This past weekend I celebrated my 43rd birthday and so, even though I don’t mind getting older, I have been thinking a lot about the process of aging. When I was younger, I used to wonder when I would start to feel like I was old. I was curious to know when my thoughts, feelings and behaviours would shift to mimic those of the women of the generations before me that quite frankly, I found somewhat baffling. Would I wake up one day and realize that Naturalizer shoes are just a sensible choice? Would I get dressed one morning and ultimately decide to wear pantyhose every single day from that point forward until the end of time? Would I be sliding my arms into my favourite cardigan and finally recognize just how perfect the sleeves are for a concealed pocket in which to store slightly used tissues? I always understood that there would be certain aging milestones beyond my control but I remained steadfast in my belief that I would notice when my conduct began to resemble that of a middle aged stereotype and I would quickly course correct to maintain my youthful status.
The truth is, that at 43 years old, I am officially considered to be middle aged and even though I see that the transformation has already begun, I really don’t care all that much. I regularly start sentences with “When I was a kid…”. I take my slippers with me when I go to someone’s house. I genuinely worry about the state of my lawn. I am equally frustrated by how loud restaurants are and how much kids these days mumble. I have no doubt that one day I’ll sit down in my hair stylists’s chair and request my snowy white hair be permed and cut into the obligatory Q-Tip shape because it seems that this is just what women of a certain age do. What I didn’t understand before I reached my wisened age of 4 tens and 3 is that aging comes with a certain amount of IDGAF and not only does it feel good, it’s kind of fun to catalogue. Alongside some of the minor indications of my advancing years, there are some larger, more significant signs that I am moving further away from the springtime of my life, and these, I feel, deserve some special recognition.
Dermaplane It Away
The pressure to continue to look youthful is VERY real. In the last few months I have spent hundreds of dollars on face washes, creams, make-up, hair care products, and supplements to try to maintain my fresh faced, shiny haired, pre-middle aged self. Recently, I paid a very nice woman named Crystal to scrape all the dead skin cells and fur off my face with a sharpened blade (a procedure known as derma planing, the results of which I am quite pleased with). I’ve considered, but ultimately decided against, botox (for now), I use carefully placed light and filters (but just the “natural” looking ones) to capture photos of myself for social media, and I curiously research products that I am very aware are being marketed to me under the guise of self care by a billion dollar industry that only perpetuates the very pressure I’m trying to alleviate by just trying to age gracefully, whatever the fuck that means. *SIGH* Considering the strength of the machine we know as the “women’s wellness” industry and the fact that there appears to be little standing in its way, I can only assume this particular pain point of aging is not going to ease any time soon, so I shall continue to do my best to balance on the teeter-totter of accepting my wrinkles and scars versus attempting to achieve unreasonable beauty standards.
How I look on Instagram vs. Real Life.
It’s a delicate balance.
Under The Banner of Comfort
I want to be comfortable. Translation – my bras are ugly and my panties are full coverage. I used to look at older women in the change room at the gym (there is no way to say that without sounding incredibly creepy) and wonder why they would choose to wear undergarments with so much coverage that they could propel a small wind powered vessel if fastened to the mast of a daysailer. What I found even more curious was why it seemed that these undies could only be purchased in shades of beige. Now, I get it (by “it” I mean the reason for the coverage. I’m still lost on the colour choice). I’m done with having deep gouges under my boobs from ill fitting, but oh so sexy, underwire bras and I do not need a thin piece of fabric crammed up my ass just so I don’t offend someone with my visible panty line. And by the way, I don’t know who decided that panty lines are unseemly but I’m willing to bet that whoever it was had a penis. Listen, I’m not saying I’m walking around wearing pantaloons and a brassiere that could double as a banner but I have discovered the long term benefits of natural cotton fibres and skivvies that don’t make me feel like I’m cinched up and locked in all for someone else’s viewing pleasure. Plus, I figure it doesn’t hurt to have some extra fabric kicking around should I find myself in need of an emergency SOS flag.
All the memes are true. The older you get, the more your body betrays you. The other day I hurt my back applying a very expensive contouring cream foundation. I reached towards my face with the application brush and out of nowhere, a hot laser shot through my left shoulder blade and into my spine. It was so powerful that I yelled out “SHIT!” and crumbled to the floor. My 13 year old son found me rolling around on the ground in my walk-in closet, unable to get up. Once he was done laughing at me, he dutifully extended a hand and helped me to my feet, an act I was grateful for because if he hadn’t, I might still be there. The fact is, my body is just not what it used to be. I can no longer abuse it with CrossFit style workouts and hundreds of kilometres of pounding the pavement in my running shoes. It just plain does not feel good. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it – or rather, that my ego doesn’t miss it – but I truly no longer feel the need to bring myself to the brink of death just so that I can sit and compare myself to all the fitness influencers on Instagram only decide that it’s still not enough. Would it be nice to look up at my husband without needing to see a chiropractor on a regular basis? Sure, but there is also tremendous comfort in discovering new ways to move my body and in accepting it for all that it does for me every day.
*Side Note* – I have not ruled out the fact that I paid $135 for the aforementioned cream foundation that promised easy contouring and an even skin tone as the reason for the crippling muscle spasm. That’s enough to make anyone drop to their knees.
Menopause is no joke. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine I was cured of stage 3 rectal cancer 8 years ago (yay science!). An unfortunate side effect of the radiation treatment, however, was that my still youthful uterus was catapulted from peak fertility to a barren wasteland in less time than it takes to have one menstrual cycle when I was 34 years old (boo science!). Once the side effects of the cancer treatment subsided – things like hair loss, insomnia, hot flashes, extreme fatigue, nausea, dry skin, brittle nails and problems with memory loss and concentration – my body was free to experience the symptoms of full menopause including hair loss, insomnia, hot flashes, extreme fatigue, nausea, dry skin, brittle nails and problems with memory loss and concentration. Add to this rapidly cycling extreme emotions, mild depression and male doctors telling me that “it’s just a part of life” and I’m actually kind of amazed that there aren’t more female serial killers on the loose. I once asked my mother, who was in her early 70s at the time, at what age the hot flashes would stop and she just laughed at me. Damn. On the bright side, I am saving tens of dollars every month not having to purchase feminine hygiene products.
I said earlier that I don’t mind getting older and I meant it. I really don’t. Even though I spend more time than I probably should evaluating the loss of my youthful skin or complaining about all my new aches and pains, I would not trade any of it for the insecurity and confusion of my youth. I would choose who I am, what I know, and the way I feel mentally right now every single day and twice on Sundays over the taught skin and tight pants sans VPL of my youth. With every year that I advance into middle age, I feel a growing sense of ease. It feels like I am arriving home after a very long journey. I’m exhausted, sore and I really have to pee but I know that I have arrived at a place where I am safe, secure, and where I can reflect, with delightful sentimentality, on the places I have been. Where I am right now, feels like exactly where I’m meant to be. I am at the beginning of the middle of my life and it feels like home.
P.S. I could not find who it was that declared visible panty lines to be unattractive but surprise, surprise, thong underwear was indeed, invented by a man. If you’re looking for some completely brainless but thoroughly entertaining discourse on the topic of VPLs I highly recommend the reddit page entitled “What’s the problem with panty lines?”. The conversation hits a real high note when one participant declares that “demon boner” is a great name for a punk band.
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