Demi Could Learn from Us

I feel bad for Demi, melting down and all. According to the tabs, she’s distraught over turning fifty. It must be horrifying when Ashton Kutcher takes a good look at you and realizes you’re no longer young, and then your life is over. Because what’s next, granny underwear and black whiskers that spring from your chin overnight? You might as well be dead.

Here is where being a movie star doesn’t help you. Demi might have a villa in France but even she can’t stop the clock.

What a surprise it would be for her to learn that average people like me are facing the very same aging process. Of course, we’re not making a career of having a preternaturally youthful body, but still, it’s hard. For Demi it’s hard because she’s in an unforgiving market. For the rest of us, it’s hard because we have so few cultural role models. Okay, there’s Hillary, she of the big brain and ample backside, who after bringing countless world leaders to heel will soon amble pantsuited and serene into retirement, excited about entering the new phase of her life. That’s a nice thought.

For any of us, moving into menopause and beyond is big. We should maybe take a sec to acknowledge just how big. Think of the other transitions we celebrate: first word, first steps, turning sixteen and driving, getting married, first jobs, kids – we celebrate all these moments. They are achievements! Accomplishments! Positive developments!

Then comes perimenopause, menopause,  turning fifty…what rituals do we engage in to mark these transitions?  We give each other black balloons and wrapping paper. With a big laugh and a nudge, we spring a wheelchair on the birthday girl at the office party. Ha. Ha.

This whole stupid cultural denigration of the great accomplishment of aging really pisses me off.

If I had my way, we’d call all the post-menopausal women up on stage and hand them an award for getting to this point in life without losing their minds. I mean, think of all we’ve done by this age. We’ve sublimated our natures to a guy (maybe more than one) so we could get pregnant and have a peaceful nest in which to raise our babies, while holding down fulltime jobs and managing said nest. We’ve been served up thirty, forty, fifty years of magazine covers at the grocery store telling us how we can be hotter, cuter, thinner, sexier, better cooks and lovers, more organized, and better balancers of work and life – and we read the articles and tried, oh Lord, how we tried. What did we get instead? A sense of failure, a sense that we’re not cutting it. Oh, and maybe also breast cancer, fibroids, prolapse, stress incontinence, hot flashes, wrinkles and whiskers. We learned to deal with increasingly frequent deaths and illnesses, we held our girlfriends’ hands at their husbands’ funerals, we shrugged and said the hell with it.

Maybe that’s our mistake. Maybe we should make a bigger deal of the courage inherent in aging thoughtfully, gratefully, sublimely. We could talk about how we’re not phased anymore about the changes to our bods, or the losses we suffer. We could revel in the maturity, self-knowledge and sense of “been there, done that,” that keep us on an even keel when younger women would be freaking out.

Those are the things we should be talking about. There’s something ahead to be excited about: power and grace. This is our reward for getting old. Maybe if we talked about this, young women like Demi wouldn’t be so freaked out because they would see aging as something less to be afraid of, and something more to aspire to.

Comments

  1. says

    Had lunch with my best male friend in the world yesterday. Feeling really good because he’s such a picky eater…and I prepared a lunch that I thought he’d enjoy. He did…and became a member of my own personal “Clean Your Plate Club”….for him a milestone…for me a treat! We talked about aging and a whole bunch of other things….mostly aging because I’m turning 65 this year. Himself? Well past that age benchmark. He emailed me when he got home and in part said, “Nice that you never age by the way.” Which was…in a small part…confirmation about how a special few of us feel, in our minds, how “old” we really feel. Then….I stumbled upon your words via Life in the Boomer Lane. I dislike paraphrasing over-used phrases, this one especially…so forgive me for this but…….you really did make my day! I do appreciate your personal view of the room….thank you.

    • says

      Well thank you so much, Jots. Sounds like you and your friend have this “quality of life” thing down pat. Best wishes, and hope to see you around AnyShinyThing again in the future.

  2. says

    This is bang on all those wasteful exercise on being forever young, and living in unreal mindset.

    //we should make a bigger deal of the courage inherent in aging thoughtfully, gratefully, sublimely. We could talk about how we’re not phased anymore about the changes to our bods, or the losses we suffer. We could revel in the maturity, self-knowledge and sense of “been there, done that,” that keep us on an even keel when younger women would be freaking out.//

    Totally true, and I loved that. Here in India, life was hard in the younger days. But now, we do have a sense of achievement and we are accepting our age , and also our freedom . To do what we want, to travel and to enjoy life with our older husbands:-)

    Thank God I am in India, and am of the earlier generation. I am still complimented for being a good looking old lady:-) and I love it. Even if I do not get compliments any , I can live!

