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Act your age

There’s a "women’s" magazine that features fashion and accessory recommendations every month for women by decade: what to wear in your 30’s, 40’s, up through your 70’s. I’m always drawn to the clothes that are supposed to be years or decades too young for me. How do we come by our preconceived ideas of how we should behave at any given age? You hear that boys now don’t grow up until their 30’s. And “old” women who dress like they’re 20, flirting with younger men. About women who chase their youth, dying grey hair, a tummy tuck or a face lift—getting a little work done they call it, tinkering with our bodies to keep them running (almost) as good as new.

Some go to extremes. I read Demi Moore stays young by using live leeches to detox her blood. (I would think leeches would do more tox than detox.) Victoria Beckham uses a face cream made from bird shit. And Katie Holmes' regimen is snake venom, which paralyzes the face muscles; I’m not sure how that helps, but then I’ve never tried it so how can I judge?

The British biologist Lewis Wolpert’s once lamented, “How can a seventeen-year-old like me suddenly be eighty-one?” And as we both know, being old isn’t generally considered cool. But, here's the silver lining: isn’t the realization that we’re so much older on the outside also proof that our youth persists on the inside? That we’ve remained on intimate terms with our younger selves?

A few months ago, my husband and I took a couple of grandkids roller skating at Oaks Park, the wonderful old rink in south Portland, Oregon (gleaming wood floors, a grand Wurlitzer suspended overhead), where we used to take their parents when they were young. And it didn't occur to us not to rent skates for ourselves along with everyone else. Looking back on it, I love the attitude, even though, sadly, caution will prevail next time, because Bruce did a windmill, landing on his fanny and getting reacquainted with an old back injury.

I’ve been taking notes on staying young on the inside: Nurture empathy for the mistakes of youth. Correction: Nurture empathy. If you can’t laugh at yourself, no one will ever take you seriously. That one about: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Exercise generates its own energy. Curiosity. Never stop learning. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Use all your senses. Play the music that gets your blood pumping—and sing along. My sister says: get your girls around you. Spend less time with negative people. Go dancing. Play with your grandkids. Play games. My grandpa’s advice: everything in moderation, including moderation. Wear a seatbelt. Ignore the magazines; wear what makes you feel good.

I have a friend who quit her quite lucrative real estate job in her 50’s to start a women’s skin care company, lifting off the ground nicely now. I took up yoga for the first time at 60. Another friend went back to school to get a university degree in blues harmonica in his 50’s.

When I was young, I was admonished, “Act your age.” I remember thinking: I’m a teenager—this is how we act! Now I’m 66. This is how we act.

© 2019 Susan Cummings. All rights reserved. Originally published on [How to grow, while growing older]


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