The Challenge of Aging Gracefully

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The Challenge of Aging Gracefully

“Mom, can I count your grey hairs?” my nine-year-old asked me the other day as he started to poke at my head. He eventually abandoned the task, deciding that there were too many.

Last week, I walked into my parents’ house and my mom declared, “Wow! I love your new haircut. It makes you look older!” Hmm . . . I know she meant well, but in my late thirties, is that really a compliment?

At Mass this morning, I found myself wistfully wishing that I could be the eighteen-year-old altar server. She is such an intelligent, kind young woman with many talents. Her whole future is ahead of her and she is heading to Harvard in a couple weeks. And, as if that foray into envy wasn’t bad enough (yes, I ALWAYS have to confess envy), I realized that not only am I not young with my future ahead of me, but also that I am old enough to be that young woman’s mother.

Needless to say, my quickly advancing age has been on my mind a lot lately.

Our chronological age is one of those things that we have no control over. Those of us blessed to live on this earth for a certain number of years eventually become middle-aged and then senior citizens. But while men seem to earn a certain respect and distinguished quality as they grey, we women are constantly told by the world that we only have value when we are, or at least look, young. Hence, the huge market for cosmetics, plastic surgery, and anything else that may promise to restore us to our youthful appearance.

One can either choose to embrace the changes and accept them as best as one can or one can choose to fight tooth and nail against the signs of age. I decided a long time ago that I would go grey naturally, and plastic surgery is most definitely not in my future. I do exercise and try to take care of myself, but the simple truth is that my body is aging, and will continue to do so. I need to make peace with the middle-aged woman in the mirror.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti tackled this topic in the July 2012 issue of Living magazine. She wrote,

Character. Age. Patina. Why do we value these qualities in our possessions but not in ourselves? . . . I am reluctant to accept the prevailing belief that beauty lies in subtraction, and that by erasing the passage of time from my face I will not only be smoother but happier. Wrinkles mean you’ve lived, and life is a privilege. . . Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could appreciate ourselves the way we do our furniture? If the beauty of a changing face was considered a shining testament to the added value of age.

I second that passage. I have no idea how to convince our youth-obsessed society that age is something to be embraced, rather than viewed as the enemy. But, maybe it starts with each one of us and how we view ourselves when we look at our reflection, and then continues with how we present ourselves to the world. We’ve had time to become comfortable in our skin and to be secure in the women we are.

Copyright 2012 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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