Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gracefully Aging

My daughter told me recently that I am a part of the "gracefully aging" club. She intended this as a compliment.

It came about when I was helping her choose an outfit to wear to junior high school. Because we werein the midst of spring, I suggested that she put a cardigan sweater over her t-shirt. "Mom," she sighed. "No one wears cardigans in my school. Except, maybe, the old teachers."

"What? They're so cute! I wear cardigans," I insisted.

"Well...they look good on you," she said, back-peddling quickly.

"But aren't they only worn by older teachers?" I pushed. Ever the diplomat, my beautiful and much younger offspring replied, "Yes, mom. But you look great. You're part of the gracefully aging club."


I am in my mid-forties. Actually, later mid-forties. I am only three short years away from the dreaded AARP application arriving in the mail. There are things I would want to wear that are definitely too young for me.

It is true. I'm aging. We all are.

"There is a new sense of beauty
in your 40s and 50s and beyond."

As a middle aged adult, I understand now the conflicted feelings women have about growing older. I know that we don't want to stay young forever. I'm glad I'm past the awkward years of acne and angst. But I also understand now a comment my mom once made when she said she felt like she'd slipped too quickly from feeling awkward to  being older. Why can't we stay perfectly in the middle?

Actress Demi Moore made news earlier this year when she collapsed unconscious in a state of physical depletion. The 50-something actress is known for looking like she never ages at all - and apparently avoiding growing older is one of her main goals. Her second husband, Ashton Kutcher, was much younger than her. She reportedly drinks Red Bull and eats next to nothing in an attempt to maintain her youthful figure. And, the efforts are killing her. Friends are concerned that in Demi's efforts to avoid growing older, she might be killing herself.

I don't want to be young forever, but I wouldn't mind aging gracefully.

A few of my favorite actresses qualify in that category: Audrey Hepburn, Dianne Keaton, Meryl Streep. My mom is another. She has always seemed younger than her actual age, and has always looked beautiful to me.

These are women who weren't afraid to change. Their bodies and faces no longer looked like they did in their teens and twenties. But, rather than strain to falsely replicate what they had, they retained their beauty and actually took on the years with grace and dignity.

There is a new sense of beauty in your 40s and 50s and beyond. It might be wider at the hips. It may be sprinkled with gray. But it can also be more confident and less self aware. There are fewer people to judge you and more of life to enjoy.

You can wear a cardigan or flared (not skinny) jeans or a one-piece bathing suit or lower-heeled sandals because you want to and because they make you feel great - not because Seventeen magazine declare it to be the new fall trend or because you desperately want to fit in.

You can chop your hair short or quit dying it to cover the grays. You can realize that your weight may no longer be what it once was. You can enjoy a good walk at an easy pace and a cafe au lait (yes, please, to the cream).

What did the poet Robert Browning say so well?

"Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be."

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