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

Posts tagged ‘mirrors’

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!

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!

Fighting With My Reflection

A month ago, I posted a blog on my frustration with fitting back into my Fat Jeans again.  At that point, I’d lost a whopping 1 ½ lbs, and was determined to keep going.  So, consider this my update in frustration.  I don’t know which irritates me more – the mirror or the scale.

I am doing serious battle with my body right now.  And that’s not like me.  My body and I have always gotten along pretty well.  I’ve always been pretty in tune with what my body was doing and feeling.  Every little change was noted and acknowledged.  After a serious bout of IBS in my twenties, I learned that I could control some health issues (especially stress-induced ones) with a few moments of deep breathing, a good night’s sleep, a few days of simple foods, and truly paying attention to what my body was telling me it needed.  We got each other.

I married a great cook, so it was only naturally that some pounds came on after a while.  I accused him of making me “fat and happy”.  I had moved from an active lifestyle of horseback riding and farming to a sedentary suburban life.  It wasn’t my body’s fault that I gained weight – it was mine.  And when I decided eight years ago that I could be stronger than the food in my life, I dropped the weight and kept it off.  I felt terrific.

But my body has now joined the dark side.  My metabolism changes every year, and not in a good way.  Pounds come on in bunches, for no good reason.  Ten pounds a few summers ago.  Five here, five there, and another three this past April.  My body feels heavy, especially around the middle, and my clothes are uncomfortable.  I’m not at all at peace with my body right now.  Even Zumba isn’t weaving its magic spell this year (oh, sure, it’s fun, as I wrote a few weeks ago), but my body is unimpressed at the moment.

My body has become the enemy.  Stubborn, pouting, grumpy, lumpy and lazy.  It’s become old and cranky.  I stare at it in the mirror, and I’m horrified.  Officially, I’m within my healthy weight range, BMI and all that jazz, but my body is turning into something unrecognizable.  For crying out loud, I’m only fifteen pounds over my target goal weight!  The mirror shows me the extra weight, along with things like my skin, once taut, but now crepey and loose – under my chin, on the back of my hands, on my stomach, in my cleavage. 

And speaking of cleavage…oh, never mind.  Let’s just say my breasts are following gravity toward my waistline at a rapid pace.  And when the hell did I grow boobs on my back?  Suddenly there are big rolls of skin on my back that show under t-shirts and sweaters.  And bathing suits?  Forget about it.  All that extra flesh is determined to burst out in the most unbecoming places.  Ignore all the hype about the Miraclesuits.  Sure, your body is held in very nicely everywhere the suit is, but wherever it isn’t – – – who are we trying to kid?

I’m trying, damn it!  I’m going to Zumba, I’m walking almost every day, I’m drinking Slim Fast shakes, I’m trying to watch what I eat (I know I’ve cut calories), I’m even drinking 55 calorie beer, for crying out loud!!  I bought Wii Fit, and I’ve been using it daily for a whole week.  And my body is still sitting at the same place it was a month ago.  Seriously???  Not an ounce lost??  In a month??  What kind of cruel trick is that?  I’m sitting here at the computer with my jeans (not the Fat Jeans) both unbuttoned and partially unzipped for comfort, and that really ticks me off.

But I am not giving up.  Like a marriage going through a rough patch, my body and I are just having a hard time right now.  We’ll work through it and work it out.  I stare at my reflection and try to understand (and try to love) what I’m seeing.  I’m not one of those silly women who flail away at the aging process in panic, trying so desperately to look twenty-five forever.  I know that some changes are inevitable as I age.  I generally like getting older.  I can handle my crow’s feet and a certain degree of sag here and there.  But enough is enough.  This creeping, crepey invasion of flabby flesh is going to stop.

It’s time for a little “tough love” with this body of mine.  We have to get back on the same page.  This month-long plateau is going to end.  I may have to pay the price in some hunger pangs and unopened bottles of wine, but I can do it.  A little extra sweat.  More fruit and veggies (I’m munching strawberries right now).  A lot more water (yup, got a glass of water in front of me).  The Wii every single morning.  A walk every single day …. well, maybe not every day… but close to it.  Zumba at least twice a week.  I’ll drag my petulant body along for a while until it gets with the program and decides to join me. 

I’m not looking to get a 36-24-36 Barbie doll figure.  I’m far more realistic than that.  I just want my reflection to show a healthy, at least moderately fit, body.  A body I can relate to again.  With a minimum of nasty surprises in the mirror as time goes by.  Stay tuned………………………………..

My Love/Hate Relationship with Zumba

In case you’re wondering what Zumba is, it’s exercise disguised as dancing.  Or dancing disguised as exercise.  Or torture disguised as fun.  It’s basically a way to sweat like crazy and cram what feels like days’ worth of exercise into an hour or so.  It all began in Columbia, South America, and has swept the U.S. in the past 8 or 9 years.

