Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Archive for the ‘Life in General’ Category

Gravity Continues Its Pull…

I think gravity may be our biggest foe as we age, particularly for women.  The pull of this dastardly planetary force wears on us, and relentlessly drags our physical features into a downward angle.

I can blame myself for the extra pounds I carry, even though I still harbor some resentment to my menopausally decreased metabolism. And I know it’s my fault that I’m not in better shape (who has time?!).  But what do I do about the sagging, drooping, jiggling and flapping caused by our arch enemy – gravity?

It started with my chin(s).  Where the skin used to be taut under my chinline, it now sags and wrinkles and folds.  In fact, I feel like my whole face is somehow sliding downward into my neck.  How else do you explain where all that extra skin came from?  Why else would I feel the downward pull on my cheeks that leaves me looking like I’m perpetually frowning?  A co-worker stopped me a few weeks ago and laughingly said “I can always tell when you’re having a bad day!”  That wouldn’t have bothered me that much except for one thing – I wasn’t having a bad day.  I examined myself in the ladies room mirror a few minutes later and realized sadly that my apple cheeks were looking more like the loose bags that apples are sold in.  Apparently my skin was no longer able to hold my face up over my cheekbones, and I was developing a “hound dog” look.  Come to think of it, maybe that same phenomenon is happening to my “other cheeks”, too, as my derriere starts sliding down into my thighs…

Since that day, I’ve been making a conscious effort to pull my cheeks up (the ones on my face) and lift the corners of my mouth a little bit all the time.  Not into a fake, scary smile, but just enough to work those lazy muscles, and to keep folks from stepping back in fear of a non-existent bad mood.  My hope is that I can coax my facial muscles into accepting this “half-grin” as the new normal, staving off the pull of gravity.  But I suspect gravity will win eventually.

If I were given a choice of any free cosmetic surgical procedure I wanted, I think it would be the so-called “lifestyle lift”, where the extra skin that gravity has collected under my chin is pulled up into my hairline, giving me a single chin again and a markedly more youthful appearance.  I don’t know if I’d go through with it, but it would be tempting.

Hmmm.  I may have lied just now….  I don’t know if gravity’s pull really started with my chins or if it was my breasts.  Surely they’ve been fighting gravity for a long while now, and they’re losing.  If it weren’t for a good bra, the “girls” would be closer to my waistline than my neckline.  But at least I can stuff them into that bra and keep the gravity-defying illusion alive as long as I’m clothed.  But lying in bed on my back?  Yeah, well, let’s just say that my back  is clearly where the girls are trying to sneak off to.

But the newest affront from gravity made me gasp in amazement this weekend.  I was looking at a digital picture that had been taken of me with a group of friends a few weeks ago.  In the photo, I was smiling nicely, my chins didn’t seem too pronounced, and the sleeveless top I was wearing was a good color and style choice for me.  I decided that if I cropped the image, it would make a nice Facebook profile picture.  So I cropped a tiny square and was adjusting that window over my upper body in the photo, when I noticed something alarming.  There was something terribly wrong with my upper arm!  Was that dirt?  No.  A bizarre shadow effect from facing the sun?  No.  Was the satin fabric of my blouse reflecting a pattern onto my skin?  No.  I zoomed in for a closer look.  Oh. My. God.

Gravity's pull appears on my upper arms. Yuk.

 

It was the flacid skin of my underarm, sagging in defeat to gravity’s calling.  Crepe-like, folded in tiny lines being pulled downward, looking like elephant skin.  On my arms.  My ARMSMY arms.  My 53-year-old arms!  It looked as though I’d pulled a big leg of baggy pantyhose up over my arm and let it hang there.  A—r—g—h!!!

So this is how it’s going to be.  My skin will not only lose elasticity in my face (at least the cosmetic ads warned me about that one), but it will lose elasticity everywhere, drooping ceaselessly towards the Earth.  If I were in a more macabre mood, I’d probably see some correlation to death in there, returning to the primordial soup from whence we came…..

Are there ways to fight gravity?  We can’t always wear long sleeves, after all.  To a point, yes, it can be fought.  Exercise (God, how I hate that word) can make a big impact.  Tight muscles tend to generate tight skin.  And those scary sagging upper arms can definitely benefit from the simplest of workouts – curls and lifts with free weights.  That means it’s time to dust the barbells off (again) and start using them (again) and vow to stick with it this time (again).

