Aging in our society can be tough. Where impossibly perky breasts and toned, cellulite-free thighs are considered minimal requirements for beauty, and natural, inevitable signs of aging are looked upon as failure or weakness, every wrinkle or gray hair can feel like another step towards invisibility.
We can put up a valiant struggle to stall the telltale signs of aging and lost youth with rigid diets that would arguably sustain the family gerbil, bleary-eyed 5 a.m. workouts while the rest of the house sleeps, or even sneaking in a touch of Botox or a well-placed nip/tuck that we’ll deny even to our mothers.
But we can’t stop it.
At some point, the evidence becomes impossible to dispute. Whether it’s simple chronological age or that person you no longer recognize, with her jiggly butt and migrating boobs, staring back at you in the mirror, we reach an age where we must acknowledge that our youth is gone and it’s never coming back.
And so we grieve.
Recently, I was reading an article on the 5 Stages of Grief, and I burst into admittedly inappropriate laughter, visualizing the process as it applied to the loss of our youth.
Stage 1: Denial. We’re vaguely aware that something is happening to our bodies, but we’re not ready to acknowledge it or give it a name. We regularly inspect our faces and bodies for sags, droops, lumps or lines with the vigilance of DEA dogs sniffing passenger luggage for cocaine at the airport, eventually living in sweatpants because we refuse to buy anything in our new, post-menopausal size and attempting to convince our partners that sex is actually hotter in the dark.
We say things like:
“Yes, I constantly forget where I put my readers. I have a lot on my mind. It’s not like I regularly misplace the grandkids. Okay, there was that one time. But they’re runners. I’m blaming that one on the parents.”
“I wouldn’t hold the menu so far away if they’d use a normal freakin’ font size.”
“I wear full-butt underwear because they’re more comfortable. I could still rock a thong. It’s a preference thing.”
“Those aren’t lines around my eyes. I’m just tired. A good night’s sleep will make them go away.”
Stage 2: Anger. Okay, God. I am not amused. This can’t be happening. It’s too soon. Do you hear me??
And then we say:
“As for that Doogie Howser doctor (When do people start medical school these days? At, like, 12??) who starts every sentence with “At your age,” what the hell does he know? He can’t even vote yet.”
“Yes, I fired the idiot photographer we hired for our anniversary photos. The preliminary pictures made me look 50, for God’s sake. Yes, I know I’m 50, but he made me look like it. He sucks at his job and obviously has no concept of proper lighting.”
“Take your ‘Ma’am’s,’ your stupid ‘senior workout’ classes, and your ‘age appropriate’ fashion recommendations and bite me. I can still work it. Stop laughing.”
Stage 3: Bargaining. God, I’m sorry for that last rant. I didn’t mean it. It was a hormonal mood swing. You should understand. You gave them to me. But here’s the deal. Remember when I was a little girl and I asked you to make Billy Beakerman like me? I promised that if you’d do that one thing, I’d never ask you for anything else as long as I lived. Well, you dropped the ball on that one. Billy took off with that stupid Missy Bagbottom who didn’t know tuna from chicken, and I cried for a whole year.
Here’s your chance to make it right.
If you’d just ease up on that gravity thing and leave my boobs and backside where you originally put them, that would be swell. And maybe lose the bumpy thighs and the underarm wind socks, and remove those lines around my eyes. They make me look old. And if you’re feeling generous, give me back my hair. I look like a Chihuahua. Think of it as kind of a Holy Photoshop. I promise I’ll be a better person. I’ll be nicer. I’ll drink less and exercise more. I’ll start a gratitude journal. Hello, up there. Helloooo?
Stage 4: Depression. Fine. It’s the Billy Beakerman saga all over again. You’re not going to help, are you? My body parts are headed due south with the determination of migrating geese in the winter, my thighs are bumpy, my underarms flap like turkey waddles, once-tiny laugh lines now resemble seismic fault lines, and my hair has starting sprouting up everywhere except on my head.
Obviously, you intend for me to spend my life on the couch in a Burka, drinking wine and eating cookie dough, watching reruns of Ally McBeal, until I die of old age. Which apparently won’t be long now. I forgive you for the Billy thing, but someday we’re going to chat about gravity. That was just mean.
Stage 5: Acceptance. Well, God, it’s been a while now, and I’m still here. But you know what? I’m kind of liking it. There’s a certain freedom to being this age. I don’t have to apologize for my opinions or my choices. I’m no longer responsible for the decisions of my offspring. I have grandchildren to spoil rotten and then return to their parents. I get to do what I love without constantly worrying about how to make the mortgage payment. My marriage is stronger than ever, and the sex is still great after 15 years. Go you, Big Guy.
Epilogue: I recently attended my 40th high school reunion and discovered that we all looked pretty much the same. A little lined, a little older, and yes, a bit heavier, but mostly happy. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we danced, and we talked the night away about the second chapter of our lives and what’s most important to us now.
And not once did anyone mention thin thighs.