by Nancy Guenther
If I had unlimited funds, how hard would I fight the aging process, and at what age would I stop fighting? I sometimes think about this when I am looking in the mirror or hoisting on a brassiere. There are things I could do if I wished. I am only sixty-one. There is probably still time for an expensive wrinkle cream to lessen some lines, and I’ve read about wondrous procedures that tighten a sagging jawline without surgery. But is it moral to spend money on such things when there is so much need in the world?
I wonder if it’s wrong or unhealthy to even ponder this question. I admit that I feel selfish and shallow when I do. People are starving for goodness sakes! Most of the world couldn’t care less about fuller lips and a smoother neck. But this is the culture in which I’m living, and it’s the one where the media tells me that toned, tan, and taught reign supreme. If I have money in the budget to spend on my looks, how do I decide where to draw the lines between health and obsession, between vanity and the celebration of self?
In twenty years, Lord willing, I’ll be eighty-one. At that point, the time for action on the appearance front might be over. Not that I’ll stop showering or combing whatever hair is left, but do I really want to look like an old lady trying to look younger? There is a certain look that I want to avoid. It’s the look of not being who I am. I may want to look like a better me, but I still want to look like me, and that has to include the years that have passed.
So what does it take for me to feel good about how I look right now? Do I need to feel great about how I look or can I accept feeling just OK about my appearance? I don’t have unlimited funds, but there are simple things I have chosen to do to create a look that I can be at peace with. At this point, I am going with a good haircut and some moisturizer. A soft blusher may be around the corner, and tinted lip balm has made the occasional appearance. I wear colors that seem to suit me. Trying to eat well and to be reasonably active make me feel better, and I believe that feeling better and looking better go hand in hand.
It keeps me grounded to remember that my kids love me no matter how I look. Not a single friend has threatened to leave if another wrinkle appears on my face.
My husband hasn’t said a word about my changing looks, which in a way is nice, but sometimes I wonder whether he’s thinking, “Wow! She’s still got it!” or “Sad what’s happened here.” I think I’m afraid to ask. But here’s the thing: I can’t stop aging, so what others think is really irrelevant.
I’d like to be more focused on what I can give and do and who I am on the inside, but I’m not totally there yet. I could cover all of my mirrors, but that has its limitations. It helps me to consider how I view my friends: I don’t care about their looks at all! It helps me to focus on the limitations of any anti-aging measures: I will still look older with each passing day. It helps me to focus on those whom I can help: They don’t need me to look a particular way. And it helps me to think about what I am communicating to my daughters: I want them to be able to age with perhaps a bit more peace and less angst than their mother.
Nancy Guenther is a wife, an entrepreneur and a mom to three wonderful young adults. She and her husband are currently in the process of downsizing to a Chicago suburb as they head into empty-nesthood. Nancy owns an online business called RosesAndTeacups.com.