Hey – I didn’t come to be Sliding Into Old feet first and laughing by being a patsy.  Gravity is pulling on me, sure, but dammit, I can fight back in this tug-of-war!  Can I defeat an entire planet full of gravitational pull?  No, I’ll admit I can’t.  But I can sure as hell try.  I don’t ever want to see those flabby old-lady wrinkles on my arms again in a photograph, at least not until I’m eighty.

Maybe long sleeves aren’t such a bad idea after all……….

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Why Do Our Faces Need Hair, Anyway?

I plucked a hair out of my nose a couple days ago.  A hair.  Out of my nose.  That just isn’t right.  I thought nose hairs were a guy problem!  And let me tell you something else – it hurts to pluck a nose hair…a lot.

I had dinner with a dear friend earlier this week who’s the same age I am, and we got to talking about the wonderful mid-life process that leaves us staring in the mirror many mornings exclaiming “what the hell is that!?!”  And it’s usually a new wrinkle, a new layer of wattle on our neck, or new hair where it simply doesn’t belong.

I’ve noticed lately that I’m growing less hair on my legs and more hair on my face.  Really – the leg hair is getting thinner and growing more slowly than ever.  Being a natural blonde (yes, that’s right – born blonde – gotta problem with that?), I’ve always had a few advantages in the leg area.  My brunette friends bemoan the need to shave every single day to keep their legs clear of dark hair.  Even in my younger days, this was just never a problem – a little bit of blonde hair on pale legs doesn’t show.  And these days, I don’t even worry about it unless I know for sure that I need bare legs.  Which, with these spider veins creating treasure maps up and down my legs, happens rarely, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Sadly, as my legs become smoother, I have no shortage of hair in other places now, such as my face.  Sometimes I think I’m trying to grow a furry face warmer.  Again, the hair is pale and nearly invisible, unless the light hits it j-u-s-t right.  Then surprise!  A wooly covering of blonde hair.  On my face!  The bathroom lights tend to really highlight the shimmering growth, and I try to convince myself that it’s the harsh lights that are the problem, not my face.  But I also worry that, even in normal light, other people can see the growing problem (pun intended). 

The soft, short facial hair is one thing.  But those scattered sturdy, thick, flat-out whiskers are another matter entirely.  There’s no hiding a hair with the thickness of a pine needle.  I have two of them, although only one is truly persistant.  The other tends to only pop out once a month or so.  But “Bert” lives along my jawbone, and he just keeps coming back – I’ve shaved him, I’ve chopped him, I’ve cursed him, and I’ve plucked him a hundred times (ouch), but he persists.  I’ve developed a habit of brushing my face with my hand regularly to check the status of said whiskers.  If something pricks my finger, I know I have a whisker growing.

But there have been situations where I’ve missed their appearance, and have come home to discover with some horror that I had a big old whisker sticking prominently straight out of the side of my face, or perhaps off the edge of my chin.  Nice. 

My girlfriend expressed some frustration that her friends didn’t tell her that she was sporting a whisker one day at work, and I agreed.  But then I started thinking about it – how exactly would one do that?  I have no problem saying “hey, your shirt tag’s sticking up”; “hey, you’ve got a piece of lint on your dress”; “hey, you’ve got a run in your tights”.  But I don’t know if I could say “hey, you’ve got a big whisker growing out of your chin.”  Could I?  Would I want someone to tell me that?  I guess I would, but yikes.  That’s mighty personal – almost like telling someone “hey, you’ve got a unibrow.”  I wonder what Emily Post suggests for that social conundrum…

This whole “sliding into old” thing is definitely an adventure, and some days are far more challenging than others as we travel through this new territory.  And now I’ve plucked a hair from my nose – a blonde hair that was curling happily out of my nostril one morning. 

Which is doubly annoying, because I can’t get the hair on my head to curl to save my life!

I’ll Get Around To It…Later…Maybe Tomorrow…

Do I know people who are worse procrastinators than me?  Yes, but only a handful.  I’m pretty extreme.  Example?  I started writing this post more than a week ago, and had to absolutely FORCE myself to sit down and finish it today (and who knows – I still may not get it done).

