I’m just going to come right out and say it.
The other day, before I hopped in the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. And while I’m not in the business of picking apart my body and using it as a weapon against myself, I’ll certainly say that things are not what they used to be. And by things, I mean – mostly – the region between my shoulders and my waist.
The state of things there – which I blame my children for – well, they’ve seen better days.
This shocking realization led to further inspection. Wrinkle lines which were not there a year ago. Cellulite on my thighs. Facial skin patchy and dry. And God have mercy, white hairs growing from my chin. I counted – and urgently plucked out – four.
It got me to thinking about ageing, for those ten minutes I stood under the hot water, and truth be told, I decided I wasn’t a fan of it. It wasn’t about the wrinkles and the sagginess — about losing my youthful body. Okay, maybe it was just a little. Mostly though, it was simply about getting old. It was about losing this phase of my life I love so incredibly much. I love having little people at my feet. I love the life within the walls of our home. I love that my body is able to grow tiny babies and produce food to feed their little just-born tummies. I love that my body effortlessly gives me the energy I need to live well and be strong and fit and disease-free.
When I got out of the shower, I decided that it quite simply had to be my mission in life to discover something which would freeze time, to keep me here, right where I was.
And then, like these things always have a way of doing, something crossed my path at just the right time. A short essay by former US 60 Minutes commentator and all round sage, Andy Rooney, flashed across my computer screen and given its title, I couldn’t not read it.
“The Wit & Wisdom of Women Over Forty” – by Andy Rooney
As I grow in age, I value women who are over forty most of all. Here are just a few reasons why: A woman over forty will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.
If a woman over forty doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.
A woman over forty knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of forty give a hoot what you might think about her or what she’s doing.
Women over forty are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.
Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.
A woman over forty has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over forty couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over forty. They always know.
A woman over forty looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over forty is far sexier than her younger counterpart.
Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise women over forty for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of forty-plus, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some twenty-two-year-old waitress.
Ladies, I apologize.
For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,” here’s an update for you. Now 80 percent of women are against marriage, why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig, just to get a little sausage.”
I read it three times I loved it that much. And the strangest thing was, it made me excited to age. Not that I was in a rush or anything, (Universe: I am not in a rush). It’s just that I realized to grow old well, with conviction and the right amount of wickedness, was inspiring. I suddenly didn’t dread losing my littlies to adulthood, because I saw that each phase your children enter has its own irreplaceable goodness – goodness I don’t even know about yet. I suddenly longed to be that bit more self-assured and dignified and forthright and comfortable. I suddenly reevaluated my perspective on what it meant to be beautiful. I thought about the women I believe are most beautiful, and more than that, I remembered why.
Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Endora. From Bewitched.
Within them lies a cool, centred confidence. A wisdom, like they know secrets I want to discover. A face with every line telling a wicked story I want to hear. Composed, but not from insecurity or continual self-checking, but from something they know which the rest of us don’t. Women I find the most beautiful swish when they strut. They wear wildly exotic perfume. They sizzle with inner strength. They cry and love freely. They’ve been there, done that, fallen down and gotten up again, and as they tell you these stories, they laugh. They have learned it’s best never to take one’s self too seriously. They allow us to lose ourselves in the fantasy and the power of a lived life.
I didn’t want Darren and the suburbs. I wanted wherever Endora was going — her with her knuckle-size jewels and her voice as silky as pearls.
And so, I will continue to use these women as a benchmark to age towards. To care less what others think. To measure my beauty not by the mirror in my bathroom but by the way I cry when I hear a sad story. To live fully inside the stories of my life, gathering them like the rings on Endora’s fingers. To apologize less and assert myself more. To face the rapid changes of my children’s’ lives with grace and a letting-go attitude. And most importantly, to wear wildly exotic perfume and long silk skirts, only to fling them off and swim naked in the ocean, because beauty always encompasses a little bit of wickedness.