I’ve been lucky to have a pretty good self-image for most of my life. When I was young, and by young, I mean just entering puberty, I had the same issues a lot of girls had. I was a bit too tall (others would complain about being too short). I felt fat. In those days there were “chubby” sizes and that’s what I wore, the label inside of my clothing making me instantly aware that I wasn’t like those girls I saw in the movies or on television. But by the time I got to my second year of high school, I had blossomed and my only concern was that I had to wear glasses. I didn’t want to be considered a “4 eyes” so I took to wearing sunglasses at all times, which ratcheted up my cool factor. I was pretty self confident and never lacked for boyfriends.
I had a bad patch when I was married when I felt and looked like a lump but once I was separated, I again blossomed. I slimmed down, took to wearing contact lenses and generally had a pretty easy time of things in the self-image department. I’ve never considered myself to be beautiful, although others have said that of me. I still disagree with that and think rather than beautiful, I was attractive. There’s a difference, although I don’t think it’s an important one. Being pleasing to look at has its benefits. It opens doors that might remain closed. People take to you quicker than they do to someone who isn’t as pretty. That’s a sad statement but I’ve seen it to be true. We live in a society that values youth and beauty and has a tendency not to look too hard beyond those fleeting attributes.
I’m still attractive “for a woman my age.” Ah, there’s the crux of the matter. For the first time in my life, I have an issue with the way I look that will never be banished by donning contact lenses or with diet and exercise. I can do those until the world comes to an end and I will still be aging. I look in the mirror and I see my mother. Not when she was young but when she was old. I see my eyelids drooping. My upper arms used to be so trim and actually a bit cut but now have wrinkles and droopy skin. Weight loss would only make them look worse because as you age, the skin loses elasticity and doesn’t snap back as it did when you were young. My neck has started to sag. My entire body has started to sag. My face, although not very wrinkled (I have been blessed with good genes in that department), does have lines and the skin along my jaw has become loose and sags.
I stand in front of the mirror, looking at my reflection and I pull my skin upwards, eliminating the years for a few seconds. I see those commercials for Lifestyle Lift and consider for a moment, wonder what it would cost and if it’s really any good and will deliver the promised results. I know women who have had plastic surgery and look fabulous but am always afraid I’ll be the one who comes out looking like something from a horror movie. Not only that, it all costs money. A lot of money. And really, in the end, I’ll still be getting old.

Getting old means that people don’t take you quite as seriously as they did before. One would think it would be the opposite; that years of experience and wisdom would count for something. Maybe somewhere else but not so much here in the States, where, as I mentioned, youth and beauty is worshipped and old people are considered by some to be a burden on society.

 It all comes down to the fact that I have to come to grips with the fact of aging and my own mortality. Mortality doesn’t scare me. Aging doesn’t exactly scare me but it depresses me. I know I’m powerless to stop it and I hate that. I know that I now stand in the shadows, even though I feel I don’t belong there. I know that there are people – not all people but a large portion – who feel that because I’m a Baby Boomer I am of limited importance and am on my way out. They see my wrinkles and they see old, not the twenty-five year old person who still resides inside of me.
I don’t like getting old. I don’t like the aches and pains and I don’t like the wrinkles, the sags and the weight I’ve gained just because I got older. But I realize that it is just the natural progression of being alive and there are those who never had the luxury of getting old. So when I feel down about the fact of my aging, I try to remember the advice my mother always gave me: “Grow old gracefully”, she said. Good advice and I think I’ll take it. If I get the money for a facelift, I think I’d prefer to spend it on something that will make me happy – a trip to Europe, perhaps. As for me on the inside, to quote The Who, I hope I die before I get old.

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