The April issue of Real Simple magazine has a terrific article on procrastination, written by Amy Spencer (FYI – it’s accompanied in print by the best illustration on the topic I’ve ever seen, by Paula Scher).  This article wasn’t the usual blame game.  You know – those articles that basically make you feel like a lazy schlub who wouldn’t be a procrastinator if only you tried harder.  Write a list, break big jobs into little jobs, reward small accomplishments….yeah, yeah, yeah – I’ve heard it all before.

Spencer’s article focuses on the science behind procrastination, and explains that those of us who wait are not just being lazy.  Our brains are actually wired for procrastination.  It turns out everyone’s brain has two main sections. 

The limbic system works without us really being aware.  It makes us pull our hand away from a hot stove, sidestep a big patch of ice in front of us, come indoors from the rain.  The limbic system protects us from pain and turns us toward something pleasurable.  Like a puppy determined to please you, it directs you away from the “pain” of doing a boring or difficult task because it knows you might be unhappy, and will distract you with pleasurable alternatives. 

The prefrontal cortex is the taskmaster – it figures out how to do things and keeps us on track.  It measures a situation and helps us make decisions.  But it is not automatic or intuitive like the limbic system.  It turns out the prefrontal cortex is a relatively new part of the brain, and is even considered by some to be what separates us from other animals.  It’s not as strong as other parts of the brain.  It needs direction.  I’d sum it up this way – the prefrontal cortex plans, while the limbic system reacts.   

Our prefrontal cortex says “you should clean the kitchen,” and the limbic responds by saying “Wouldn’t you rather read that new magazine?”  “Fix a sandwich?”  “Check your Facebook page?”  “Watch a movie?”  “Oh, look! A squirrel!”

My limbic system and prefrontal cortex have apparently developed a close partnership over the years, so I use my whole brain to procrastinate.  My limbic system pulls me off task, and when I realize what’s happening, I put my prefrontal cortex to work thinking up excuses of why it’s a good thing to do.  “I won’t be so tired tomorrow.”  “I’ll dive into it tomorrow right after work, and that still gives me plenty of time (if nothing goes wrong).”  “I really do need to do some more research/preparation/practicing first.”  “I work better under pressure anyway.”  “What could possibly go wrong?”

The hopeful part of the Real Simple article is that our prefrontal cortex can be strengthened.  It will never become an unconscious response to situations (at least not for me), but we can control when to put it to work.  We can force our mental planner to take charge for a while and help us get things done. 

And that brings us back to those tricks and tips that I hate.  My prefrontal cortex is very, very good at making excuses (it’s had plenty of practice), and it is also very good at seeing through a to-do list and “rewards”.  I think rewards are the funniest approach to procrastination.  Gee, I’m going to let myself have an ice cream after I get this blog done.  Really?  There’s ice cream in the ‘fridge?  Why don’t you just take a little break right now and enjoy it, and then you can finish the blog as soon as you’re done…

The article suggests doing the worst thing first.  Well, duh.  That’s way too logical.  If I decide to do the worst thing first, I’m dooming myself to an entire day of excuse-making and time-wasting.  A related tip is to make the job smaller.  Yeah, it works, but my limbic system is on to me.  It will allow me to get three of four little jobs done, and then it lies in wait for the fourth.  And the battle is on – one hour to get three tasks accomplished, and a day and a half to get through the last one. 

But there were a couple of good tips mentioned that I’ve tried with some success in the past.  The tried and true is to make a commitment to a third party.  Ask a friend to hold your feet to the fire because you have a job that needs to get done this weekend.  Ask them to call and check in to make sure you’re staying on task.  Give your boss a due date for a project, even if he/she didn’t set one.  Guilt is a powerful motivator, and you won’t want to let your friend or boss down, or have them think poorly of you.

Another good tip is timing yourself.  I used to do this, and I’ve gotten out of the habit. Instead of telling myself “I’m going to organize my closet today” (a monumental and painful task that will surely keep my limbic system busy), I can set my cell phone alarm to go off in 30 minutes, and tell myself “when the alarm goes off, I’m done.”  The idea is that the concept of perpetual motion will keep you going forward after the alarm rings, and even if it doesn’t, at least you got 30 minutes of work done.  It works.

