Somewhere I read we look seven years younger when we view ourselves in our own mirror. I think that’s true. The mirrors and the lighting in my bathroom make me believe I’m holding my own. Then I see my reflection in a store window, and I’m shocked to see my mother staring back at me. Mind you, I’m not bothered enough to have Botox, fillers or surgery, but aging is hard.
And don’t tell me there are more important things to think about, because I think about them as well.
This week I saw a current photo of Anna Wintour’s arms that made me feel better about my own arms. Anna, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, and I are the same age. While she’s an avid tennis player, I workout diligently with weights, do yoga and stay for long periods in plank position. Even so we both have… spellchecker keeps wanting to change “crepey” to “creepy“ so okay… We both have creepy arms.
We’ve all heard 50 is the new 40. At first blush statements like these may make us feel better about ourselves, but in reality, they may also make us feel like we’ve failed to “keep up.” After a big birthday a friend said, other than reaching for the vanilla ice cream, she was giving up on exercising, and was going on the see-food diet. “If I see it, I’m eating it.” I understand her frustration.
I’ve been cleaning out the catchall closet in my office and found one of my favorite pictures of James taken 20 years ago. He was so handsome. A friend of ours always said he looked like a movie star. I looked at his picture and thought, ‘I’ve aged since you died, and there’s no amount of sleep; no amount of I’m not going to have a glass of wine, and I’m going to drink eight glasses of water a day that’s going to fix it.’
Maybe my friend and I should do what Sharon Stone did… She went into the bathroom with a bottle of wine and told herself she wasn’t coming out until she could accept the way she looks now. Not to discount how Ms. Stone feels about aging, but even on her worst days, she looks better than many of us could ever hope to look, but she has a point.
We need to see ourselves as the women we are now; the value and the wisdom we didn’t have when our faces were unlined and our arms were taught. That’s just the way life works!
It’s easy to dismiss these feeling by saying “we’re more than our outward appearance,” or that “focusing on how we look is shallow,” or “as long as we’re healthy that’s all that matters.” While those things are true, I’m guessing there’s a part of all of us that’s not happy about aging and looking older.
Aging is a process comprised of little epiphanies that nudge us into our senior years. I’m looking forward to one epiphany in particular: Being okay with my creepy arms and wearing sleeveless dresses like Anna Wintour does. I wonder how old I’ll be before that happens?
On my next birthday, I will be 70. Thank you, Jesus! I am doing whatever I can to be healthy by eating right, exercising, and doing what the doctor advises. Do I look young, no! But I look good! I look healthy and strong. I dress well and take care of my appearance because it is important for my self image. I love my life more than ever. As I write this, my hands hurt from arthritis and I limp a little when I walk due to a bad knee. But I am here and I plan to enjoy life for many more years. Every time a lose a friend or loved one, I remind myself that I am so blessed. And when I look in the mirror, I see a woman at her best.
Hi Madeline, You’ve pretty much described me. I have one knee that’s not always happy and a back that requires lots of exercises to keep it in working order. While I really should do more back exercises, I workout three times a week and eat healthy and and grateful to still be here. That doesn’t mean I like seeing my mother in the mirror. Thanks for your insightful comment, Brenda
Thank you for this generous post. I too struggle with aging and those annoying reminders; bad knee, pot belly, “laugh lines” and yes, creepy skin. But this made me smile and remember I am living the better alternative. Thank you Brenda. Oh, and yes, James does look like a movie star.
Ooops – left out an L in holly – it happens…..
Holly, I like your statement that “I am living the better alternative.” Good one, and it takes thought and effort to do that, doesn’t it? We don’t just “ease into our so-called Golden Years. It takes work. Blessings and keep up the good work, Brenda
Brenda, you always seem to post on a subject that’s been on my mind. Whenever I see aging show up on my face and body, I think of my eighty year old sister-in-law with dementia who only weighs seventy-one pounds. Dementia versus a few wrinkles and saggy bit…the saggy bits win every time. I agree with your readers…we are blessed and we are living the better alternative. James was a handsome fella…hubba hubba…
Yes, once again your post is right on point! Please keep thinking out loud, your voice is important for us to understand and accept that we are not alone!
