Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Media, Aging, Acceptance, Esteem

(I started this post a couple days ago, then a BFF & I got hold of a few nothing-to-do hours, some lawn chairs and we had a sky full of sun... So, ya know.)

A good friend of the family had his 41st birthday and a bunch of us are got to talking about aging. (The friend in question is a guy and he's not been in on the conversation. So far.)

There are a lot of jokes about how we spend the first few years of life counting our age in fractions and spend our elderly years doing the same thing. I for one just think of myself as "30 + experience." (My friend is more honest and says she is "40 + change." (I always want to tell her, "Yeah, Change of Life," but I won't go there since I am the older of the two.)

Okay, here's the thing: why is getting older such a big deal? It's not like we spoil or something. At whatever "mature" age we are, we still feel and think and love and crave and dream and all the same good stuff we did at our younger ages. Hell, we know how to do all that stuff better.

When my friends (and my sister) and I started our conversation, one of the things we all wondered about is Why? Why is getting older such a big deal? Why - even if you are not in optimum health (physical, financial, emotional or whatever) - does it seem that we are not supposed to be okay with who and what we are? We are never supposed to be okay with where we care in our lives unless we meet some media-sanctioned ideal.

Want to heat up a discussion? Bring up the media. I did and, man, we broke out the Malibu and O.J. then and just got down. We didn't have a simple girl chat; we had a freaking convention. One of the ladies went up and grabbed my laptop so we could Google shit. Yeah, that serious.

If you read gossip-type news at all (or catch it on CNN, MSNBC, E.T.), you know that "media" is obsessed with women looking "half their age," or snapping back from 9 months of pregnancy to be a "Yummy Mummy." What the hell is up with having to fit into a size 4 after months of harboring another human being inside your body? And try doing that without the help of personal trainers and chefs, and without the motivation of the Bod Squad Mafia of fans waiting for you to fail. Those celebrities get no downtime unless that's they totally give up "press." No wonder it seems that most of Hollywood is kind of nuts. They have to be. That's nothing but pure pressure 24/7. Forget a sex tape - what if you wanna pick your nose? How'd you like to have that caught on film. But that's another rant. Let's stay on topic.

Now, because I and none of my friends are famous (or even infamous outside Chilkoot Charlie's), we can sneak out to stores in the dead of night looking like Hell and his ugly brother. Not that we do this. No. But the thing is, Media makes it so hard for even "regular" people to be, well, regular.

If you don't look 30 when you are 50, well, you better get out there and buy that new laser-treatment-in-a-bottle. If you can't shop in the Juniors' "small" section - even though you were never small and have two kids and are glued to an office chair 9 hours a day - well then, shame on your sorry, fat, old, ugly self.

Look at what the media focuses on when dealing with celebrities: their bodies, their age-less looks, their hair, etc. As a pop celeb, unless you somehow corner the market on it, you're not going to get a lot of attention for feeding the hungry, helping out a community of citizens or just being a good and decent human being who is more financially fortunate than most. What do you think would get a celeb the most press: saving a family's home from foreclosure or going on a racist or homophobic rant? Matter of fact, that whole Kardashian clan has made a freaking franchise that started with Kim banging Ray J and releasing the video. (Leaked, my ass; that was a planned career move.) And now, we have to hear about Kim's curves and hair every time we hit the wrong button on the TV remote. (By the way, what the Joker-from-Batman hell happened to Bruce Jenner's face?)

Maybe it's just me (me and my group), but I've had days when I was feeling alright with life, then I spot a picture of a 65 year old "diva" who has better tits, ass and legs than I do - oh, and who looks 45). That will crash your day so fast... One of my friends says that when she looks at photos of the current hot chicks (Jolie, Aniston or, heaven forbid, one of the really young Hots), she feels as if she is looking into a trick mirror that's telling her what she ought to look like but never will. And this woman is actually just so pretty. Without Photoshop. Such a downer.