    Thanks for the lovely blog. I am your admirer!

    • says

      Gardener, you live in India? That’s so interesting! I know that our AnyShinyThing community includes people who live in Germany (Melitta), Switzerland (Pat), and England (Jane), but India is a first. Looking forward to getting your take on things, and thanks for the compliments. I hope you’ll write often.

  3. says

    Over here from Linda’s blog —

    You just said what I feel and have said about aging: Power and Grace. I feel the power as I never have before. I take care of myself by exercising (but I like it – I used to be a personal trainer, that’s how much I like it :-D), and eating healthfully. I take care of myself, my skin, etc. but without surgery or injections or other weird stuff that makes women look like caricatures of themselves.

    I’ll be 55 this month – and as I wrote that and paused, I looked down at my hands – they are capable hands, strong, they create words that I’m proud of. I finished and then found a publisher for my first novel at 50 and in my 50s. These old looking hands serve me well :-D

    Glad I visited!

    • says

      Kat, your comment fills me with power just reading it. I look at my hands, they’re almost 58, and as they fly across the keyboard, their thinning skin is starting to reveal the amazing workings of the inner body. Strong veins, good ligaments. The scar from when I sliced my hand open at 17 from washing a glass that broke. Good, dependable, hard-working hands. I appreciate your reminder to be grateful for what I have.

      • says

        I love my scars *smiling* They remind me of when I was in a hurry while cooking when a young mother and sliced too fast-too quickly, or when I first attempted to make a roux to impress my Louisiana born husband and used a plastic stirring spoon instead of a wooden one (it exploded!). I love seeing my granny hand holding my granddaughter’s smooth little hand *smiling*,

  4. says

    Right on Sister! Love it, Lynne. You tell it like it is. Thanks for another empowering reminder that even though society tries to tell us otherwise, we are not getting older, we are getting stronger and we should be proud of it!

    • says

      Thanks Pat, and for all my friends, here is something I memorized to commemorate my father:
      “Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
      we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,
      that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts
      made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
      from Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

    • says

      btw, I know we’re focused on older women but I know LOTS of older men who got themselves trophy wives or lovers and their anxieties aren’t so different. Young women like power & money but after they get access to it, they like a good ‘you-know-wha’t from a young buck without age spots and turkey necks and when these older guys can’t deliver-like the young bucks do-these young women roam, too—-I could tell you stories from the decades I lived in Orange County & witnessed this upclose—these gals do their pool guys, their personal trainers, the landscape architects who spend more time @ at their estates than hubby does…The younger/older pairing is fraught with problems that only add on to all the problems ‘peer pairings’ have to deal with…I don’t get the attraction-either way, I just don’t–Relationships are tough enough—-

      • says

        Marla, you should tell those stories! What fun it would be to read them. Okay, I need to reel in my prurient self.

        But wasn’t there a platitude about this? “Marry a man for money and you’ll have to work hard for it every day for the rest of your life.” Or some such. Such mercenary people deserve each other.

        Look at the old f#@ks like Rupert Murdock who have young-ish, hot wives. Was it the appeal of his droopy eyelids or bulbous, veined nose? So funny! And what did these men THINK would happen when their lusty wives got hungry? Oh, I need to stifle myself. This is too good!

        • says

          I know..me too…!! but I got ‘em-LOTS of stories…these guys REALLY think these girls like them—they really do—& I’m sure some do—but most don’t—-it’s the $$ & the power—both are such an aphrodisiac…for a while anyway….

  5. says

    Wonderful post! I had a hard time when I turned 50 and I was never one who gave my age much of a thought. It took me by surprise how affected I was by the big FIVE OH. I’m now 53 and it’s all good. We need to affirm our own value and find the beauty in ourselves through all the stages of our life. When we look in the mirror we need to see the wisdom in our eyes and realize that we do not need to put ourselves on a shelf to gather dust. I say reinvent yourself if you want, what the hell, why not? I’m contemplating getting a tattoo….

    • says

      Yes, Michele, as with Nanci’s comment above, we are used to feeling restricted but if we looked hard at the limitations, we might find we put them on ourselves. I’m experimenting with wearing nice-quality “hippie” clothes, breaking some rules that way. Going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant with tousled hair, no makeup, and long necklaces. My own brand of flair.

  6. lena horne says

    most of my hgh school and college friends look great and are better looking than when we were “young” They are my role models. and they have successful careers and families.