And the primary suggestion is to avoid interruptions.  When you have a limbic system as strong as mine (have you noticed how proud I am of my procrastination skills?), avoiding interruptions is nearly impossible.  But the article does suggest a few intriguing online tools to help control web surfing, or at least track it and get a realistic perspective on how much time we’re truly wasting.  I think I’ll give them a try.  I should probably do that right now. 

But first I have to proofread this post and publish it.  And then I should reward myself with some raspberries and yogurt.  And I have to finish the laundry.  And then I might watch my favorite TV shows.   And I should call Mom.  I can check out the sites tomorrow night.  But I’m meeting a friend for dinner tomorrow and won’t be home until late, so it will probably be Tuesday.  I have a church meeting Tuesday night, but I should be home in time to go online.  And if not, there’s always Wednesday………….right?

An Electronic Lenten Sacrifice – Can I Do It?

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one in the first place.  So, here I go…

Hello, my name is Joanne, and I’m addicted to my Blackberry.

Hubby’s been hinting for a while now that I’ve gone overboard with the phone.  I always laughed at the thought.  I mean, yes, I tend to curl up with it when watching TV, and I can’t sit in the passenger seat of the car for more than 10 minutes without pulling it out of my purse and checking it.  I guess it’s true that one of the first things I do in the morning is check my email on the phone, and sometimes read the news.  I leave it on my desk all day, and check it regularly.  Which makes no sense, of course, since I’m already sitting in front of a computer, so I don’t need to check my email on the phone, but I still do.  If the phone is sitting within view at any time (and it always is), and the little red light is blinking, I am compelled to check it…just in case.  I can’t help myself.  I know in my head that it’s probably junk mail that just showed up in my inbox, but you never know, right?  At lunchtime, I take it with me, as does everyone else at our table, and we browse the news and check our Facebook pages while we chat distractedly.  Noticing that was my second clue (after Hubby’s comments) that I might have a problem. 

As I type this, the Blackberry is indeed in sight.  And it’s blinking.  And it is killing me not to pick it up.  But I can’t.  You see, it occurred to me today as I pondering the Lenten season that the phone had to go.  Not completely, mind you – I’ll carry it for security and work.  But if I’m home, or I’m at work, where I have easy access to computers if needed, I will NOT check emails or news on the Blackberry.  And if I’m shopping or relaxing and don’t need access to a computer, I will not check the phone.  I have given up all unnecessary smart phone use until Easter, with one small exception.  I am allowing myself a brief dispensation when traveling by air, which I have to do this month, because I do need to stay in touch with airline alerts and transportation in the airports.  But that’s it.  No unnecessary Blackberry use.  For 40 days.  I think I just felt a chill….

Hubby’s comments were my first clue.  Lunch with mature, funny, intelligent co-workers while we all stared at our phones was the second.  The third and final straw was last Sunday.  The TV was on.  I was reading the New York Times on my Kindle.  And suddenly I realized that, while holding – and reading –  the Kindle in my left hand, I was checking my email on the Blackberry with my right hand.  Seriously?  Watching TV and reading is a multi-task I can usually handle, but reading two electronic gadgets at the same time, one in each hand, is just a little over the top, even for me.  Was I expecting each eyeball to read a separate screen?  How could I possibly retain anything I was reading, seeing, or hearing?  The answer, of course, is that I couldn’t.  And yet, I was trying!

I’m not Catholic, so the idea of giving something up for Lent and not eating meat and all of that is not really part of my spiritual journey.  But Protestants have started talking more about giving things up for Lent – the traditional season of somber reflection leading up to the celebration of Easter.  It’s a symbolic recognition of the sacrifices our Lord made when He allowed His Son to be crucified here on earth.  For a week, I’ve been telling folks that I wasn’t giving up anything, I was adding something – daily Bible reading.  But that plan wasn’t feeling very satisfying to me, and I knew there was something else I needed to do.  Setting aside the ridiculously powerful Blackberry seems much more substantial – a true change in my life.  And yes, I know that it’s crazy to admit a phone is “powerful”.  And that damn light is still blinking.  And I so want to reach for it.  But instead, I’ll say a quick prayer and ignore it.

