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.
Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash
It was fun to read your thoughts on aging, particularly your speculations about your husband’s thoughts. Oddly, I still see my husband unchanged most of the time. Then, once in a while, I’m jolted into awareness that he IS actually aging in specific ways. I wonder if that’s what happens when we live with a much-loved person for a long time?
Well, hello from 10 years further along. Take heart – at a certain point, almost as though a bell tinkles or a cue is issued, you pass through a threshold that takes you from the getting there stage to the arrived to elderness. It’s a condition that seems to automatically give you certain perks. Expectations are severely lowered for one thing. You don’t have to fight it or over think it anymore. In fact, you get to embrace looking old and sometimes can use that to advantage.
Where I am now, having made peace with what the mirror reflects, “Mom, is that you?”, I can deal with the reality of aging, even those crevices around my lips that make it difficult to put my lipstick on properly. At this juncture, however, I am still somewhat dismayed by photos of me. In this digital everyone-has-a-camera-at-the-ready, plus the instantaneous sharing on social media, I confess, I have opportunities to grimace daily. I simply cannot get used to, nor can I reconcile the reality of the old woman in those still images. Perhaps that’s a good thing. It keeps me motivated to continue to groom myself . As best I can.
Nancy, you and I are the same age and have similar thoughts now that I’ve read your honest post. Thanks for speaking out the wrestling. I’m with you: remind yourself of the people in your life that truly matter and see that they love you for who you are regardless of how you look. Madison Avenue exists to make money by creating a sense of “less than”. I truly believe advertising has created more discontent for many while a few get rich from those suffering with ‘fomo’ (fear of missing out)
I love to remind myself of the gems that aging biblically can offer us: “a grey head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov16:31) Age should speak and increased years should teach wisdom. (Job 32:7)
Wrinkles come with age, gravity works so the wrestling with the bra is a thing, our bellies don’t hold the same shape as prior to child-bearing and our hair, skin, and nails are drier because of shifts in hormones. An entire industry exists to make money from trying to change reality. I wrestle with all of this too. But when I think biblically and thus rationally I see it for what it is: the temptation to believe lies about me. Let’s say NO!
Thanks for the post. I’m in my late 50’s. My body has changed so much in this decade. I’m working on that balance of caring about my appearance vs. obsessing over youthfulness. It’s not always easy. I loved this line , “There is a certain look that I want to avoid. It’s the look of not being who I am.”