I always believed in aging gracefully. That was until I actually started to age.
I thought aging gracefully meant I’d suddenly have Katherine Hepburn cheekbones, beautiful white hair and an elegant collection of loose flowing slacks.
Instead I have the same face I’ve had since I was about 13, only a few inches lower, I’m grateful to have any hair at all, and my elegant slack collection consists of jeans with elastic waists.
Therefore, I’m in the process of rethinking this stage of life.
Is it necessary to look, think, act and dress “older” in order to age gracefully?
Should I stop coloring my hair? I know you’re shocked; you thought that Reba McEntire red was actually my own color.
How do we maintain a youthful internal image of ourselves and still not look like caricatures of our 30-and 40-year-old selves?
Is it necessary to still be chomping on soy bean sprouts when we’re 90 to try and maintain our figures?
Or does aging gracefully mean we just accept that our bodies are changing and stop trying to fight it?
As I sit here drinking my safflower oil, pineapple and soymilk shake instead of eating the can of anchovies I really wanted, I think that I’d be really annoyed if I got killed doing something not all that much fun, like getting hit by a drunk driver while driving to the grocery for flaxseed oil and celery, and I hadn’t yet had my fill of my favorite foods. For me, those would be blooming onions with dipping sauce that you get at the State Fair, unlimited Chinese barbecued spareribs, and buttercream icing on chocolate cake after its been in the fridge awhile and gets like fudge. Then, on the other hand, I know that a regular diet of fried anything and ribs and icing would probably provide a not so great demise anyway.
I sustained myself through years of watching my weight by telling myself that when I was diagnosed with something terminal, then I’d give up all my healthy foods and just eat what I liked. Unfortunately I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way, either because a really healthy diet may help you fight the disease or else you don’t have the ability to digest the junky foods anymore or the desire for those foods just isn’t there.
So for the last year I’ve been going with the theory that I better eat all that bad stuff now while I was healthy so I wouldn’t feel deprived when I wasn’t. And the pounds piled on. When I saw a picture of myself with friends and wasn’t sure it was me, I knew something had to change. And it doesn’t help having a husband who people keep saying looks young for his age. I decided this week was the time to revise my “live for today” theory, therefore the soymilk shake.
So the question is, does growing old gracefully mean accepting that I’m not a size whatever any more or is it a vanity issue to want to be a size and shape that takes a lot of exercise and discipline and feels like being very self-indulgent spending all that time on myself? Or is it just common sense to do what you can do to stay healthy? Between the picture and all the latest information about the dangers of visceral fat (check that one out), I know something has to change in my “live for today” eating theory.
Then there’s the hair color issue and the other body parts (hair is not an actual body part, but it might as well be.) I’ve seen women my age who look beautiful with gray hair — my mother was one them — and I have an image in my mind of myself in a grey ponytail, denim jacket, hiking boots and a backpack seeing the world. When I see women like that I follow them around the airport trying to figure out their secret of looking so alive and vital.
Maybe I can stretch the image of growing old gracefully to include forgiving myself for being superficial. That would be really helpful and leave me a large enough window within which to rationalize a number of indulgent behaviors.
On the other hand, the very best time I’ve had in years was taking kayaking lessons this summer with Sophie and Noah, two of my grandchildren, and hiking areas I would not have had the nerve to do alone.
As one of the women said, dignity just goes out the window when you’re bending over in a bathing suit at our age pulling a kayak out of the water.
I was too worried about losing the paddle to worry about my rear view and the feeling of exhilaration trumped the dignity factor. (In the interest of full disclosure, in the week since I wrote those words I’ve been laid up with the worst back pain I’ve ever had, so that theory also needs a little revising.)
I’m still working on the clothes issue and as soon as I find a clothes’ guru, I’ll report on that.
In the meantime I’m still searching for the right “graceful aging look” that is age appropriate but still fun. I know that really short skirts are probably out over a certain age, but exactly where in the vicinity of the knee should a hemline go that is appropriate for my age, but doesn’t make me feel like an old lady?
I leave you pondering those heavy issues as I finish my milkshake, which is more delicious than it sounds. Except that I drank three of them instead of the recommended one.
But at least it’s not a blooming onion.