Aging can be difficult, even for the most hardy. Our hair follicles die, our bodies ache, and our skin sags. A few weeks ago I went to a concert and had to stand for five hours and my feet still hurt (and so does my left hip). And recently I've noticed I have to be very careful with my chin placement, especially in photos (it's either that or demand Photoshop rights from all of my friends and family), because if I don't, my once proud chin collapses into a series of smaller, less proud "chins," sliding right into my neck.
Aging can be difficult for everyone, but I think it's particularly difficult for women. Of course, many middle-aged men struggle with aging as well, but I do think middle-aged women have it worse. Maybe I believe this because I'm a woman, but I really do believe this.
Women experience more pressure to remain youthful, both in physical appearance and spirit. We may be well into the newest millennium, but men still have the advantage of more vocational opportunities, greater personal freedoms, fewer social stigmas, more mentoring opportunities, and more social outlets than women.
Society dictates that women are pretty much washed up by the time they're 50, and if we have the "misfortune" of being single, well then, forget it. In fact, a 1986 Newsweek article entitled "The Marriage Crunch" coined a phrase that may forever be cemented in the minds of anxious middle-aged single women everywhere, when it satirically sounded the dire warning that a never-married, college-educated woman over 40 was more likely to be "killed by a terrorist" than get married.
I have always worn masks. I didn't know I wore masks, but I did. I wore masks to protect myself, and to project images that I believed were more acceptable than the real me. I wore these masks so automatically, that I wasn't always aware of their existence. Although I've willingly worn multiple masks throughout my life and have worked diligently to keep them all in place, at some point I began to question their necessity. This questioning peaked when I reached middle age and began to experience a growing sense of discontentment. When I turned 50 I began to yearn for more honesty, more boldness, and more courage. I yearned to be more visible, more relevant, and more cohesive. I yearned to be more authentic and more transparent. I yearned to wear fewer masks. In fact, I yearned to wear no masks at all.
The concept of living a life of greater authenticity and transparency isn't new. Just Google "authenticity" and you'll get more than four million hits. Everybody's talking about living more authentic and transparent lives these days. In fact, just the other day I saw a status on Facebook stating something about how we should strip away our pretenses and be more honest about our past mistakes, because our strengths are born out of the ashes. I liked it, along with about 20,000 other people. So yes, living a more authentic and transparent life is all the rage.
But if we're all so convinced that it's important to live more authentic lives, and to be more transparent about our mistakes, our uncertainties, and our insecurities, then why are most of us investing so much time and effort into desperately holding onto our masks of perfection, conviction and confidence?
I've noticed that a side effect of dating in midlife, particularly post-kids, far too often involves shining a flashlight on all of my perceived personality deficits and physical flaws. When I'm not dating or in a relationship I tend to be just fine with the fact that I'm not a big party person, that I have no legitimate hobbies, that I'm not very outdoorsy (my favorite outdoor activity is coming back inside), that I've never run a marathon, or that my chin is too small. Yet get me out on a first or second date, and suddenly I find myself fretting about every little shortcoming. I really should socialize more, read more, paint more, hike more, ski more, run more, bungee jump more, and really, how much could a chin implant cost?
I'm not sure why, but for some reason dating seems to evoke feelings I thought I'd parted ways with in middle school; that in some indiscernible way, I just don't measure up, I'm less than, I'm "other than."
Last year when I first started online dating with the serious intention of snagging a boyfriend, I had a series of really great first dates, but no second ones. I found this rather unsettling and wondered whether there was something perhaps undesirable about me that was causing this trend. This was before I developed my "online dating/car shopping" comparison theory, where online dating can create a disincentive to settling down with one person, since there's always a newer, shinier model rolling onto the lot. So I called a good friend, whom I've known since high school, and who knows me better than almost anyone else in the world, and asked for her opinion. "Tell me the truth, it is me? Maybe it's me. What's wrong with me? I think it must be me. Is it me?" She assured me that it was most certainly not me, and that she'd had similar experiences with online dating.
Why does dating seem to elicit these middle-school-spawned feelings of being different, less than, or "other than," where unreasonable self-scrutiny so quickly evolves into the slippery slope of thinking if I just had, were, could, was, wasn't...then life would be just grand?
I love yoga. Actually, I don't just love yoga, I love, love, love yoga. I love yoga culture. I love yoga inspirational sayings. I love yoga clothing.
I love the concept of mindfulness living that often accompanies the yoga practice, with its emphasis on connecting mind, body and soul. We live in a world that encourages compartmentalization, so I appreciate pondering the concept of greater interconnectedness.
I love waking up in the morning and going online and reading all of the yoga-inspired quotes posted on my Facebook timeline from yogis around the world -- each sharing ways that I can unblock my Chakras and live a more balanced life.
I love my beautiful mint green Lululemon yoga mat. Sure, I had to choose between paying my son's college tuition and buying this mat, but when I see it all rolled up and majestically leaning into the corner of my bedroom, gently reflecting the soft light streaming in from my window, I know I made the right choice.
I love the yoga body. Strong, long, lean and healthy. I love the yoga diet. Clean and organic, with no gimmicks.
About 18 years ago when my son was just two years old I went out for a wonderful dinner with my father. That may not seem like something worth writing about, but it was my first dinner out without my son since he was born, and so for that reason alone, it was a really big deal.
I had spent the last two years covered in baby food, baby spit, baby vomit, baby excrement, and well, just about every kind of goo associated with babyhood. And despite loving being a mom, I spent most of my time feeling tired, dirty, fat(ish), slug(ish), and was just plain wiped out. Mostly, I didn't feel like myself, and I was yearning to feel whole again, to feel attractive, to feel like me. Since I was a single mom I had no one to remind me that I was still a human being under all those layers of goo. So my father, no doubt having pity on me, offered to take me out to dinner, without my son in tow, and I joyously and graciously accepted.
He even offered to watch my son while I showered! I couldn't remember the last time I'd showered alone, and actually could take the time to blow dry my hair (the back as well as the front), and put on makeup. I then did the unimaginable and dressed in real grown-up clothes - not one stitch of Spandex adorned by body.
Welcome to my Blog!
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer masks and a lot more fun.