I turned fifty-three two days ago and have been "adjusting" to this, like I've adjusted to my new age every year for the past few years. It's like putting on a pair of jeans that don't quite fit right, struggling to pull them over my hips and noticing a resistance. Noticing the tugging that is required to make it happen. Noticing the tightness as I pull up the zipper. Noticing the discomfort. I stand there in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom looking at the me in too-tight jeans and wondering, "How did this happen?" and, "What can I do to make it go away?"
I know how it happened: I got older. There's no mystery in that. I got older like everyone else gets older. Why I thought I would somehow be immune to this process is strangely comical. Why I thought everyone around me might start to wrinkle, sag and bulge in odd places while I would not is baffling and bizarre. Or is it? Isn't clinging to that desire just another way of resisting the inevitable? Maybe the belief that I would retain my youth past middle age is a normal reaction. I don't know. What I do know now, now that I'm smack in the middle of it and suited up in my new jeans, is that I was wrong. I was wrong about this just as I've been wrong about many other things in life. This new me isn't going anywhere anytime soon. She is here to stay, and stay she will, even though I've been trying to kick her out for awhile now. Even though I tell her she isn't beautiful enough to be a member of the club.
Yes I've been trying to make her go away, that woman in the jeans clinging a little too snugly to her bottom. I've done this in various ways. Most have been attempts to preserve my youthful physical appearance or alter any visible signs of aging as quickly as I can. This is evident on the shelf in my bedroom that contains multiple vials, bottles and pots of various creams, lotions and potions designed to slow down the passage of time. There has sometimes been a franticness to it that I'm not proud of (looking at my aging neck pushes the panic button every time for example). Because everyone knows we're not supposed to feel frantic about aging, or we're not supposed to show that we're frantic anyway. We're never supposed to show our fear, panic or distress about the whole thing. We're either supposed to do something about it OR we're supposed to age gracefully. Those seem to be the only two choices. We can pay someone to try and change us back to who were were, or to somehow stop time from running all over our faces and bodies, just freeze it somehow... for a bit anyway. Or we can invite that new person in to stay, for good, and with open arms.
Although the second option is much less invasive and cheaper, it isn't easy, the main reason being that we live in a world that values youth, equates youth with beauty and places a premium on it. Looking young is the ideal. A face free of lines and jowls, and a body free of lumps and saggy parts is a good thing indeed. In our world, we are basically made to feel inadequate with the inevitable. This sucks. Because how can you fight that? How can you beat it? How can you emerge unscathed? How can you traipse through middle age and old age unaffected by the standards and scripts that the world has written for you when you're bombarded by it at every turn? I told someone the other day that it seems like a cruel joke indeed as we go through life, especially as women, that we spend our youth often not feeling attractive enough, and just when we start to feel ok in the skin we're in, age comes storming in and boom-- we're not good-looking enough again! When does it end?
It probably ends when we say "Fuck it" or "Enough" or "No more" to societal standards and expectations and begin to live our own scripts, not the ones that have been laid out in front of us forever. It probably ends when we can redefine beauty, and look at beauty from multiple perspectives, perspectives that can look at a highly wrinkled face with twinkling eyes and find pure beauty in that. It probably ends when we can go within and make peace with ourselves, explore the depths of our hearts and minds, and see the never-ending treasures inside of us. It probably ends when we realize with certainty that the inside is more important than the outside, that the outside is just a shell that houses the gifts within, and that that shell is beautiful and valuable no matter what age it is.
I know that is where I need to get to. I know that I need to redefine things and make my priorities reflect where I am at in my life, rather than where the script that is "out there" tells me I should be. I know that I need to take a deep breath and be less frantic about the whole aging thing. I know also though that underneath it all is an intense fear of aging and that I need to confront that probably in order to embrace the new me fully. But for starters, I think I'll just welcome that new woman in the tight jeans into my space instead of pushing her away all the time. I'll let all fifty-three years of her in the door, and we can sit and have some tea together.