I had the TV on a few weeks ago, mostly as background noise, as I was restoring a piece of vintage furniture. The conversation grabbed my attention when I heard a 45 –year-old woman talking about having a baby. Looking at least 10 years younger than her age she was adamantly stating that she could, at any time she wanted, conceive a child. Undeterred by the fertility experts that said while they agreed she looked younger than her chronological age, her reproductive system didn’t care; while conceiving a child at her age is certainly possible, it is not as probable as this woman thought it to be. Her reply to them was, “But LOOK at me!” This brought to mind last years’ Real Housewives of NY (my guilty pleasure) shocker, 55-year-old Ramona Singer’s “pregnancy scare”. When a fellow housewife suggested that perhaps Ramona was “late” because she was in perimenopause, the response was one of complete denial that this was an even remote possibility.
Flash forward to Super Bowl Sunday. I sat in awe of 53-year-old Madonna’s age defying halftime performance. Clearly this is a woman who works out. My same aged female friends and I were being both self-deprecating and self aware in our assessment. One friend commented that gee, if we looked like that we would have to trade in our husbands, who rage in age from 50 to 60, for a younger man, as Madonna is now reportedly dating a…… wait for it…….. 24-year-old man. My reply? NO THANKS! My son is 27!
It’s not hard to see a pattern of denial of age in today’s culture. Age denial, I feel, is very different from taking care of ourselves and wanting to remain active and healthy. I’m not judging women, or men for that matter, who want to stop the clock on aging. I’ll admit, I was ready to go for some Botox injections on the vertical lines between my brows. My dear friend, who had already had the procedure, stopped me in my tracks. She assured me that it did indeed feel like she had been attacked right smack in the face by a swarm of angry hornets. While her lines did smooth out, they were back in a few months.
Which leads me to a wonderful book I read a few years ago. “Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being”, by Andrew Weil, M.D. I’m usually not one of those self help book types, and I have an aversion to fame doctors. However, I like Dr Weil’s application of traditional medicines used in conjunction with preventive, no nonsense self care. In his book, he says, “Plastic surgery cannot fix what is happening inside your body; it can only dull the sharpness of the reminder.” He goes on to say that while he is not against cosmetic surgery, especially when it is reconstructive, one does need to proceed with caution. Even though we may appear to be younger the fact is we cannot stop the aging process. Sometimes those signs, like gray hair and a few wrinkles, are a reminder for us to change our approach. What was appropriate for us at age 25 may no longer be appropriate or even healthy for us at age 55. We may have to modify our plan of action by choosing activities that are gentler to our aging joints. We may need more rest, and we may not be able to get away with some of the unhealthy behaviors we could slide by with in our youth.
I e-mailed my daughter-in-law about the vintage furniture I am restoring for her and my son. I needed to know if she wanted me to remove the finish, as some of it had gotten that crazed, alligator skin texture due to age. Also, there are a few mars from wear. She said no; she felt that removing the signs of age would remove the story of the piece. Removing the imperfections would also remove the character, and if I did that then she may as well just go out and buy new pieces. The small chips, scratches and slightly worn finish were what made these pieces special. Wise young woman, my son’s wife.