Or try to ignore it.  But it’s blinking.  There’s an email there for me.  It might be important.  Because I get so many important emails.  Maybe I should just check it quickly.  I won’t pick it up – I’ll just push the roller ball and glance at the screen. 

But no – I won’t.  It’s a stupid phone.  I’m old enough to remember the days before TV remotes (yes, we had to walk to the television to change the channels), so I sure as hell do not need a pocket-sized computer to get through my day. 

It’s time to embrace doing one thing at a time.  Time to remember how to actually focus on one thing (or one person) with all my heart. 

The light’s still blinking.  It’s mocking me.  Tempting me. 

It’s going to be a long Lenten season, but the sacrifice will be sharp enough to remind me why I’m doing it in the first place.  And I’ll sure be praying – a lot!  Hopefully I can forever break the nonsensical, irrational hold the Blackberry has on me.  I know I can do it.  I know it.

But right now…. I need to leave this room and that blinking, blinking, blinking, blinking Blackberry.

The Search for the Right Bra

Okay, gents, this may be a post you want to skip.  You are always welcome here, and you might just learn a little about the 50-something women in your life, but you probably don’t want to listen to my bra rant.

Ladies – seriously.  We’ve reached a point in our lives where gravity is doing all kinds of things to our body, and our breasts are prime examples of the results.  If we don’t pay attention to our bras, our breasts will end up at our waistline.  I see it far too often, but I never thought it would happen to me.

Apparently, mirrors are not completely truthful, because I did not notice the gradual descent of my breasts until I saw a photo of myself in profile.  It was a holiday photo from work, and ended up on a Christmas card that went to hundreds of clients (oh joy).  And there I was, standing at the end of a row of people, in a lovely, finely knit red sweater.  I felt great the day the picture was taken.  But I was shocked when I saw the result.  What were my breasts doing down there, halfway between where they should have been and my waistline?  That’s when I realized that I should have been paying a little more attention when bra shopping. 

I’ve always been fairly nicely endowed, and going braless has never been an option, so I’ve purchased a lot of bras through the years.  As long as “the girls” weren’t bouncing around too much and I was comfortable, I was happy.  But now I had to figure out how to factor “lift” into the equation.  As in, how high are they?  Victoria’s Secret just wasn’t cutting it any more.  Maybe they need a “silver” section for women like us who need something different from our bras.  I am definitely not ready to disregard comfort, so I had to find a happy medium. 

17 bras stuffed into a drawer...

I have always avoided the soft cup, or formed, bras, because they’re a nuisance to wash, store and pack.  I have 17 “regular” bras in one drawer, but I can only fit 6 formed bras in the same space.  Those nuisances are now the sacrifices I make to have a profile I’m happy with.  It’s worth it.  My personal favorite for a formed bra is Vanity Fair – it’s comfortable, and it survives machine washing (NEVER dry them in the dryer!).  Not only do the formed bras keep the girls up where they belong, but they look awesome under sweaters.  Hey, unless you’re a 44DD, you want your breasts to look bigger (you know it’s true), and formed bras do that, okay?  They’re also firm enough to help prevent the embarrassing situation women can face when wearing a clingy blouse in a cold room (don’t play dumb – you know what I mean). 

Six formed bras in the same amount of space - not very efficient.

I’ve found a few “unformed” underwire bras that “lift and separate” quite nicely, too, including the Olga Luxury Lift underwire bra that has lace lifting panels on the sides that actually do something, and last through more than one washing. 

Once I detected my own sagging breastline, I started paying attention to the profiles cut by other women, and I am frankly horrified by how women take their breasts out into the world.  From the “way-too-bouncy” to the “way-too-saggy” to the “way-too-pointy” to the “are-you-even-wearing-a-bra” looks, a lot of them are just not good.  At all.  

First – wear a bra.  Your hippy days are over, honey – no matter how petite your breasts may be, gravity affects them, and you need to harness them into something.  You don’t want them pointing toward the ground like a hound dog’s nose.

Second – find a bra that fits.  Spill-over is always a bad thing – whether it’s in the front (my cup runneth over) to the back, where our 50-something skin is sagging and bagging in new places every day.  A too-small bra adds layers of body rolls that you just don’t need.