Christine, It is important to know we’re not alone in some of our thoughts… about anything, actually. It’s often hard to be the first one to speak up but since I don’t have a problem with that, I’ll keep writing so please let me know when I’m on track or when you don’t agree. I appreciate your comment! Brenda
Donna, Your sister-in-law sounds like my mother. At the end, I’d be surprised if mother even weighed 71 pounds. What a terrible disease, and it scares me to think about how many of us will have dementia. xoxox, Brenda
Funnily enough, I’m finding my sixties easier than my fifties. The first signs of age were the hardest to take, I think. And in my fifties when those outfits I always took for granted I’d be able to wear started to look silly, I think I mourned their loss for a time. Not anymore. I think that blogging and taking so many shots of myself has helped me accept my age, who I am right now, and what I look like. Still every once in a while I do wish I could still wear that flippy Max Mara skirt I used to own with a sweater tucked in and high heels. But then I give myself a shake and move on.
Sue, you echo my thoughts entirely. I am bothered by my age in terms of my closet more than the wrinkles. I wish I was a classic car. A plunging neckline may reveal rust spots and dents but the average pedestrian only notices the great fat fenders or all the chrome.
Mithra, Cute analogy although most of those classic cars on the road have been restored and look brand new! They don’t look like they’ve had a nip or a tuck here and there. I’d rather age naturally as opposed to everyone saying, “She’s had work done.” Few of us are lucky enough to windup looking like we’ve just been on a relaxing vacation. I predict farm life will feed your should and be invigorating, which will reflect how you look on the outside. xoxo, Brenda
Sue, Interesting your 60’s are easier than your 50’s. I didn’t have any problems until a few years ago when breast cancer and losing my entire family in one day finally took it’s toll on my face. I can see how blogging has helped you although you look the same to me, but then that’s easy for someone who hasn’t known you “in person,” if you will. High heels… Not being able to wear high heels was depressing!! xoxo, Brenda
So true! The mirror is not our friend. As I go about my day I feel good about myself – fit and current in my dress but whenever I catch a glimpse of myself I’m shocked by how I really look. I feel young but my body & face tells the truth. Still, I’m here and enjoying life so no sense in dwelling on age.
Joanna, I’m always shocked by how I really look… and I’m doing my best not to dwell on it, because I’m grateful to still be here. Even so… I’m not always happy about it. Thanks for reading my post and leaving me a comment. I appreciate you, Brenda
When I raise my arms and look at that sagging crepe it makes me cringe. But, some things like that can be covered. The crepe got worse when I lost 14lb. recently but, I think I look better than before and still not my ‘exact’ age (68). Age is a state of mine. I’ve always felt that way and, there were many times in my younger years that I felt older than I actually am now. So, we carry on and enjoy whatever time we have left.
Barbara, Interestingly enough, I felt older… mentally… when I was in my early 20’s. I was married to someone older with a big job, plus I didn’t live in my college dorm. Even though my fellow students were only a year or two younger than I was… I felt older. A world removed. They were doing all the things college kids were supposed to do, but I’d skipped all of that. I didn’t want to trade places with them… far from it, but I was very aware of our life experience gap. xoxo, Brenda
I have a friend that says, “growing old is a privilege when you consider the alternative.” He’s absolutely right! But it’s still not easy. Looking in the mirror probably never gets “really” easier because just as we begin to accept ourselves, another day passes … then another year … and before we know it, we have a new-old face to get used to. That said, there’s an expression I love: I’m not as good as I once was but I’m as good as I’ll ever be. (Actually, it may be the lyrics to a song.) Those are the words that I hold onto 🙂
Very perceptive, Mona! Since most of my friends and all of my relatives are gone, I’m very aware that it’s a privilege to still be here. Time passes and “we have a new, old face to get used to.” I like that! When we had our school photos taken every year, it was fun to see how we’d grown from one year to the next. Yep! Right this instant we’re as good as we’re gonna’ look. Thanks for your wise input, Brenda
Yes, what is it about bathroom lighting that gives us such a false reflection. I think I look pretty darn good in the bathroom after putting on my makeup, and when I walk out that bathroom door all hell breaks loose. Especially in those awful department store dressing rooms that have the worst lighting ever. And the arms…oh the arms. They were always my pride and joy. Not anymore. Even though I work out religiously with weights and keep up with aerobic exercise, gravity has won. But, cross my fingers, my health is good and I still have a sense of humor about it all. And you always make me laugh and brighten my day. Thank you for that!
