Wednesday, March 3, 2010

on being old and fat

Mrs. Miniver suddenly understood why she was enjoying the forties so much better than she enjoyed the thirties;  it was the difference between August and October,  between the heaviness of late summer and the sparkle of early autumn, between the ending of an old phase and the beginning of a fresh one. (Jan Struther)

We interrupt this crafty blog for a personal rant.

Many of you know that I entered middle age this year.  And it wasn't graceful.  I kicked, screamed and cried the whole way.  Although I have calmed down a bit, I still struggle daily with my self-esteem and body image.  But yesterday I read Judy Wise's blog and had a bit of an aha moment.  The question is this-why are we torturing ourselves?

In a generation of women who are struggling to balance child-rearing, homekeeping, creativity, significant others and work, I wonder why we are also torturing ourselves by trying to look unrealistically young?  When my grandmother was 40, I was born.  Her daughter (my mother) was out of the house, so my grandmother didn't have any child-rearing duties.  She didn't work.  AND she wasn't expected to look younger than she was.  Fast forward to me at 40.  I have a four year old child.  I am trying to be her primary caregiver and I am trying to jump start a career and a designer.  I'm also expected to weigh what I did in high school and not have any wrinkles.

The problem is, at 40, I am facing an aging body just like my grandmother was at 40.  My metabolism is slowing down.  I don't have the energy I used to and I creak in the mornings.  It takes me a lot longer to look presentable to the world than it did when I was younger.  And I'm wondering...why am I adding unrealistic physical goals to my very long list of things to do?  Goals that are virtually impossible for me to achieve naturally?

Now, I do need to lose weight to be healthier.  I'm not saying I should just let myself go or give up, but I probably need to readjust my goals to what I'm physically capable of achieving at 40.  (Keeping in mind that I don't have the time to work out 7 days a week for hours at a time and am unwilling to go under the plastic surgeon's knife.)  I need to realize that, for someone who is middle aged I look pretty good.  If you put me up against a 25 year old, I don't look as good, but that's really comparing apples and oranges, isn't it?

When I was in Europe a few years ago, I was startled to notice that the Spanish women in their 50s looked so elegant and natural.  They took good care of themselves, but the majority didn't seem to be turning themselves into plastic Barbie dolls. They were very beautiful and sophisticated. It was refreshing to see and obviously a lesson I wasn't yet ready to take to heart.  I'm ready now.

It's going to be hard.  As women, we typically gauge ourselves against other women.  Where I live that's challenging.  (You've seen the Real Housewives of Orange County, right?).  If I turn to the media, I can read magazines geared towards middle aged women and see a whole lot of "older" models who have been enhanced.  But I'm going to try.  Will you join me?  Will you give yourself a break and readjust your expectations of yourself to reflect what is really physically possible and healthy for someone your age?  That doesn't require you to make your appearance a full-time job?

Please be sure to watch the video, The Bathers (scroll down on the link), that Judy recommends on her blog post.  It will give you something to think about.  Thanks for listening to my rant.  As Judy pointed out in her blog post, I'm not lecturing you as much as I'm lecturing myself.

P.S.  You look beautiful today.