Third – give the girls some lift.  I’m not talking about “wonder-bra” lift, where your boobs are smooshed together to give the illusion of cleavage under a low cut top.  The look isn’t bad, but it’s not worth the discomfort, trust me.  Find a bra that has some extra reinforcement to lift those girls up and make them look respectful.  That’s why I like the Olga bra, but Bali has a couple that have side reinforcements, too.  They just don’t last as well through multiple washings.  Why side reinforcements and not just lift from the bottom?  Because I’ve discovered that fifty-something boobs are very content hiding under your armpits, which is where they tend to scurry if you lift or “minimize” them.  They may be happy there, but it’s not a good look. 

And I just have to throw in number four – for heaven’s sake, look in the mirror HONESTLY before you walk out the door.  Are your girls pointed in two different directions?  Will someone get dizzy trying to figure out which way you’re goin’?  Is one sagging and one lifting?  My hubby laughs watching me get the girls lined up in the morning, but once I’m done, I don’t have to wonder if someone’s glance towards my breasts during the day is a compliment (hey, they’re still taking a second look after all these years!), or if it’s just curiosity (how can I avoid looking at that train wreck where one goes up and left and the other goes down and right?). 

Oh, and as you may notice in the pictures of my two bra drawers – just as every woman should have a pair of red shoes, every woman should also have a red lace bra.  No one may see it when you’re wearing it (don’t be tacky and wear it under a white blouse – you’re not 21), but you’ll know it’s there, and you’ll feel g-r-e-a-t.  Especially if that red bra also fits, lifts and aims!

Tools of the Age

The other night, as Hubby and I were heading into the bedroom to get ready for bed, he looked at me and said “Go spend a half hour on your face.”  He wasn’t being insulting.  He was referring to my regular evening routine, which is but a pale shadow of my morning routine. 

I am really not a vain person.  Truly.  I don’t think I wear a lot of makeup.  I prefer to keep things as fuss-free as possible.  But as the years have passed, I have gradually added more and more products to my repertoire. 

Thirty years ago, mascara and lip gloss were all the makeup I thought I needed.  I spent a lot of time outdoors riding horses, so my skin carried a gentle tan nearly all year.  Who needed that heavy, nasty foundation stuff?  Not me!  Au naturale was the way to go.  I hate to admit it, but the only reason I started trying to figure out how to remove the mascara was because I got tired of my pillowcases having two big brown dots on them.  My high class makeup remover?  Johnson’s Baby Oil on a cotton ball.   That was skin care for me at twenty.

Eventually, as my career started progressing and I ended up moving from the factory into the office, I started realizing that I looked a little monochromatic, with my short blonde hair, fair skin, and grey-blue eyes.  So I started adding a little powder blush to my cheeks.  That made my lips look naked, so, once in a while, I wore lipstick, although I hated the way it felt on my lips and usually ended up chewing it off.  Once the horses were gone and I stopped spending so much time in the sun, my natural tan faded, so I started messing with foundations, which inevitably led to my skin breaking out.  The slippery slope had started, and there was no turning back. 

Today, between cosmetics and over-the-counter supplements, I use a whopping twenty different products every day (or at least every weekday).  TWENTY!  What kind of ego-centric woman uses 20 products?  If anyone had told me 30, 20, even 10 years ago that I’d be using 20 different products on and in my body just to reach the bare minimum of presentableness, I’d have laughed myself silly.  And yet here I am.     

Right after breakfast, I start swallowing pills – calcium [1] to keep my bones from shrinking, a “silver” multi-vitamin (just in case) [2], some Claritin [3] for my perpetual allergies, and the newest addition, a probiotic capsule [4].  Probiotics are the big craze now.  Supposedly, they put millions of “good” bacteria in our digestive systems to help us maintain regularity (especially important to someone like me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome – gotta love that classy name).  You’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis raving about Activia on TV?  Well, this is the same idea, but in a pill that’s (a little) cheaper and (much) easier to remember every day.  My doctor recommended it, so I added it to the morning pill pile.