Cindy, Your comment made me laugh and brighten my day, so thank you for that! You would have thought retailers would have given women soft lighting, not overhead fluorescents. On second thought, they’ve probably saved us all a lot of money because we didn’t buy those outfits… especially bathing suits. Just when you think your legs are in great shape, you try on a bathing suit under fluorescent lighting and you want to cry! xoxox, Brenda
This was the year of going sleeveless, at 58. My upper arms had not been publicly exposed for over 20 years. Incredibly, I had been shamed into covering up as I always had what a friend described as “the arms of someone on the crew team”. I always envied those with tiny, thin, to my eyes feminine looking , arms. So now that strong looking women are acceptable, my arms sag. The irony was a revelation similar to how I used to think I was fat when at 5’9″ I wore larger sizes than my 5′ friends. Really. I can’t say I’m happy about my aging body, but despite an occasional sigh I am content and no longer need to impress anyone. I feel like I earned the right to my creepy arms and if anyone else notices or cares, so what? We need to normalize normal! (I should note I have friends who fear losing their husbands to younger women and would not agree with my thoughts.)
Vicki, Oooh!!! “Normalize normal… ” That’s brilliant! Unfortunately there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. It will probably go the other way and like wearing kitten heels, little girls will want Botox. I’ve always loved the look of well-defined, cut arms on women. It’s sad you had those but wanted thinner arms. Maybe the lesson from all of this is to sit back and let go of the reigns, because too many times we want what we can’t have. Awesome input, Vicki. Thank you! Brenda
You are stunningly beautiful & interesting, interesting is the best part . I enjoy your stories they are very moving . I feel the best part of being around for quite awhile is the pieces of this puzzle we call our life fits better and better .
Dear Linda, I have the best readers in the world. You’ve all left smart, thoughtful and perceptive comments! Yours in my new favorite: “…the pieces of this puzzle we call our life fits better and better.” Perhaps that’s because we’re acquiring wisdom as we age, and we better understand life and what’s right for us and those things that aren’t meant to be. Thank you for the sweet, sweet compliment. Since we already know our looks fade, I think it’s better to be interesting. And if my stories move you… That’s the best thing I could hope for, so thank you very much! Truly! Brenda
Thank you for this wonderful heart felt and honest article.
Whilst I am so grateful for my health, having witnessed my mother dying at just 56 after being eaten inside out by a disease and spending the last 20 years of her life in a recliner, it still does not stop me for grieving for my younger more youthful looking self. I am grieving because my eggs are running out and mother nature is changing my body in ways that have not been this overwhelming or out of control since puberty. Just when I though I was getting the hang of it, everything is starting to hang.
I think it’s ok to hold 2 differing opinions in one’s mind at once – it’s called Cognitive Dissonance. There’s the school of thought that echoes what many responders here have said, that to be alive is better than to be dead, or to be unwell. There’s also the school of thought that says, ‘well it’s nature and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you just have to suck it up’. I am in neither camp, although I can appreciate the intentions behind both. I however, am still grieving for the young woman I was when I was 35. I wish I had seen her beauty and appreciated her energy more back then. I wish I had her here now.
I suppose one positive thing from being alive this long, is that I have learned to get along with myself better. Not to criticise myself so much, and I also know that no matter how bad your day gets, life will continue on and make a way for itself. I believe this is called ‘the getting of Wisdom’. While I am not quite ready to embrace the Wise Crone, the summer of my womanhood, which is now becoming autumn, will lead me to that place.