I remember one time when I was all ready to go out with friends and I passed by the TV on my way out and caught a glimpse of some female celebrity. In two seconds, I went from ready to have a great night with friends to feeling like I'd grown a hump on my back and a gray chin hair. Of course, I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I hadn't even thought about how I looked (I was clean and presentable, and, damnit, I smelled so good!) until I saw that image. It actually sort of affected my whole evening. I remember looking at other females at the bar and thinking, We don't look like "them." How crazy is that? Of course we don't look like Them. We don't have pros doing our hair and makeup, we don't have the wardrobe (or the slaved for - or Spanxed for - bodies), and we don't have "looking good" printed at the tops of our job descriptions. We are just trying (most of us) to look like the best version of ourselves.


One of the ladies I will not name (she doesn't read blogs, but I'm making sure she sees this post) even talked about how this kind of thing seriously affects her relationship. She says that when she knows she has a romantic evening coming (and with the both of them working and three kids under 8, trust me, she and her husband plan for sex like some people plan for a sabbatical), she refuses to look at anything that has those perfect celebs pictured. She says her husband can't live up to "media" stereotypes any more than she can, but he doesn't have the same body issues. She says (forgive me, L, for blog-blabbing) that if she has any images in her head of those perfect females that it just messes with her libido. Wow. That's rough.

I think that men do have body issues just like women do. Maybe not to the extent that we do. It's crazy that any of us have to have these "issues" at all. Just a few years ago, I always laughed that whole "body issues" thing. How silly, I thought. Until I went through my pharmaceutically-induced weight changes. There is nothing in the world like sprouting a muffin top and fat side handles to make you want to torch every little, lacy, sexy, non-granny-panty item in your wardrobe. Sex in anything than complete darkness is just a memory... Boy, I was so naive at sizes 5-8.  Naive and smug. And have I learned or matured about this? Nope. I'm losing the weight now because of a change in meds, thank goodness. (And let me tell you all something: Once I can fit back into my "little & cutes," I might wear only slut clothes. So damn glad I just stored all my cute shit.) I don't like myself at over 140 & I won't feel like "me" until I'm back to that. I don't know why. I could have lost some limbs or one of my senses, right? I don't care. I just want to look good in my cute jeans and undies again. Is that media-influenced or is that just normal craziness? One of my weirdities? Whatever. It is what it is.

Anyway, my friends and I shared a bunch of stories. Stories about our insecurities about our lifestyles because we don't have homes with vaulted ceilings, blue bedrooms with wall-sized fish tanks or servants' quarters...  Stories about being brainwashed into not finding and loving the right person because they don't look like the photo-shopped people on a movie poster or CD. About being made to feel as if we are worthless because we are raising children who aren't being pursued by colleges at the age of 10 or who aren't playing Chopin after only one lesson. About having the media dictate to us that unless we drive the latest, wear the most expensive, own the biggest or fuck the hottest, our lives just cannot be as joyful and satisfying as the people they give us a models.

The Chicks and I decided that not even one of us is as bad off as we first thought. We have our insecurities, but we deal with them pretty well. The people we love love us. We love each other not for the way we look but for the way we love. The men in our lives appreciate us for our toughness and humor. We love the men in our lives because they are worth loving. We're not perfect, but we're pretty freaking okay.

We regular folk need some positive affirmations. Here is what we came up with as a group. Not everyone of us agreed on all of them, but...

  • It's okay to be whatever size you are. As long as you are healthy and feel okay with it. If you don't feel okay with it, do something about it or find someone who loves every delicious pound of you.
  • Having a wrinkle is not the end of the world. Injecting poison into your face and refusing to smile is a lot less fun than developing laugh lines. (You have our permission to pluck that chin hair!)
  • If you are 40, 50, 60 - whatever - it's okay to look your damn age. Why the hell does everyone want to be Benjamin Button. Why the hell do you want to be with someone who isn't okay with you looking your age. Matter of fact, beautiful, why would you want to be with someone who only wants to be with your for your looks?
  • Look the age you look, act the age you feel. If you are 70, but feel 20, then enjoy. Age has nothing to do with joy. Put a big purple bow on your cane and do your damn thing.
  • Love people the way you want to be loved. Not for their looks or their money or for what they can do for you, but for the way they make you feel.
  • There are no "perfect" people. Even beautiful people have heartaches and fears. Sometimes, they have more than the rest of us. They have to learn to accept happiness just like everyone else.
  • The next time you see the "10 Sexiest," ask yourself this: Do I really want to work that hard to look that good? 
  • Accept you. Do you. 
--Free (and the other chicks)