My hubby and I often struggle finding television that we BOTH want to watch. I tend toward the dark stories. He tends toward, well, musicals. It can be challenging.
However, Saturday night, we managed to find a movie on Netflix that we both wanted to see, starring none other than Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.
We we were about 20 minutes into a sweet story about an elderly couple finding love and companionship, when I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if Lindsay was enjoying it. He was wearing a face of grim resignation – not digging this film. When I asked him what it was that he didn’t like, he replied,
“I don’t want to see Robert Redford old.”
But I totally understood what he meant. Jane was spouting a long gray wig for this role and it didn’t suit her at all.
I guess I was feeling the same way Lindsay was feeling.
Why is it so hard to accept aging in our idols?
More importantly, why is it so hard to accept our own aging?
There are plenty of cliches about the subject. “Growing old isn’t for the squeamish,” comes to mind.
But living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry, aging is anything but cliche. How old I look determines, well, a lot. As an actress over 40, there are fewer opportunities – that’s a fact.
Even friends of mine who are in their 20s and 30s express concern. And some receive Botox injections on a regular basis.
I haven’t ever done Botox, but I’ve wondered about it. I’ve also thought about surgery – not now, but who knows how I’ll feel in five or ten years? (As Nora Ephron famously wrote, I hate my neck.)
So, I started thinking back to how I looked in my 20s and 30s. You know what? I wasn’t happy with how I looked then either. I have the journals to prove it, with plenty of entries that sound like a line from Bridget Jones’s Diary (“Today, I am determined to lose ten pounds.”)
When will I start accepting where I am, right now?
Well, how about, RIGHT NOW?
We are all going to grow old. To quote another cliche, “It’s better than the alternative.”
As I look to female role models of how to handle this aging thing, Frances McDormand comes to mind. The New York Times described her as “60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self-possession.”
Self-possession (and sexy). Yes. I aspire to that.
I also looked to one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and this passage:
“[T]he little Rabbit grew very old and shabby . . . he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”
Real. Yes. I aspire to that.
And finally, from Mary Ruefle‘s essay, Pause:
“If you are young and you are reading this, perhaps you will understand the gleam in the eye of any woman who is sixty, seventy, eight, or ninety: they cannot take you seriously (sorry) for you are just a girl to them, despite your babies and shoes and lovemaking and all of that. You are just a girl playing at life.
You are just a girl on the edge of a great forest. You should be frightened but instead you are eating a lovely meal, or you are cooking one, or you are running to the florist or you are opening a box of flowers that has just arrived at your door, and none of these things are done in the great spirit that they will later be done in.
You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.
Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known.”
Grace. Yes. I aspire to that.
Self-possession. Real. Grace. Three things that I will ask God to help me with.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to give up my night serum or my eye cream.
But, as Ms. Ruefle reminds me:
Pause. I haven’t even begun.
17 Responses to In Search of an Anti-Aging Formula
Nan, this is such a thought-provoking essay! I think it’s good that any 20-somethings who read this will probably feel sorry for those “old people who have to take comfort wherever they can find it,” because I suspect at that age WE wouldn’t have wanted to think of ourselves as lacking grace, self-possession and authenticity. But it’s nice to know enough now to appreciate ’em and value them whenever they pop up.
Laurie, yes. So true! Every age gives us a gifts. Here’s to more recognition of those gifts at every age.
Amen to that my dear cousin. You are amazing.
Thank you, Simone!
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of an old woman in the mirror, and it’s a bit shocking. The fear of being perceived as less than relevant, and even invisible, as an older woman is real. So I continue to use and peddle my age-defying serums. The blessing is to find contentment at whatever age we’re at, and though it sounds a bit contradictory, it’s possible to be content and try to look as youthful as possible! Here’s to grace and contentment!
Sue, contentment at any age is definitely the key. Here, here!
Nan, I LOVE THIS! As you probably know I am half French….and 2 years from 70. You are so right about sho biz and sho biz in America. Look at the lovely European actresses with wrinkles and a sadder but wiser behind the glint in their eyes. Ageing like fine wine and all of that has been said is a great analogy. I love Netflix stories about older adults who fall in love and have chosen to include that in their lives. I too saw the Redford/Fonda movie and did enjoy it….gorgeous Jane did not need that wig! Anyway I’m a huge fan of yours…33 Variations blew me away. You are gorgeous and have that je ne sais quoi that will always be appealing. Thank you for a seriously considered article. Blessings.
Blessings to you, Marla. And thank you for these thoughts. So true about European women – I wish we had more appreciation here. But maybe things are starting to change? I hope so. Here’s to lots more stories that focus on people over 40!
I’ll bet I’d be friends with whoever wrote that!
I liked it a lot!
Thank you, Lee!
Don Miguel Ruiz talks about doing a puja – an act of homage – to our bodies to accept them as they are with honor and reverence. Regularly. At every stage of our lives. I think I need to flip flop my self flagellating with the puja of your blog. Much loving respect.
Nicole, I love this idea. A great practice. Thank you for sharing it!
Nan, this was interesting to me. I am going to try to explain my thoughts
When I see myself in photos, in the mirror I often don’t recognize myself, not because I look Older but because I look so crabby. I think why that is not me.I have Masking from Parkinson,s. I thought wow is this how everyone sees me as a crabby tortured soul. When in reality I am a very happy person.So I tried to be more aware and smile more. I quickly grew tired of worrying about it and wondered if this affected how others related to me. I am sure it does when people first meet me after a bit it seems i transform into happpy,intelligent,attractive woman. I think my soul ,my being,or maybe just me seems to shine through.
I have found aging to be a thing of beauty. A piece of art that tells the story of me,my wrinkles badges of honor beauty scars of my life, I am glad my laugh lines sickout the most.
I seem to get happier, freer,more together as I age. I am sexier because I am more confident
Prettier because i’ve learned compassion, and smarter because i no longer care very much if you see only what is broken. because what i see is whole and happy at 62.
Wow this came from nowhere sorry I use night cream it feels so luxurious Thanks Nan Having a chronic debilitating disease does change how you see yourself and it is not all bad.
Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Very powerful. And a reminder not only about how we perceive ourselves, but our perception of others.
Thanks for your thought provoking piece Nan. Aging taps directly into our insecurities, exposing our innermost doubts about ourselves by peeling away at our youthful and appealing veneers. It does however like so many other challenging scenarios, offer an opportunity for discovery, pause as you so beautifully share here. As you know, having just returned from a memorable trip to Finland, I noticed that women there don’t often wear any makeup and yet they possessed an uncommon strength and beauty. I’m not necessarily promoting that but it shows how many of our concerns are based in perception. Inner beauty is what’s lasting and inspiring. What’s more, it never fades. It’s up to us in the final analysis to project our brand of beauty and that’s a beautiful choice to have.
Ana, you are spot on. It is up to us. It never fades! Wonderful wisdom. Thank you!
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