I loved both my grandmothers with all my heart, and they were ‘old’ by the time I came along. They were both wrinkly, white haired, and one had arthritic toes. Yet, I loved them. I just took them as they were because I loved their souls. As a child I had no concept of judging people based on how they looked. I now try to apply this similar acceptance and love to my own self. I do think though, that they were alive in a different era, one where 50 was considered deep middle age and even ‘old’. Let’s not forget that only 100 years ago, the average life expectancy was at least 20 years less than it is now. With that extended life expectancy, the expectation is that we will also look younger, due to the multi-million dollar beauty industry and discoveries in diet and physiology. The truth is this: we age. We cannot be the same at 50 or 60 as we were at 40. I am learning to come to terms with this, and grief is helping me do that. Grief is a mental process where we eventually adjust to changed circumstances or expectations. I thought I could think myself young. Turns out I was wrong.
And Brenda, I’ve said this before: AVOID MIRRORS IN STORES AT ALL COSTS, trust your own bathroom one, it helps with the denial. Xxxxx
Dearest TJ… I, too, wish I could tell my younger self how much I appreciated her. You’ve phrased this beautifully: “… life will continue on and make a way for itself” and that’s so true, regardless of how much input we do or do not give. Time keeps on marching, so it’s best if we believe in ourselves and make good use of all of our experiences and use them to guide us toward even better days and make wise decisions about getting through the difficult times. It must have been hard to see your mother suffer for so many years and wonder if that would happen to you as well? While studies show “pretty” people do better in life, I agree that as children, we tend to overlook the outer shell and see straight to the soul of a person… The most important part. I do believe that if we don’t allow ourselves to become jaded and hard, we can still be young at heart. I still like to play on the floor with my dogs or with the young grandchildren of my friends; I dance and sing along to the music I like, and I can still get excited about certain things! AVOIDING MIRRORS IN STORES… You may have hit on something here, TJ… Other than convenience, perhaps a key reason online shopping has become so popular is we don’t have to confront mirrors and unflattering, overhead florescent lights in the stores! Yes… I LOVE MY BATHROOM MIRRORS!! xoxox, Brenda
I love this post. Whenever I think I really look awful, I go back to old photos when I (also) thought I looked awful. And you know what? I don’t look half bad, AND I wouldn’t mind looking like that again. Ha!
The arms thing is so frustrating. This summer, I just said to heck with it. I have right to BARE ARMS. (Haha…I crack myself up.)
As for the trials of aging – sore knees and feet, increasingly stronger eyeglass prescription, less energy by the year – I remind myself that my dear departed sister would have loved to live past 33. Happy and relatively healthy is fine with me! 🙂
Hi Laurel, You cracked me up as well!!! And I agree that I’d like to look like many of the old photos of me. How could I have thought I didn’t look good? I have the same exact trials of aging and you put it all in perspective… You sister would have loved to live past 33. We have much to be grateful for. I’ll try not to complain about the woman I see in the store windows and be grateful I’m still here. xoxox, Brenda
Each new decade has been an adventure I looked forward to. Until this one. I just assumed, in my goals and dreams, that I’d still have my 40’s body into my eighties. But why would I be the only person on the planet who fails to age? Reality has been hard. But with each hug from grandchildren and adopted grandchildren, it matters less . . . They see this face and love it. I can too!
Diane, Now that’s a blog post… “Each new decade has been an adventure I looked forward to,” and I’ll add that if we don’t have anything on the horizon, we need to find something that excites and challenges us. So many of the older women I’ve known–and who are no longer here–at one point or another said , mentally they felt young even though their bodies weren’t keeping up. I now know what they meant, so yes… It comes as a surprise when “our young at heart selves” are living in old, creaky bodies. I’m so happy and grateful to be surrounded by wise women, like you, who know how I feel and at the same time, offer up such wonderful tidbits of wisdom. Thank you!! Brenda
“Then I see my reflection in a store window, and I’m shocked to see my mother staring back at me.”