  7. says

    Lynne, wonderful post …I think I identify, not so much on the “staying young” part, I know turning back the clock is not possible…but with trying to stay mentally away from my own negative vibes. Where I live, we have so many people REALLY up there in the age bracket, and so many of my friends have been passing away. When you lose a friend, it makes you feel vulnerable, and I’m aware of this…so I stay active with my ceramics, and buddies there….and every month I continue to join our golf meeting and luncheon, where the 90 and up age is getting larger than the below 90! And they’re still out there playing golf! It puts a smile on my face to honor these women! Tuesday, that’s what we did…we all said, Happy Valentine’s Day, we love you all!

    • says

      Kathy, whenever I feel “old”, and I mean that in the sense of “the reality of my mortality seems overwhelming and sad,” (usually around 3 a.m.), I get perspective by thinking about how much harder it must be for my 86-yr-old mom, or in this case, your 90-year-old friends. If my mom could be our age again, she would jump at the chance to feel so young and free. So perspective is helpful, that’s point #1. Point #2 is, I’ve come to the conclusion that a person can’t be healthy-minded, at ANY age, without a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is to refuse to go quietly into old old age.

  8. says

    Lynne, posted this on FB and its getting lots of response—Would you consider reading this on Youtube & posting on ME QUIET? You’re Kidding, Right?
    It’s so good and so many woman would love to hear your speak it….ok, this woman certainly would..:)
    Nice writing…no..powerful writing!
    Marla
    http://www.womenOver45SPEAK.com

  9. Mary says

    Yes, Lynne I believe Boomers could be strong role models/mentors to the younger generation. We have broken so many barriers in our youth, why not age now.

  10. Mary says

    Lynne, a great post. I think we should start a Boomer Survival Guide. I have a few suggestions:
    Lose the age related labels.
    Don’t buy into all the negative hype.
    Shine on, be the best you can be.

    • says

      But Mary, I wonder, do younger women feel a sense of loss that their elders are so fragile in their obsession with youth? Do they wish we Boomers-and-beyond were stronger and less obsessed about getting old? Would it help them in their own aging process if WE expressed more inner power, and forgot about competing with youth? Weigh in, sis.

  11. says

    Once again,Lynne you have hit right to the heart of the matter through your powerful and compassionate words. If only we could honor the aging process as an achievement rather than a dreaded curse. Wise message , my friend.

    • says

      Kathy, thanks for the validation. I keep thinking that we would be ASTOUNDED by the power we would feel if we simply decided not to play that old “younger” game any more!

  12. says

    Lynne, you are RIGHT ON with this one! I’ve known far too many women (why is it always the women??) who turn “a certain age,” only to fold up and fold away. Asian cultures treat their older generations far better than we do, in my opinion. There, “seniors” are held in respect, handled with gratitude, and revered for their wisdom; here, we tacitly ignore them and expect them to rock their golden years away. How sad! Yes, there should be “rituals” marking these mid-life-and-beyond milestones; too many folks never reach them.

  13. Nanci says

    Right on girlfriend. I like to think of this time as a second chance at childhood with greater wisdom and fewer restrictions.

    • says

      Judy, I have a feeling it isn’t just America. But you’re right – once we get past the luxury of not having to beat clothing against a rock to get it clean, we tend to worry about higher-level things (see Maslow’s Hierarchy). So it’s high-class worries, you are right.

  14. Libbye A. Morris says

    Lynne, your words resonate with me immensely! I feel so badly for Demi and others like her who feel their worth is diminished just because they are getting older. She needs role models and friends her age or older who are strong, confident women–like you and your readers!

  15. says

    YES! You’ve expressed exactly what I believe. Those of us who have reached the post-50 years should be celebrating! We’ve achieved a milestone that is so much more than just a number. We’ve gained wisdom, empathy, and have stories to tell. We rock!

    It’s sad that the media hasn’t caught on yet.

    • says

      We ARE the media, Linda. Let’s make noise! Whenever you hear powerless, self-negating comments from your peers, set them straight (gracefully). Show them the way. Give them something positive to aspire to. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. says

    Lynne thanks for an excellent blog. Perfect subject esp this time of year when we see too many women question their self worth.
    I love your writing and look forward to more great reading.
    Chery

    • says

      Thanks, Chery. It seems at this age we should be bubbling over with self-satisfaction. WE MADE IT THIS FAR, AND WE’RE AWESOME! But of course, that wouldn’t reflect the grace part of it, so we’re just quietly awesome. I hope you’ll stop by again and often.

  17. says

    This is a powerful post, Lynne. Are you on Twitter? Your words need to be tweeted globally. Not long after turning 50, a friend and I were at a restaurant for first Tuesday wine tastings. I was saying we need ceremonies for getting through menopause. We need rituals. She said, “we have one! It’s called Wine Club.” Thanks, Lynne, for another thoughtful Friday morning.

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