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Sep 6

You look good … for your age

Posted on Monday, September 6, 2010 in Aging, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Relationships, Self image

Mia had a goofy little smile on her face when we met for coffee before work the other morning.

“What’s with you?”

“Nothing, why?”

“Did Rex rock your sexy little world last night? You look pretty damn pleased with yourself.”

“Oh, ha! No, this guy in my yoga class was shocked when he found out how old I am. He told me I look 10 years younger.”

“Well, you do. Yeah, when I told a gal how old
I was the other day, she said I looked great for
my age.”     

“Ugh, I hate that ‘for your age’ thing. It’s like such
a backhanded compliment.”

“Me, too. What exactly does my age look like?

Do you know?

“For your age” is not something you hear when you’re in your 20s and 30s, the decades of youth and assumed beauty, although, honestly, I’ve seen a lot of not so-attractive 20- and 30-somethings.

Then, at some point around your 40s, you enter
that particular subset of beauty — the  “for your
age” subset.

I suppose it’s a compliment, but again — what is
a middle-aged woman “supposed” to look like?
Damned if I know, but I’m certainly not going to
turn to the world at large to help me figure it out.

Some women my age are wearing Lane Bryant
size 18s. They’re overweight and under-exercised, and they’ve let themselves go. Compared with them, you bet I look great! Is that what my age is “supposed” to look like? No thank you!

And then there are the women my age who’ve
turned themselves into living Barbie dolls, adding or subtracting body parts like Mrs. Potato Head, injecting chemicals and fillers to smooth, boost and erase, re-creating themselves into what they want to look like and not who they really are. Is that what my age is “supposed” to look like? God, I hope not!

OK, sure — there are many people who think those women look a lot better than I do. Maybe they do. But beyond my minor beauty sleights-of-hand — highlighting my hair (which is not permanent, BTW), a little lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara and keeping the aging wolves at bay by moisturizing like hell — I’m just not interested in putting my body through that.

And, I don’t think it even think it looks good. It looks fake.

I don’t have some secret-to-youth beauty routine. I don’t do anything extraordinary, certainly not anything expensive. In fact, I’m pretty shocked — and very, very thankful — that all those years of my “youthful indiscretions” and of blowing off my mom’s warnings about sunscreen and moisturizer before I got with the program didn’t damage me for good.

Perhaps my “looking great” is genetic. Maybe, I should thank my mom and dad although I didn’t think like that when I was younger.

I was part of the “hope I die before I get old” generation, so I used to look at my parents and think, “You’re just so old!” There was nothing about them that looked or acted youthful.

Yet when I looked through an album of family photos recently, I was blown away by one of my mom taken when she was around my age, maybe a few years younger. Her lips were lush and red, her tight shirt displayed her ample bosom and tiny waist, her face was vibrant and sexy. My mom was a babe! A middle-aged hottie. How could I not have seen that when I was younger?

I guess our vision of what middle age looks like is still being guided by our impressions from when we were young and flawless. We saw wrinkles, saggy arms, veiny legs. And, you know, most of us do start looking like that when we’re “old” old — although who knows if people in their 70s and 80s see it that way. I’ll let you know when I get there.

So, I’m neither flattered nor upset when people tell me that I look great “for my age,” whether they mean it sincerely or whether it’s a backhanded way to point out that I’m old … or at least older than they are. Instead, I just thank them.

Inside, though, I may snicker.

All that really matters is that when I look in the mirror, I honestly can say that, yeah, I’m looking pretty good. I care enough about myself to care for myself; how can I expect anyone else to care about me if I don’t do it myself? And, really, that attitude looks good at any age.

  • How do you decide if someone looks good, or do you judge it by his/her age?
  • Is it a compliment if someone tells you that, or …?
  • What’s your beauty “secret”?

Photo © Angelika Bentin – Fotolia.com

Sep 2

To forgive is divine … maybe

Posted on Thursday, September 2, 2010 in Divorce, Happiness, Kat, Relationships, Self image

I have been thinking about forgiveness.

In part because we just passed International Forgiveness Day (did you know that even existed, or is that an “Only in Marin” kinda thing?) and because of a posting by Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy that elicited some comments (including by yours truly).

You can read it for yourself (and you should), but I was taken by something Big Little Wolf (whom I respect a lot) said:

“forgiveness is possible if you’re talking about someone who is dead, or long gone, or who ceases to threaten or hurt. When you find yourself still in the heat of it after years, it isn’t about forgiveness. It’s about protecting your children from the source of the ongoing manipulation and harmful acts. It’s about survival. These aren’t past actions we’re talking about. This is the present for some of us. A present that lasts for many years, and with no end in sight.”

When I brought up the concept of forgiveness,  Mindy Single Mom added this:

“being told things along the lines of “forgiveness will set you free” seems condescending. … Forgiving and thinking positive is not a solution under these circumstances but finding a way to end it would be, and that starts by discussing it and gaining some understanding of the problem.”

Sure; a lot of people have a lot of things much worse than I have — or have ever had — in my life. And, yes, speaking the truth — and fighting for it — is essential.

Focusing just on forgiveness, I wonder if that is so, that we can only forgive someone who
harms us if the harming is in the past, not a constant present. And if forgiveness is indeed condescending. I wonder if forgiveness is
one of those situational things; you know, you’re anti-abortion and then your teenaged daughter gets knocked up by a rapist,
you’re anti-death penalty and then your fiance gets murdered.

I tend to think it’s not.

If you read the stories of some of the “heroes” of International Forgiveness Day,” it does make you pause.

I know what the Bible says about forgiveness, but without getting all religious on you (which I’m not; hey, I’m from NorCal, so I’m “spiritual, not religious”), everything I know about forgiveness is to set the person being hurt free from having to carry the burden of anger against those harming him or her.

What I understand about forgiveness is that:

  • Forgiveness doesn’t excuse anyone.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re ignoring or denying anything.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior as “right.”
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re giving someone a “buy” or that he/she’s “off the hook.”
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we can use it as a weapon, hanging bad behavior over someone’s head forever.

No — forgiveness means that we are stop thinking of ourselves as a “victim” (even if things totally suck) and start taking control of our emotions and choosing to start the healing on our own. Because, you know, ain’t no one else who’s going to do it for for us … and no one else can.

Not that this is a reason to feel forgiveness, but nothing pisses someone off more than when you don’t allow yourself to react to his/her bad shit.

If we don’t buy into the hurt that people want to hurl at us, well, what recourse do they have?

Exactly.

The only one who suffers is the one doing the hurting.

And, maybe, that person will find compassion … and stop.

I think of Leonard Cohen’s words:

Like a bird on the wire
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free …
If I, if I have been unkind
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

  • Is forgiveness only for events that have happened in the past?
  • Have you struggled with forgiveness?
  • Do you only forgive when someone asks to be forgiven?
  • Have you asked for forgiveness, and not gotten it?

Photo © Lars Lachmann — Fotolia.com.