The Beauty In Aging
Five Things Nature Doesn't Tell You When You're Young
I used to fantasize about aging when I was very young; it was a prospect that scared me. I enjoyed being young and attractive; and, I hated the fact that I knew time would steal my youth from me, one year at a time, until I became an ugly old crone. I’m a Baby Boomer who just turned 60 on June 18, but I feel better than I ever did in my twenties. I never dreamed that aging could be so freely empowering.
Growing up in Southern California, the beauty capital of the west, I was always measuring my All-American cuteness against the drop-dead model majesty of my peers. I hated that my skin wasn’t flawless, my legs weren’t long enough, and I lacked a sufficient bust line. The one thing youth doesn’t come with is an instruction booklet that says, “Just be patient, all the things you disdain about yourself will become your assets in your later years.” Maybe that’s nature’s way of keeping youngsters from being too full of themselves before they are able to earn this wisdom.
Since I have earned my beauty medals honestly (okay, so I had my droopy eye flaps removed in my late 30’s so I didn’t look tired, but that’s all, I promise), I am compelled to share my lessons with my faithful readers, young and old. I wish I knew then what I know now. I think of all the money I would have saved from seeing a therapist in college for natural insecurities that we all experience when we are young.
If you wait before extensive altering, your body will find its perfect form. My mother bought me a padded bra for my high school dance recitals. My peers had gorgeous ta-tas and I had the chest of a small boy. I was embarrassed to be seen in a leotard. But take heart my friends: At 60, I have the décolletage of a 25 year old. I have kept my body slim and in shape, and have given enough time for my little lemons to grow into perky ripe oranges. Many women my age who have had implants in younger years tend to look matronly wearing huge hanging orbs.
Oily skin may cause acne, but it also prevents wrinkles. My oily skin kept my face very active with pimples when I was a teen (and even well into my 30’s). The dermatologist told me to get out into the sun and surf as much as possible between treatments. In the seventies, the definitive studies weren’t in as to the deleterious effects of sun damage, but having oily skin, I was spared from excessive wrinkling and skin cancers. I have learned to manage my troubled skin with diet, exercise and skin care products. No one believes my age now. If you have fair skin, stay out of the sun as much as possible. You will be much less wrinkled, if at all, in your future.
Exercise and diet add years to your life. I was fortunate to be born with a fast metabolism, so being athletic was natural for me all my life. However, longitudinal studies of people who have lived in active senior communities such as Laguna Woods in Irvine, California, have shown some common behaviors that lead to a longer life. Seniors who have regular social interactions, eat healthy meals, walk every day, and even drink a moderate amount of coffee live longer than seniors who don’t. John Lennon was right: You are what you eat.
Don’t let the media sell you a false bill of goods. We all know the celebrities who have had too much plastic surgery. They don’t look young, they look like aliens from another planet. However, our media savvy world still sells products that promise youth and beauty. And we Americans still buy those products in ever-increasing numbers. Plastic surgery is at the pinnacle of popularity, and actors still go under the knife to keep their careers fresh. But here’s the flip side of that: Look at famous people who have opted out of the beauty race. Meryl Streep is still securing leading roles without plastic surgery; Barbra Streisand’s nose is still gloriously regal; and, Tommy Lee Jones is still using his gruffy, imperfect exterior to get great character parts. What sets them a cut above the rest is covered in the next bullet.
Confidence with what God gave you is the best beauty product on the market! I recently saw some pictures of Ali McGraw, star of the iconic 1970 movie, Love Story. Her white hair, weathered skin, and tanned glow knocked me off of my chair. I have never seen a more beautiful woman, at any age. I could actually see the youthful effects of a woman who has lived a long, natural life; a woman who obviously respects herself enough to not try to look decades younger. She still has that lovely face and slim, healthy body. Her smile in the pictures radiated a confidence that said to me, “Yes, I am much older, but I cherish all of my years, my memories, what I have learned and who I am today. I have never felt more beautiful in my life.” I am also finally at that age where everything I have ever dreamed of for a meaningful life has transpired. I have never felt more alive, open to life… and yes, beautiful.