It’s shortly after my 40th birthday, I’m enjoying some well-deserved time off with my family, and it’s shaping up to be one of the loveliest days I’ve had in a long time. We’d spent the day out in the water, and everyone was still lounging around in their swimwear by the time dinner rolled around.
The conversation eventually turned to fitness. After years of yo-yo diets, watching what I ate, and berating myself with all types of internal verbal abuse, I was finally in a healthy space — mentally and physically. My bikini was hot and my skin felt amazing. To celebrate and acknowledge that, I happily shared how I was feeling with my family: “I’m in the best shape of my life.”
The moment was broken by a mere ten words.
“That’s not true,” my brother scoffed. “I saw the cellulite on your legs.”
My face got reddened immediately. My stomach dropped, and I was rushed to my death. The shock was overwhelming. I was then embarrassed. He was furious. He was furious and immediately apologized to his wife for making this insensitive, rude, and backward comment.
While I was angry, I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that my sister-in law had been arguing for me. Bad that everyone in my family had heard my brother’s comment. This was unacceptable to my children.
My first instinct was to brush it off and manage everyone’s emotions so we could still salvage the evening. Susan would not have made it this far 15 years ago. Susan, 40 years old? Susan, 40 years old, was sick of carrying the incontinental workload of women.
My brother was silent. “Yeah, I’m celluLIT,” I responded before telling him that cellulite has zero to do with my fitness level or whether I deserve To feel happy about myself. I’d been fighting body image issues for years, and my insecurities with aging were nothing new to me, but I was going to be damned if I let my kids grow up thinking that having cellulite or wrinkles was bad.
As a child, my concern about ageing was not something I had to worry about. My mother would stand before a mirror and nag at herself, noting how her skin was sagging. I’d tell her she was beautiful.
“You won’t understand until it happens to you,” she would say. Oh, she was so right.
After turning 38, I began to notice the signs of perimenopause. I was forced to change my entire lifestyle. How I ate, and how I drink. And then, all of a sudden, I noticed changes in my body. My skin sagging where it didn’t use to sag. Wrinkles appearing and deepening where they didn’t use to be.
Bye soft, silky hair and strong bonesAs I stared in the mirror, thinking bitterly, I flashed back at the times my mother did the exact same thing.
But it wasn’t just my mother who hammered in these insecurities. There’s a $58.5 billion anti-aging industry that’s making bank off these thoughts.
You don’t want to be oldEvery anti-aging product should be able to say this. As me, you desire to look wrinkle-freeEvery model picture with an airbrush is a statement of this. Desirable is what you wantSay it, society.
Last year, a meme comparing Jennifer Lopez and Rue McClanahan from ”Golden Girls” It went viral. Rue, both 50 years old, wore an older-fashioned mother’s look while J-Lo wore a sequin and sheer costume. They were hanging from a Super Bowl pole.
I felt angry when I saw that meme. I was angry that instead of focusing on something more tangible, we chose to praise women for being able to look younger. Anger that women continue to be pitted against one another over something so natural and unpredictable as aging.
“I am no longer happy in spite of my aging body. I am thrilled to see my body evolve — just as it’s supposed to.”
At the age of 38, my comfort zone was to focus on gracefully aging. I’ll be different. I won’t worry over my changing looks, I’ll embrace them and wear them with grace.The aging process was happening regardless of how gracefully it may seem. As my mother did before me, I found myself still examining my insecurities in the mirror.
The media spent all my life telling me that I was incorrect about aging. Society erases women after a certain age. Because actresses are airbrushed and Botox-ed while actors are called “mature” and ”stately” with their wrinkles. It is because there isn’t enough space for an elderly woman to be shown in a positive light.
You can take my age away, and you will still find me a successful entrepreneur. A lively, vibrant person. A friend. A friend. Partner.
These insecurities threatened to overwhelm me so I was mindful of them. This was the BS I had been fed about aging. It wasn’t the truth.
It was time to take a look at the content I had been consuming online. I started curating it with positive, not negative, content. And as the male gaze began to shift off of me, I found it liberating to no longer be subject to society’s expectation of desirability or be boiled down to my reproductive value. This liberation gave me a renewed sense of self-reliance.
My youth was being stolen by worrying about the aging process. It was costing me time, money and confidence, as well as my energy. My cellulite, stretch marks, and cellulite should not be hidden. What about my wrinkles and sagging skin? My entire life has been shaped by my body. The way my body looks today is all my responsibility.
Choosing to accept aging for what it is — a natural part of life — is one of the most empowering things we can do as women. My refusal to accept societal expectations made me bolder, louder, and more proud. Sitting in silence is not an option. Clapping instead! Stand up for my beliefs and not make excuses.
Since my conscious rejection of the aging industry has begun, I feel less ageist. No longer am I happyDespite I am proud of my ageing body. I am thrilled to see my body evolve — just as it’s supposed to.
There are still moments when I feel insecure. Sometimes I feel like staring at the mirror a bit too much. Yet, I refuse to judge myself and extend compassion to all. It is important to remember who I am, what my life has been like, and how I can still learn and grow.