Monday, April 29, 2013

Aging (not so) Gracefully

Have you seen this video?

If you haven't, please take a few minutes to watch it. It's worth it. :)

Like a lot of woman (at least, as the Dove video implies), I tend to focus on my flaws. I don't consider myself a vain person. Watching me pull my eyebrows up with my fingertips and scowl at my reflection, my husband disagrees. Let's face it, if you are a woman in your 40s (or 50s, or 60s...), its hard not to cringe a little when you look in the mirror. It doesn't help when you are shopping at TJ Maxx on a Monday and the cashier asks if you are over 55 (when you are 42!). I told her that I was not and I was going to go play in traffic. OK, maybe I am a little vain after all.

I feel like I have some control over the way my body looks. I know that I have to work out at least 5-6 days a week, and although I don't really deprive myself of anything, I know I can't eat absolutely EVERYTHING I want. My body is not perfect by any means, but it's not bad for a 42-year-old woman. I've (literally) worked my butt off for that. But though a workout can tone muscle and improve the overall shape of the rest of my body, working out does nothing to tone the face. Once your face starts aging, unless you plan to resort to fillers or surgery, fuggedaboutit. 

25 years younger (and 20 lbs heavier)
When I was growing up, I LOVED laying in the sun. I would spend hours either swimming, laying on a pool float, or just laying in a lounge chair covered with tanning oil (or sometimes baby oil). The darker my tan, the better [I thought] I looked. I even won the "Best Tan" contest at Sandals Antigua on our honeymoon. (That may have had something to do with the fact that I had a good base tan from the Florida sun, whereas the fair women from the great white North had essentially fried their skin, subjecting themselves to the native hawking aloe spears on the beach saying "You burn...I earn!") When I was a teenager, my father  (who has had more than his share of skin cancer removed) would say to my greased-up self, "Someday, you'll be all wrinkled and you'll be sorry you did this to yourself." Dare I admit, Father knows best? He was oh-so RIGHT!

I have a cousin who is actually 6 months older than me, who spent far less time in the sun growing up than I did. Even at 43, she has the most gorgeous peaches-and-cream complexion you could wish for. My complexion is far from enviable. My skin has definitely lost elasticity and is becoming thinner with each passing year. I have new dark spots popping up every day (I never had freckles growing up). Wrinkles? I've got plenty and you know something? That is one area where being thin is definitely NOT an asset. If I thought that gaining 20 pounds would plump my face up and make me look like my Senior yearbook photo, I'd start bulking up immediately. But I know darn well those 20 pounds would not land anywhere near my face (or my bird chest, which could use a little meat). Nope, all 20  would distribute themselves between my belly, butt and thighs.
Oh to be 22 again! :)

So, what's an aging woman to do? Well, there are plenty of anti-aging products out there that "guarantee" that wrinkles will be less visible, dark spots will diminish, skin will be firmer and have a more even tone, etc. etc. etc. Olay, Neutrogena, Burt's Bees, L'Oreal - none of them have made me look any younger (or any different) than I did before I used them. I even tried some Kiehl's products (courtesy of my niece who was studying to be an esthetician - I can't afford to drop beaucoup bucks on such luxuries). Although the Kiehl's avocado eye cream was amazing - it didn't take years off, nor did it erase my crow's feet or undereye bags from stressful sleepless nights. So, creams, lotions, and serums are out. 

Fillers (like Restylane or BOTOX), although tempting, certainly have their drawbacks. For starters, the price! I know that I don't have a few hundred dollars to shell out make my wrinkles (and any expression of emotion on my face) disappear for a few months. Let's face it...they're gonna come back. About 10 years ago, I had Bell's Palsy. For nearly six weeks, I lost all control and expression in one side of my face. It was freaky. I don't really care to go through that again. If I can't afford fillers, obviously surgery is out too. Facial plastic surgery can go very well, or it can go horribly, horribly wrong. I don't really want to look like a dog with her head sticking out a window going 90 mph or have a permanent look of surprise on my face either.
Big mistakes like letting someone take a close-up photo. ;)

I've become quite proficient using Adobe Photoshop in the past few years, but I've always avoided using it to "doctor" photos of myself. Yes, I did make myself a mermaid, but that was just adding a fish tale and a shell top to an existing photo. I've also Photoshopped a good face shot of myself onto a bad one when everyone else looked great in the family photo. But, I always hesitated to use Photoshop to see what I might look like without my wrinkles. That is, until now...

It really makes you wonder how much of what we see in magazines is real, doesn't it? I would be lying if I said that I love my "before" picture. I kind of wish that I did look a little more like the "illusion." But, that's not me. I'm not going to stop smiling just because doing so makes my crow's feet more pronounced. I (like many, many other women) just need to learn to focus less on my flaws and more on the blessings that God has given me. A genuine smile that comes from the heart looks great on everyone!

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

P.S. I just finished shopping at TJ Maxx (on a Monday - i.e. Senior Discount Day again). This time, the cashier said, "You are nowhere near 55!" That's what I'm talking about! ;D Must be the new haircut (thanks, Kelly!). ;)

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