Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Embracing My Age

Photo by brutapesquisa
Each morning, I wake up facing this choice: Do I fight to look younger, or do I just let Father Time have his way with me?

How much time do I really want to spend at the gym building muscle mass so that I can carry myself throughout the day?  How many products am I going to put on my face to clean, conceal and paint it so that my wrinkles disappear?  How often will I dye my hair in order to hide the gray?

How much will I contort my figure with foundation garments to hide my emerging Michelin Tire Man shape?  How much money will I spend on accessories and manicures to attract attention away from my skin and body and towards my ability to assemble a chic-looking outfit?

But maybe the choice isn’t really about foregrounding youthfulness and hiding signs of decay. Maybe my choice is really between celebrating myself instead of constructing an elaborate façade.

I wish for myself the ability to relinquish the ingénue to women a full generation or more younger than I.  Jung describes several archetypes for women, but the three primary ones are maiden, mother and crone.  Because I married in my mid-thirties, I inhabited all three for a brief time.  But at 50, it’s time for me to leave the maiden behind and to inhabit the beauty and joys of the crone, the wise woman.

Trying to paint a maidenly mask on my aging mind, body and spirit produces something awkward and tragi-comical.  I also think it’s very bad for one’s mental health. I wish that I could sit down with Demi Moore (who is my age) and invite her to consider the benefits of becoming a mature woman.

I love women who are comfortable in their aging skin, women who do not compete with much younger women for lustful stares, women who have perspective to offer younger people, woman who are focused on sharing their hard-won wisdom with the greater community, women who understand their weaknesses and know how to manage them in order to maximize their strengths.

I love mature women because the majority of them have been through tragedy and done more than survived; they have learned to flourish and to help others to flourish in the midst of hardships, too.  Why would I want to work so hard to look like my younger self, a person who was often too preoccupied with pleasing others at her own expense?

I’m not giving up and greeting the world with uncombed hair while wearing a potato sack.  It’s just that I’m happier if I try to channel the grace and beauty of a stylish fiftysomething rather than trying to promote an illusion of being 10 or more years younger than I really am.  I have “been there, done that,” and if I express that expertise to others, I find that many afford me respect.

I know that it’s difficult for me to take seriously a woman my age trying to dress like a twentysomething. I doubt her maturity and her self-awareness in other areas as well.  I always feel a little sorry for her, watching her trapped in a time machine that has transmogrified her into some oddity—neither in the past nor in the present.   

But I will start by saving myself from being trapped in time.  Maybe I’ll begin by burning a push-up bra as a peace offering to my emerging wise woman.


The Senior Discount: A Matter of Fashion
Daphne and Carmen: Octogenarian Supermodels
Raven Lunatic: My Worst Fashion Mistake
Aging Disgracefully


  1. Karen, I love this post. I am just a couple years behind you so this is very relevant to me. I particularly liked your reframing of crone as wise woman. :)

    1. All my best to you, Leslie, as an emerging crone! (I have car tags that say crone to be!)

  2. Thanks for reading, Leslie. I am conflicted. Some days I'm focused on creating an illusion of youth. Other days, I just try to present my best natural-age self. I feel better when I do the latter, and I think that I present a more "marrow of the bones" calm, confidence in contrast to the fluffy, skittish, behavior of (a badly constructed) forgery. My best to you as you negotiate this tricky time of life.

  3. i think that sometimes age is just a number. people might not have to act their age (in terms of young acting too young or old acting too old) because it's a construct (and excuses for acting too young or too old) but i think that people should act with maturity and grace, whatever age they are. And therefore a 50something probably won't be able to wear a 20something's clothes with maturity and grace. And it can be sad to see when they (any age) try to wear the clothes of (any age) that is overly young/old.

    1. I agree that age is a construct. All my best to all my readers for mature and graceful aging -- across the life span.

  4. There must be something about approaching/turning 50 that triggers these thoughts. I know for me it was about ceasing to mourn the unrealized dreams and to embrace the wonderful realities of my life. And one of those realities is that I am a middle-aged woman. Another reality is that I am happier now than I can ever remember being before. Embracing who we are/have become brings great peace.

  5. Funny, but at my age, I regard women of fifty as rather young! I am 79 and am just now embracing the fact that whatever I have been doing for many years has apparently worked, at least to bring me this far! I have never been a relaxed person, but I am beginning to be now. In fact, so relaxed I take a nap every day.
    I like this site and will be back to visit.

    1. Lois: Glad to hear things are going well for you. Thanks for stopping by the blog.