After the pills, it’s on to brushing my teeth with a special anti-sensitivity toothpaste [5], which prevents me from hitting the ceiling when I eat anything sugary or cold (Sensodyne is the only one that works for me).  Then into the shower, where I clean my face with gentle Cetaphil [6] most days (with a once-a-week scrub with St. Ives Invigorating Cleanser), then out to slather Lubriderm lotion [7] on my legs to prevent reptile-like scales on my skin in the cold, dry winter months.   

And now to the face.  First, I work on the “fine lines and wrinkles” around my eyes by using a nifty little lotion applicator with cold metal rollers that are supposed to help reduce puffiness (Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Eye Roller) [8].  Then the moisturizing serum [9].  This is the one and only area where I’ve managed to find a less expensive generic solution that actually works.  My moisturizer of choice is Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum, but it is pricey, and the bottle keeps getting smaller.  I’ve discovered that the generic Top Care Regenerating Serum has nearly identical ingredients, comes in a large bottle, and costs less.  After the serum, which makes my skin feel like velvet, I’ve recently added a tinted eye cream [10] to reduce the pesky dark circles that showed up about the same time menopause did (Olay Regenerist Touch of Concealer Eye Cream). 

Having never found a foundation I liked, I finally settled for a tinted moisturizer [11] to even my skin tone (Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Makeup – must buy anything with “anti-aging” in the title!).  Powder blush had to go a few years ago when I realized the experts were right – the powder settles in your wrinkles and makes them look deeper.  I now use a light creamy blush [12] (Almay Smart Shade Blush).  I still consider myself naked without mascara – blonde eyelashes will do that.  So mascara [13] goes on next (usually Maybelline Define-A-Lash). 

I’m winding down now (how do I make it to work on time?).  Next is deodorant [14] that won’t vanish halfway through the day or halfway through my next hot flash (Degree Clinical Protection).  A little mousse [15] into the hair before I dry it (Nexus Volumizing).  A little hairspray [16] once it’s dry (Nexus Comb-Thru).  A little spritz of cologne [17].  My signature scent, Giorgio, is hard to find these days, but Hubby managed to find a large bottle to put under the Christmas tree this year.  No wonder I love him!  After the perfume, I should be ready to head out the door…finally.  Oops, almost forgot – the lipstick [18] usually goes on in the car, at one of the stop lights on the way to work.  Oh, shut up – you know you do it, too.

The evening routine is modest in comparison, despite what Hubby says.  Remove the whole mess with some cleansing cloths [19], which really were a wonderful invention for lazy women like me (Ponds Wet Cleansing Towelettes).  And a nighttime moisturizer [20] to cap off the day (Garnier Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Night Cream).  That’s right, folks – it lifts, it fights wrinkles, AND it firms!  All in one magical little jar. 

Good grief.  Now that I look at the list, my bathroom probably should have some “toxic chemical” warning signs on it.  I’m honestly NOT trying to fight aging.  I want to do it naturally and comfortably.  I don’t want to be one of those silly women who looks all pulled and painted and overdone in their attempt to “hide” wrinkles.  But I also don’t want to be one of those ladies whose makeup routine hasn’t changed since they were eighteen.  Aging is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to take the ride without giving ourselves at least a little help, right?

Twenty daily products worth?  Well, as long as I’m headed out to an office workplace, yes, I’m afraid so.  At 53, I think my skin looks pretty darn good.  I just hope the list won’t grow too much more, or I’ll have to start setting the alarm for 5AM.

Is Fifty the New Fifteen?

Last week, I had a pimple on my ear.  Right on top of the lobe, where the skin is thin, and where pimples hurt.  It was a surprise, but I didn’t think too much of it, and it was gone in a couple days after a few doses of alcohol (rubbing, not liquor). 

But then, a few days after that, I had an itchy spot on my back.  I was wearing an Irish wool sweater that day, so I figured the sweater was agitating my skin.  Then I thought my bra strap might be rubbing or pinching.  Finally, after hours of itchiness, I managed to reach the awkward spot, and I felt a big, round, tender bump.  It was another freakin’ pimple!

The next day, another appeared – right under my chin.  Great.  At least the other two offenders were out of sight.  This one was public.  Enough already.  I should not be dealing with zits anymore!

