she looks far better than the average 50 year old, so she wants to maintain this concept that she is a young 40 something. She doesn’t date much, but I think this is partially because she isn’t interested in any man over 42. Considering most men date younger woman as it is, that narrows her playing field. I myself hated that Mark was younger than I. Refused to date him for months because of it. It is all well and good to feel excited by someone younger and full of vitality – but if you are with them for the long term it creates pressure to “keep up”. I certainly don’t want my husband’s eyes to slip to the young 30 somethings then back to me and frown because his wife has wrinkles years before a girl his own age would’ve had them. True, women live longer than men, so marrying a younger guy may help us conveniently end this journey at roughly the same time, but other than that, it is a nuisance to be with a younger man.


     Personally, I think Dianne looks terrific for her age, but I think lots of 50 year olds look great nowadays. Our society supports middle-aged people dressing, behaving and pursuing younger interests, and that combined with technology such as skin and hair care, the focus on working out etc, means none of us look as ancient as our parents did at this age.  Some people let themselves go, true. But many, many don’t. Historically, that is no different than it always has been. Anyway, as such, even though she looks lovely, Dianne looks like most single 50-year-old woman today because I think the 42 year olds look more like they are 35 – saying you are 42 is inviting people to think you look old, all things being relative. After all, we all have the same advantages for preserving our façade nowadays – and this is not even taking into consideration all those 50 year olds that turn to cosmetic surgery for help. I won’t even discuss my feelings about that.(The big fat, egotistical cheaters.)


     I bring this all up for a purpose. My Mother in Law just had a birthday. She was supposed to be 79. As you know, Mark’s father is ill and he just celebrated what will be his final birthday, at 78. But in our discussions with his mother about where she should live when he is gone, and how much she will be capable of doing for herself, it was revealed that she is actually 84. She’s been lying about her age every since she was 18 and no one in her family ever knew! How strange is that? Long ago, she testified that she lied about her age making herself older so she could sign up for the war effort back when everyone wanted to do their part, When in fact, she was plenty mature when she left home – she was just creating an excuse for those awkward moments, like when her social security stated she was ready to collect years before she was supposed to qualify. She says now that she has always kept her true age a secret because she felt men (her husband) don’t like older woman. You’d think after 50 years of marriage you’d stop worrying about that. Guess not.


     I pointed out that her son married an older woman and he likes me plenty.


     She said that was a generational thing and that I was a rare case.


     Now, I can’t help but wonder if lying about your age is genetic, something the women of the Hendry family feel compelled to do. Or perhaps, Dianne sensed this shame about being mature from her upbringing, even if her mother never out and out said, “You must try to seem younger than you are or no one will like you.” Either way, lots of pieces of a puzzle have fallen into place this week regarding the Hendry woman and their egocentric attitudes regarding age. I just wish Dianne was happier with her age so she celebrates it. It is freeing to do so.


 


   I don’t mind growing old. I figure time has been good to me. It certainly has made me more well rounded and interesting. And I welcome all the perks that come with maturity – knowing yourself, having some degree of financial security from the accumulation of your years of work, and the release of pressure to be perfect. Our society puts an awful lot of focus on beauty and youth, and when you are young, you can’t help but knock yourself out to meet the bar. At 50, you are just happy to be healthy and you accept that you only have so much god-given resources to work with.


 


This month in Runner’s magazine, they featured dozens of Master’s winners, runners who are mature and have set impressive records. They have runners age 70-90 that have done things I couldn’t have done at 30 – and several of them didn’t even begin running until they were in their 50’s . It is so inspirational. They prove that age doesn’t have to stop you from leading an active, interesting life. It is all about mind-set and your willingness to work at staying healthy. I, for one, want to celebrate my age. I’m rather proud of what I have done in 47 years, and considering all that I have learned on route, I am excited about all I will do in the next 47 years – with far less self-doubt or flagging confidence to shadow the process.


      In my first 47 years, I was unclear of how much I could do – as if others had more talent or inner power than I. Now, I believe I have more talent and/or power than others, simply because “others” threw in the towel on dreaming long ago. “Wanting” made them uncomfortable and they stopped trusting their ability to create a certain sort of life because the effort to support themselves or raise a family or get a foothold on life simply wore them out. Sad, that.


    In the movie, Shawsank Redemption, they have this great line. It is about a man who lived in jail for many years. They called him “institutionalized.” He’d been contained so long that when he was given freedom, it made him so uncomfortable he killed himself. I never forgot that. More often than you know, I see people stuck in a life rut and think “Poor fool is institutionalized.” The powerful image stuck with me. 


     For my personal life philosophy, I’ve made a conscious decision not to compromise or accept limitations gracefully. I abhor ruts and I honestly believe that a person has a right – a need – to be excited to greet every day. We must each design a life that is filled with promise and adventure – whatever that may entail for the individual.         


       Not everyone believes in taking risks, but I do. You can’t hit a target if you don’t aim, and even if you miss, you gain practice in the trying. Throw enough darts, and you will eventually hit the bull’s-eye – and then, you not only have achieved a goal, but you’ve become such a good dart thrower that you can do it again and again and again.


   At least, this works for me.


 


  


OH MY GOD! *  $ # ! ## * . My cat just slipped into the screen while I was writing this blog and grabbed another baby chick from the cage. I chased him down the deck, but he got away down the mountain with it flapping in his mouth. I’m sure he’s crunching away at it now. I’m so furious. Gonna torture that cat when he comes back. Poor Silkie. I need to do something about this TODAY!  For all that I pretend life is perfect, as you can see, success is a constant trial and error thing. Damn, now I’ll feel badly all day. Damn cat.  Maybe if I wrap some small wire around the gage. Yea, that will do the trick. Damn cat.


  

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

One response »

  1. Hi Ginny,Someone told me about your blog and I have had a ball reading it and catching up on you guys. Sounds like life is an adventure for you, Mark and the family. What a lifestyle change!

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