This struck me. I was adopted 54 years ago, so I never see my mother, I just see this stranger. I think I’d prefer to see my mother!
Congrats on NOT being bothered enough. I am doing what I can to be my best self at my age without making that mean I’m trying NOT to look my age. It’s a strange balance, but hopefully worth it.
Hi Alison, The reality is YOU ARE SEEING YOUR MOTHER in the store window! You just haven’t seen her in real life. If most of us agree it’s our mothers we see in ourselves as we age, then you do, too! Take comfort in that. I’d like my younger looking self back, but I don’t want Botox, fillers or a facelift because even if those procedures start out well, most of them morph into something I’m not interested in becoming. Then who would I see in the mirror or the store window? Now she would be a stranger!! Let’s keep doing our best to stay sharp mentally, eat healthy and be comfortable with who we’re becoming., because it is worth it! Thank you so much for your awesome comment, Brenda
It is just amazing how I see my Mother in those quick pass by sights of myself ! Of four of us, I am the most like her… for better or worse !! I do do injections (glad to talk about them!!) and will forever color my hair. It just feels good and at our age that becomes increasingly important . Great post.
Hi Libby, I got my hair colored, yesterday, and don’t see myself ever going grey. It looks fabulous on so many women, but I’m not one of them. Stopped by your blog and left you a couple of comments! Thanks so much for reading and leaving me a comment, or I wouldn’t have known you were there. Thanks so much, Brenda
I will be 55 in less than a month and some days I don’t feel likes I’m aging well. Yipes! Wrinkles! Gray hair! saggy skin!! Some days I think I’m just marvelous and some days I don’t think about it at all. I started going to water aerobics class at the Y and I am probably the youngest one there by ten years. We have one woman who literally dances her way to class. I found out she is 91! NINETY ONE! Alice had her feet up on the sides of the pool (hanging by her calves) and was doing sit ups. She did way more than one, she did many. She is my hero. She has chubby thighs, wrinkly skin and a great smile. She said her sister is 94 and going in for a shoulder replacement. My thoughts on many days turn to Alice, and my new mantra is: Be Like Alice!!
You’ve got that right, Maggie! “Be Like Alice!!” I started water aerobics when I was about 45 and went until I was 54 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. The older women… I was the youngest by far… amazed me. They might not have executed the best moves, but they were always there. Just the fact that they got out of the house and came to class contributed to their overall good health and happiness. We were a great group because if one of us missed a class or two, somebody called and checked on her. I loved these women and had them to my house a couple of times for lunch. Found some of those photos last weekend and they made me smile. Yes, Be Like Alice!! xoxo, Brenda
I hear you on this aging thing, but I have to add that a big “fault” on all this is media, entertainment, advertising, etc. Youth is pushed and pushed. Tom Cruz is a year younger than me, yet I look like I could be his mother (had him very young!) and that’s because of the facial work he’s had done. Why should I care? I don’t. Aging is human, BUT I am treated differently when I look older. I can tell, as I have facial paraphernalia I’ve used every day for months and months that probably takes off about 5 years off – THOSE five years – that delineate from being “old” (mostly from sagging) and thus, worthless to society, a person to basically be ignored; and being “just older”. My problem is I need the “just older” designation, as I must still work (I have an older ill son) and age discrimination gets in the way. The “look younger” habits had to be dropped for health reasons and I do see how people treat me differently now. WOMEN’S LIB should have taken care of this, but it did not, as it did not honor “natural women” very much in my estimation. Years ago, women were MORE accepted as they got older and looked older.
Hi Cat, You’re right that women used to be MORE accepted as they got older and looked older, and media and advertising has everything to do with this backward movement. They’re peddling youth, and the millennials have bought into this with an arrogance that’s going to bite them in the butt when they’re our age. They’ll already be so nipped and tucked and filled that their skin may not allow any more procedures. Already Kendall Jenner no longer looks like herself. She looks like the rest of the clan… overdone. Makes me sad because she had a fresh, youthful look that’s now become aloof and contrived. I’m sorry you must walk this line with “look younger habits” in order to keep your job. Women’s lib definitely dropped the ball, big time, on this one. Blessings to you and your son, Brenda
YES….it HURTS HARD that first GLANCE in the mirror!OH NO!When did that happen………..I look like my MOTHER kind of reaction!
