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Old is the New Young

As younger women we are taught to fear growing older and we conjure up what we don’t want instead of what we can accomplish later in life. The influence of the media and advertisements are a main reason why we feel this way.

For example, I just opened O Magazine and for the first 12 pages this is what I saw: Infuse Youth; younger looking skin in a flash; erase the look of lines, pores and wrinkles in seconds; age youthfully; time in a bottle – and my personal favorite – you’re only as young as your neck.

Theresa McGuire, a hairdresser in Marin County exemplifies what many women are experiencing. As she is cutting hair, she is peering at herself in the mirror. McGuire says she feels ugly and old as she continuously analyzes her face. Because of her fear of aging, she has had a number of cosmetic procedures done, costing thousands of dollars. She is one of the 15 million Americans that spent $11 billion on cosmetic surgery procedures last year.

So why do we try so hard? It is built securely in our culture that women are never supposed to feel good about their appearance, young or old. And it’s time to change the conversation…that’s why I am in the process of putting a film together called New Wrinkle.

It’s up to us to develop a new game plan. We are at a distinct moment in history when our sheer numbers give us unheard of power in which to change the conversation about aging.

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Ruth’s Spirit

The movie Harold and Maude came to mind when I was recently standing in a line at a Pharmacy.

There was an elderly woman who never stopped smiling, joking and sharing her spirit193308 with those around her.  I was instantly taken by her as she exhibited all the life-affirming qualities as Ruth Gordon in the 1971 cult classic Harold and Maude.

When we began talking I looked into her lucid and wide eyes full of curiosity and wonder about the world.  We started laughing together, and she said she liked to be silly…me too…both of us began acting like goof-balls.  It’s like we became kindred spirits in that moment and the age barrier had disappeared.  The 81 year old had the same soul and sprit as she did when she was a child.

I gave her a hug and we laughed all the way to our cars.  I wanted to take her home, but instead, I decided to write about her essence so that it can live on beyond my own limited experience.

As a culture we are apt to ignore those that have saggy, frail bodies…our eyes engage with those who have soft skin, flawless features, pretty teeth, full lips and a toned body.  But if we can train ourselves to look beyond the deep furrows and droopy skin, we see a whole inner array of beauty that extends time.

On a side note my grandmother’s name Is Ruth and she too was full of life and wonder until the end. This woman in the store was a reminder of her spirit and kindness.

A True Inspiration

imagesYou may have missed this article in the New York Times. I was so inspired when I read it that it propelled me to jump-start New Wrinkle. Here is an excerpt from actress Frances McDormand on becoming an older woman in our society:

I have not mutated myself in any way,” she said. “Joel (her husband) and I have this conversation a lot. He literally has to stop me physically from saying something to people — to friends who’ve had work. I’m so full of fear and rage about what they’ve done.”

Looking old, she said, should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.” The words tumbled out of her rapidly and bluntly. She had points she wanted to make and made them in an open, down-to-earth manner with an occasional edge to it, a bit of a prickle.

The actress learned at the start of her career not to care too much about appearances. “I was often told that I wasn’t a thing,” she said. “ ‘She’s not pretty enough, she’s not tall enough, she’s not thin enough, she’s not fat enough.’ I thought, ‘O.K., someday you’re going to be looking for someone not, not, not, not, and there I’ll be.”

How many girls and women have undergone the same kind of treatment? I know I did: too chubby, too thin, too short. These days it’s: Have you lost weight? You look young for your age. Unfortunately many women cling to these remarks and want to try even harder to resist the signs of aging. That’s because we feel we will no longer be valued by our culture.

But, like McDormand, we don’t have to take it – she is a testament to the fact that you can be a mature woman, thriving in a career, yet still be authentic and productive. It takes courage, and I for one thank this woman for speaking out about this issue as it impacts all girls and women in our society.

 

 

Free Consultation

A quick glance in the mirror isn’t what it used to be. The passing of years shows on my face, but my soul still emanates a peaceful sense of beauty and perfection that is timeless. This is when cruel reality takes its toll, and I feel compelled to head to the chic new spa that just opened around the corner.  I’ve seen the headlines in the marquee: come in for a free consultation and rejuvenate your spirit.