I had no intention of being dragged into the craze when it hit our area a few years ago.   Sadly out of shape, I still could not imagine myself dancing in a room full of people.  You see, I’m just not very coordinated.  I have a bad sense of timing, and a worse sense of direction.  Invariably, if my husband says “look at that car on your right!” I will immediately look to the left.  So much so that Hubby now just sighs and says “your other right, honey”.  So any kind of structured dancing, even though I dearly love music, is not my strong point.

But my friends were very persistent, and they seemed to be having fun, so eventually I found myself going to classes with them.  That was a year ago.  I hate it.  And I love it.  It’s complicated. But I won’t give it up.  Let me try to sort it out the primary issues for you.

1a.   SWEAT IS BAD –  You know that old saying that ladies don’t sweat, they perspire?  Well, not doing Zumba they don’t!  It’s definitely sweat that rolls off in buckets.  Your hair sweats in Zumba.  Just this morning, I went to brush my bangs off my face in class, and a shower of water sprayed out in front of me.  Surprised, I put my hand to my head and realized my hair was completely soaked with sweat.  That much sweat is disgusting.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s cold and unhealthy in the winter when you walk outdoors into below zero temperatures.  It requires washing of workout clothes, including my expensive athletic bra, after every single class.  Sweat is not pleasant.

1b.   SWEAT IS GOOD – Sweat is empowering.  Sweat tells you you’re really doing something.  Sweat tells you that your body is working – hard.  Sweat tells you that you’re building muscle and burning fat.  That’s a really good feeling.   Sweat is powerful.  Sweat is good for women.

2a.  MIRRORS ARE BAD – Most Zumba classrooms have at least one wall of mirrors.  They’re scary.  They show EVERYTHING to EVERYONE.  You see everything you’re doing wrong – every time I turn right instead of left, the mirror lets me know about it (as does the unsuspecting classmate to my right!).  The mirror also shows me how bad I look in workout clothes.  Just when I’m feelin’ the music and thinkin’ I’m really jammin’ to the song, I get a glance of myself in the mirror – lumpy, puffy, in pants that are too short, with a blotchy red face, and my mouth gaping open like a flounder, gasping for air.  So much for confidence – I look like I’m ready to drop!  Mirrors are not helpful.

2b.  MIRRORS ARE GOOD – There’s always the practical purpose of mirrors – they allow you to see what the instructor is doing, and they show you whether you are doing a move properly when you compare your moves to hers.  But there are other fun things about mirrors.   The mirror teaches us to avoid that gasping flounder look as we struggle for air, and to instead purse our lips like we’re just blowing off a little steam.  Lips together, mouth more closed than open – “whew”.  Trust me – it’s much more attractive than the gasping flounder look.  Mirrors can boost your Zumba confidence when you realize that many other people in the room are making even more mistakes than you are!  Or when you realize that everyone looks weird in workout clothes.  Mirrors show you that most women (and men) in class are really not concerned with how they look – they’re just throwing themselves into the dance moves the best they can.  You want to be fearless, like them.  Mirrors also show you when you finally get that complicated step right, and you’re smokin’ it, keeping up with every move the instructor is making.  Thank goodness for mirrors!

3a.  HIPS ARE GOOD – Moving and swinging your hips with the beat of Latin music is very seductive.  I’m not talking about being seductive to an audience.  It’s seductive to you.  I’m talking about the feeling of letting your hips sway to the rhythm of drums and Latin words.  Whether it’s a belly dance to a Shakira song; or a samba to the rhythm of an island beat; or an aggressively low hip swing to a naughty Notorious lyric, you feel the power of music.  You feel the power of your own body, moving with the music.  It’s a beautiful thing for your soul to feel that kind of synchronicity.  It makes you appreciate your body, rather than criticize it.  Whether you’re full of curves or skinny as a rail, feel the rhythm and MOVE.

3b.  HIP IS GOOD – Look closely – this isn’t a bad/good comparison as with the first two topics – it’s just two positive takes on “hip” and Zumba.  Moving your physical hips is good.  But so is BEING hip!  Some of you may have teenagers who keep you in the loop on the current entertainers, but Zumba saved me from a life of being one of those boring old people who say  “who’s that?”  “never heard of her!” when we watch the MTV Music Awards.  I know who Lady Gaga is, I dance to Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas.  I can do the “Beyonce bounce”.  I groove to Pit Bull, man!  In my real life, I listen to country music and oldies, but in Zumba, I am crankin’ it to lyrics I (probably blessedly) don’t always understand.  Some are in Hispanic, and some are being ground out in rap.  I am in a room with women (and men) smaller and larger than me, older and younger than me, and we are all yelling and cutting loose to a song that I’m pretty sure is talking about posing “like a pornography poster.”  Do I have fun being just a little naughty and working out to that infectious hip hop beat?  Oh, yeah!  Being hip makes young co-workers eyebrows raise when you stride past them humming “Let’s Dance”.   Being hip is cool.  Being hip keeps you young.  Zumba makes you hip.

As with any workout, it can be torturous while you’re doing it.  But the afterglow is well worth the effort, and the changes in my body, stamina and confidence keep me going back for one sweaty, torturous, exhausting, exhilarating class after another.  Hating it.  And loving it.

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