I’ve never watched any of the Housewives TV shows, and now I know why: these women are from another planet.
I just read about a Orange County housewife who got a facelift at the urging of a friend, who assured her she really needed it. What kind of friend says something like that, even if it’s true? Friends tell friends they need a haircut, are getting a little too thin, or need a bigger kitchen island. They don’t tell them to get a facelift, at least in my world.
I’m never getting a facelift. Many women say never say never, but I’d never do it because: 1. I’m afraid. 2. I can’t afford it. 3. Most facelifts don’t look natural. It bothers me when I see beautiful celebrities with facelifts because in most cases, the results are horrible. To me, nothing’s more beautiful than a woman who embraces herself at every age.
When I see a star who’s had obvious work, I always feel very sad. I’m not sure why because it was her choice to do it, and maybe she likes it. But I always feel she caved to societal (and perhaps “friends”) pressure to look young.
Perhaps this is on my mind because I turn 60 this month. It’s a milestone, to be sure. And though I’d rather be turning 30 and have my life in front of me, I can’t complain because I know too many people who never reached 60.
At my last high school reunion, we remembered at least six girls who passed away. A guy I dated in college died last year at age 59. A former co-worker dropped dead at age 38 from a massive heart attack. I lost two friends to alcoholism before age 50. I’ve known plenty of people – neighbors, friends, relatives – deprived of the privilege of growing old. As you age, I think that’s the biggest revelation: that aging is a blessing not granted to everyone in this life.
I now get my father’s line every year on his birthday: “It’s better than the alternative.” And it is, despite the natural feelings entering a new decade bring.
So how do I feel about turning 60? Here are a few thoughts:
- I don’t want the senior discount, at least not yet. I know plenty of people who do and that’s cool, but I’m offended when people even suggest that I qualify. I still can’t stand being called ma’am, particularly by men who are older than I am. Keep your discount and let me think I’m fooling everyone, including myself.
- I’m now calling everyone, even strangers, “honey.” I have no idea why, but I am and they seem to like it. Perhaps this is what happens when you become an elder stateswoman: you bestow terms of endearment on everyone around you.
- I have no idea how old anyone is. I’ve asked so many kids in their 20s what year they are in high school that I’ve lost track. How did that happen?
- I’m not ready to go gray. My adorable hairstylist Gina at W Salon in Madison, CT., (yes, that is a shameless plug for my buddies Walter and JoAnne Porta) told me at my last visit that my hair is a pretty combination of silver and gray. Good to know, she said, should I decide to go the natural route.
I’m not ready to do that, particularly since my mother still colors her hair. I know people – my beautiful yoga instructor Ava, my tennis buddy Laury, my former co-workers Linda D. and Linda B – who went gray and look fantastic. This is not me. I’m afraid I’d look like an old hag or a wrung out dish rag. And I don’t want to be mistaken for the Curmudgeon’s mother. That would really send me over the edge.
- I still care about my body, but I’m more realistic now than I was when I was 40. A few years ago I read a book in which the author expressed surprise and a little disdain for Rose Kennedy still caring about her figure in her 60s “at an age when most women stop caring about such things,” or something like that.
I was offended because it suggested women stop caring about their bodies after a certain age, and that anyone who still did is vain. I’ve exercised since I was about 13 because I’m a sporty girl. I like to work out because it makes me feel good and keeps me in relatively good shape. I wasn’t graced with genes or a metabolism where I can eat everything I want and be thin. I’ve always needed to break a sweat.
To suggest that women would stop caring about their bodies in their 60s (and older) is not only false, but insulting and discriminatory. If you care about your body, that doesn’t change when you reach age 60 or beyond. If anything, you probably try harder to stay in shape because it becomes more difficult with age.
- Everyone in my age group looks at women in their 20s and 30s and wonders where our waistlines went. I recently went to a wedding where the bride wore a two piece dress that exposed her midriff and couldn’t take my eyes off her tiny waist.
I used to be able to rock a cinched waist with thick belts, but that ship has passed and I’m not sure when or how it happened. I tried to spruce up a T-shirt dress with a thin animal print belt and I looked like a sausage tied in the middle. It would be depressing if it wasn’t so comical.
- Turning 40 and 50 was a much bigger deal in terms of ego. When I turned 50, I remember thinking, “Well, there’s no denying it now. You’re not young any more.” At 60, that thought doesn’t even cross your mind. You’re on the back nine of life, and you realize it doesn’t matter how you look, but how you feel that’s important.
I’d take 50 again in a heartbeat. I was young, at least relatively speaking. At age 53, I competed in singles for my team at the USTA Nationals. I think I was the oldest woman that year to compete in singles at my level. It wasn’t a feat, just a fact. I couldn’t do it today. I still have the stamina, but I don’t have the drive or patience. I’ve learned there are more important things in life than my won/loss record or USTA rating.
- By the time you’re banging on 60, you’ve learned to embrace your friends and be grateful that they understand your shortcomings and accept your apologies for being an idiot. You know your limitations, and appreciate the fact that your friends do too and love you in spite of them.
You learn to accept advice with grace, understanding that your friends have your best interests in mind. With any luck, you’ve given advice and taken your share of it. You’ve learned to shut your mouth and listen, realizing a kind ear is really all you can offer in some situations.
You’re not offended when friends suggest your hair is getting too long. You appreciate that they love you enough to be honest – not enough to tell you to get a facelift, but maybe to lop off 3 inches at your next hair appointment.
- At 60, you’ve been away from little kids long enough to want grandkids, or to piggyback on your friends’ grandkids. You ask them to let you know the next time they’re babysitting to get your baby fix. You’re going to tons of weddings again – this time the children of couples whose weddings you attended. It’s nice, but now you’re part of the older crowd, the crazy woman dancing with the young girls on the dance floor after your spouse returns to the table. Yikes, how did you become that woman?
- Nearing 60, you look at photos of yourself and see traces of the great aunt who used to say you looked like her. Yes, there’s a resemblance, but then again you’re now the age that she was when she was saying it. You’re upset for a minute – she was not exactly a looker – but you get over it quickly. You can’t change your DNA. The best you can do it work with what you’ve got.
- By 60, you’ve learned that we’re all graced with certain talents, and it’s best to use them or they’ll wither and die. You’ve learned that money is nice, but it’s not everything, and that ultimately love and happiness are the greatest gifts.
- When you’re spouse isn’t irritating you – which is increasingly rare – you are eternally grateful you found each other so many years ago. You still love each other, flaws and all, making 60 not so bad after all.