I enter the spa where a girl with a high-pitched voice and a smooth, fresh-face excitedly checks me in for my appointment.  She rushes me to the relaxation room where I watch a video that promises to lift a sagging brow.  Just then a young woman with a flawless, glossy complexion escorts me to my room. “My name is Emily, please tell me what you are looking for?”  As she gazes at my face, I don’t waste a second to tell her that I would like to rid my face of fine-lines, dark spots and blemishes…in short, all imperfections and signs of aging, please. She assures me this is possible.  An hour later, I walk out of my “free” consultation having spent $400.

This was no magician’s slight-of-hand trick; this was a carefully crafted marketing campaign.  And while I like to think I’m unique, I’m not unlike the millions of other women, whom on a daily basis, freely hand over their hard-earned cash, all because of an innocent look in the mirror.

A New Currency

On most days, when I’m feeling good, I don’t want to waste time, not a second squandered on anything that doesn’t feed my soul.  On others, I do waste precious time and energy wishing things were different — if only I could go back in time.  Letting go of youth is hard to do in our culture.

It all starts with how we treat ourselves on a daily basis.  How many times during the course of a day do you find yourself saying mean things to yourself about your appearance?  It may seem innocent: “I look fat in these jeans,” “my skin looks saggy,” “I have a new wrinkle,” “my arms look like wobbly jelly.”  But when we say these debasing remarks to ourselves, we feel a constant unease and don’t know why.

It’s no wonder we are so hard on ourselves. Modern reality tells us not to age, that good looks are our currency, our power and what makes us vital in today’s world. We hear how we should be very afraid to lose our youthful appearance by thousands of images and words broadcast, printed, tweeted, portrayed in movies, featured in magazines and blogs, bombarded to us dozens of times a day.  We ingest these messages and the battle of time is waged secretly within our own minds and in isolation. We begin to buy into an anxiety-producing culture imperative to look younger than we truly are.

As we age many of us face a paradox: we want to radiate beauty and be admired, yet we long be ourselves and free from the opinion and judgement of others.  No one wants to look frumpy, but what about looking and feeling the best we can at the age we are at rather than panicking and fearing the years ahead?  What if we buy into a new currency: accepting ourselves, helping others, making the world a better place and developing interests that we have denied ourselves for far too long?

If all our energy is invested in wishing we looked younger, we lose our creativity and opportunity in the moment; we repeat the patterns of the past and cling to ego and the insatiable need for validation from the outside.

Sharing our Fears

So many women in our culture feel a bit panicked when they reach middle age.  Of course biology is part of the equation, but so too are the messages of our society.  For example, older workers have a harder time getting a job or finding love.  We might feel good about our talents, skills and experience yet there’s this nagging feeling that we’re losing our value and becoming invisible.  This is a scary and painful time for many mid-lifers.  It’s especially daunting when we sit with these thoughts in isolation.

That’s what inspired me to connect with other women, to hear their thoughts and concerns about growing older.  My purpose is to create a dialogue around this issue so we know we are not alone.

Let’s hear from Michelle Schmidt Nirenstein who has mixed feelings about being an older woman seeking employment.  I would also love to hear your story so we can support and inspire each other as a community.

Barbie Doll Obsession

I’m guilty of watching one of those dreaded reality TV shows.  I guess It’s a morbid fascination I have when fabulous guy meets really cool, smart interesting girl.  Ok, if you haven’t figured it out…it’s the Bachelorette. Only this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Emily Maynard is a 26 year old southern belle who says “awesome” one too many times.  I’ve watched the whole season and I’m still not sure if she has any interests (besides wanting more children), talents, skills or education.  I remember playing with Barbie dolls when I was a girl. One doll I called Scarlett would be wined, dined and and admired by all.  All she had to do was wear a stunning outfit with accessories and shoes to match, do a little twirl, smile, and her whole life was perfection. Emily is a walking, talking live version of Scarlett. She is sweet — flawless in her features and has a body that women envy and men want to marry.