None of this would be that unusual if I was fifteen.  Or even twenty-two.  Maybe even thirty.  But I am fifty-two years old.  Fifty-two!!  I’m mid-menopausal, for crying out loud – what the hell am I doing getting pimples?  It’s the curse of the Baby Boomers – hot flashes and acne, all at the same time.  Yup – throw in the hormonal mood swings, and we’re just having a party, aren’t we?

And people wonder why women in their fifties are cranky.  Our bodies are turning against us in new ways every day.  Skin is sagging, bellies are popping, periods come and go on a highly unpredictable schedule, we break into sweats in the middle of the night, our heads spin like the Exorcist when the hormones get going, we’re exhausted, and somehow it comes as a shock to our friends and family that we’re irritated. 

Only women our age go through the check-out line with the following in our carts: multi-vitamins labeled “silver”, Midol, “age-defying” cosmetics, Clearasil acne lotion, a bottle of red wine, and a box of chocolate chip cookies for the craving we’re bound to have later that night (why fight it?).  All of those multi-generational products are for us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this marvelous decade of our fifties is like “This is Your Life” rolled up into ten years.  A woman’s last hurrah before sliding into old age.  Think about it…

Childhood:  Is there anything more childish than a menopausal woman going through our hormonal ebbs and flows?  Tears one minute.  Screaming fury the next.  Totally sane after that.  I have literally stomped my foot in anger in the past year.  Seriously?  Where did that come from?  Aren’t I a little too grown-up for foot stomping?  Apparently not.

Prepubescence:  The preteen years are when girls form close same-sex friendships, and begin to assert their independence and self-identity.  Our fifties are when we have time, after raising our families and establishing our lives, to focus on our girlfriends again.  Our friendships deepen to new levels, as we start sharing our life adventures, and at this stage in our lives, those adventures aren’t always sunny.  Rather than sharing tales of who-talked-to-whom-in-social-studies, our friendships are now dealing with marriages, aging parents, career changes, divorces, adult children.  Instead of sitting together on the school bus, we’re meeting at the wine bar, but the connections are similar, and equally important.  And we giggle even harder now than we did then!  

Adolescence:  We were so happy to leave those stressful teen years behind – acne, romance, betrayal, raging hormones, stressing over our appearance, hanging out with the right crowd, rebelling against our parents, watching our bodies change.  And yet, here we are again – acne, romance (with any luck), betrayal (whether in marriage, employment, friendship, or just in our own bodies), raging hormones, stressing over our appearance (what does “age-appropriate dressing” really mean?), hanging out with the right crowd (political activism, neighborhood ‘clicks’, etc.), rebelling against our parents (or at least at our changing role in their lives), and, of course, watching our bodies change (don’t get me started…).  Yup.  Fifty may as well be fifteen in many ways.

Young Adult:  We may not “relive” our young adult years, but our fifties are when we reap the consequences of those years, good or bad.  Did the marriage survive?  Are the kids okay?  Was there a marriage at all?  If you didn’t have children, are you wondering who will care for you as you age?  Of course, some of us do end up revisiting the young adult years in a very unexpected way as we find ourselves raising our young grandchildren, or having our adult children or parents move back in with us.  And some of us are dealing with parents who are now older and dealing with issues that may require us to step back into a parenting role.  My own mom is very healthy and independent, but many of my contemporaries are not that fortunate, and they equate their relationships with their mothers to dealing with teenage daughters.

Elderly:  Along with looking back, our fifties give us a sneak peak to the future, sort of a prequel to the years that lay ahead.  We don’t have the strength and energy we once had.  We begin the process of adjusting to that new physical reality.  And as our parents age, we experience the realities of aging through their lives.  Suddenly retirement, Social Security, and long-term health care are no longer abstract ideas, but an impending fact of life. 

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that women in their fifties are living every stage of life at once.  Is it a bad thing?  Not always.  It can be challenging and frustrating and infuriating at times, but it does give us the chance to appreciate the journey we’ve made so far.  We have the wisdom of our life experiences to help temper the effects of the hormonal changes.  I may stomp my feet and burst into tears over some perceived slight, but, unlike when I was fifteen, I have the confidence to know that I’ll get through it and life will go on.  We’ve gained perspective, and as long as we hold onto that perspective, this journey back in time is okay, for the most part. 

But I really could do without the pimples.  Honestly.

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