Than I tend to let it go as there is really NOTHING I can do about it………….I exercise, I eat RIGHT………..I get enough sleep…………etc etc.I have let MYSELF enter that NEXT PHASE OF LIFE…………..and since I am a GRANNY to GRAND DOGS and a PIGGY and since I JUST MADE ADVANCED STYLE ‘s INSTAGRAM I FEEL IT’s ALL OKAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ve earned………….IT’s been a HELL Of a YEAR!
I’ll become MORE ECCENTRIC and wear MORE CAFTANS with LONG SLEEVES………….XO
Dear Elizabeth, You and Ari are a big part of the movement that’s bringing hope and delight… our role models… to the rest of us. Please continue to be your eccentric self and dress as you please and go about your day with joy and intent, because we’re watching and loving you and gaining strength and courage from you, my friend! BRAVA!! XOXOX, Brenda
Brenda, I adore this post and I think any woman over 50 can so relate to this. I did read about Sharon Stone locking herself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine. I am always coming to terms with my changing looks. I am embracing how liberating it feels to be an older woman and I try to evolve my style like I never did before. I’m wearing fun cat eye glasses and bold bright lipstick. I realize I can no longer carry off my brunette boho look and have traded it in for a more chic silver haired version. Why fight a battle I can’t win? I have surrendered to something more in my control. Now, where’s my bottle of wine…
Jill, You and your alter ego, Hildie Plumpepper, are among the group of women who’ve decided to celebrate aging and “turn up the knob” on what you wear. It’s not just that you’ve turned up the knob, you’re tweaking in “the station,” finding what looks best on you at this stage of your life, and you’re enjoying it. That enjoyment is contagious, so please… Keep it up!! We need you! xoxox, Brenda
Another candid and thought-provoking article… it’s always wonderful to know I/we aren’t the only one feeling this way! Thank you!
Hi Donna, Bloggers and their readers have become more valuable and important to a woman’s self-esteem than any morning, television talkshow. We’re online, finding our tribe and drawing strength and encouraging one another. Hallelujah!! I’m thankful you’re part of my tribe and one of the women who’s sharing her journey. xoxo, Brenda
I love this post my friend, every word true. I recently said, “love keeps us ageless”. You have become a bit more accepting of the reflection in the mirror. I am still a work in progress. xo
Katherine, Great way to put it: We’re all a work in progress… until the day we die. When I go out and about, I choose to think of myself as looking like the woman in my bathroom mirror. If only I had the guts to post a photo of me when I wake up. You’d swear there’s no way she can be THE SAME WOMAN who’s in the “after” photo: when I do makeup and hair, smile and lift my forehead. xoxox, Brenda
Oh, this struck nerve. I was at my sister’s trying on a dress to wear to my sons wedding. I had no makeup on, wearing the wrong bra and shoes, hair a mess. I became so depressed. Not going out of the house with out makeup. Never looking in her mirror. On a diet and going to paint my toes silver. That will make the difference I’m sure. oc course I’ll write about my son’s wedding. Let’s see how I finally look. I should talk me not having anything broken or not being hospitalized but that mirror!!!!!!
Oh, Sandy!! You’re funny, but you’ve described exactly how I usually try on clothes when I’m at home. Of course we’re going to be depressed… We know that going in, but we still do it, anyway! The good news is… We cleanup well. I have not doubt you’ll look smashing–don’t smash your foot, again–at your son’s wedding. Looking forward to see the pictures! xoxox, Brenda
I could have written this..my thoughts exactly. THANK YOU xxxx
Hilda, I know we’re sorry the other one feels this way, but it’s comforting to know we’re not alone, don’t you think? Thanks for letting me know you’re on the same train as I am. xoxox, Brenda