The reason I bring this up is not to pick on a pretty girl with no talent, but rather to point out that other young girls and women are watching this show and getting the idea that she is loved only for her beauty.  I realize she is on network TV and beauty sells, but why not pick a woman who has more going on than just her looks?  Why does she have to be so outwardly perfect? Just like the magazines where models are air-brushed and PhotoShopped, Emily’s image is also manufactured.

Despite her young age, she gets regular injections of Botox and fillers. In addition, she got a nose and boob job before the start of the show.  And that winning smile came at a hefty price with veneers at $4,000 a tooth.

Is this the person we want our young women to identify with?  If so, they are in for a bottomless pit of discontent.  None of us are perfect, not even Emily.  And if they attach much of their value to their outward appearance, they will be in for a big crisis as they age.  Since Americans are living longer lives, It’s best our youth understand this and develop their passions, talents, skills, interests and intellect.  In other words, the more they investment in their soul now, the more joy and fulfillment they will have when the wrinkles kick in.

Food for Thought

I was sitting in the lobby of my tax attorney today reading a Newsweek magazine when a certain article caught my attention: All I Want for Christmas is a Brand-New Face (guess their subscription ran out last December).  Anyway, it described how Americans were scrimping and saving except for cosmetic surgery.  Here’s a couple statistics: between 2009 and 2010, Americans spent 3.8 percent less on food yet 8.1 percent more on eyelid surgery, and a whopping 24.4 percent more on butt lifts.  All of this while the average American income fell because of the failing economy.

So what does it mean when a segment of society says it would rather have a nice ass than a good meal?  I think it’s a sign we need to take a serious look at the extreme emphasis we put on our craving for outward acceptance. What is it that we really want?  We all want love and acceptance and as psychologist Tamara McClintock-Greenberg explains it comes from within.

A woman of Incredible Power

Marie Colvin

A few years back I went on a date with a man who told me that “women lose their power as they age.”  I’ll come back to his statement shortly, but first a story about a true woman of courage.

I never knew journalist Marie Colvin existed until yesterday when she burst on the scene in Syria with her reports of the extreme violence being inflicted on the innocent men, women and children in the city of Homs.  I was on the treadmill at the gym counting my calories when she popped up on the TV, thousands of miles away in the midst of untold human suffering and misery.  She reported on a little boy who died in front of her.  That image alone spoke volumes about the horror unfolding in that region.

This morning I read that Colvin was killed after coming under heavy fire at the house she and her photographer were reporting from. It had been less than 24 hours since I first saw Colvin on TV, but this fearless woman had made a huge impact on me.  I discovered she had been covering wars for 20 years. In one of the conflicts shrapnel blew out her eye, but she kept on reporting with a black patch over her wound. Last week she arranged to be smuggled into Syria where she climbed over walls in the dark and slipped into muddy trenches. As her car was being pelted with machine gun power, she managed to sneak her way into the neighborhood where she could see first hand what was happening and report it to the world.  While there for only a short time, Colvin’s powerful reporting sent a message to the international community that the people in Homs need help.

This incredibly courageous woman was 56.  Which brings me back to my date who said, “women lose their power as they age.”  Fortunately, Colvin didn’t buy into that philosophy.  And because of that, the world is a better place.

Look Your Age

Lately I’ve been getting the comment, “you look great for your age.”  Now, I know that’s supposed to be a compliment, but it makes me sad.  What is so bad about looking like an older woman?  I love what Jamie Lee Curtis said when an interviewer asked her why she didn’t touch-up her photo on the front cover of a popular magazine.  She said that she’s not ashamed of being 50 so there’s no reason to make it look like she’s 20.  That simple act of courage made a huge impression on me and made me feel less fearful of growing older.  Counter that with this statistic: Three minutes of looking at a fashion magazine makes 70 percent of all women feel depressed, guilty and shameful.

As we all know, the advertising and beauty industry have billions of dollars vested in our feeling bad about ourselves.  Best selling author and lecturer Marianne Williamson says, “Society programs us, through the subliminal messages of popular culture, to believe we’re not truly desirable as women unless we adhere to the current standards of physical beauty.

Instead of giving into this view, how about we limit our exposure to mainstream media and listen to inspiring messages from women in their middle years…people like media and film critic Jan Wahl.

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