A misnomer – aging gracefully; pretty words for a difficult time for many who face new dragons at this certain time in life where physical appearance changes, yet some women bow gracefully to the onslaught of face and body alterations.
I admire the attitudes of many women whom just accept the changes, but I am a polar opposite to that kind of acceptance. I will use my last ounce of vanity to seek out the best methods I can find to combat aging. Sure, it’s inevitable; I’m not immortal, but most likely, I’ll leave this world wearing something leopard, a pair of stilettos (if I’m not caught dead at home on my computer wearing slippers), and sporting my signature orange lipstick and flaming red hair. All of these things became a part of me at a younger age, and I’ve maintained them for decades, so why would I cave?
Why should I have to stop striving to be the me that I’m comfortable in just because I’m in my mid fifties? I don’t have to. And nobody has to if they don’t want to. Getting older doesn’t dictate the rules on when we have to stop caring about the way we look and feel. That decision, my friends, is all up to us. From the choices we make for health and diet, to our preferences about our outward appearance, including skin-care – body and face, we all get to decide how we want to face the progression of time. We can let it slip in through the night like a thief, or we can ride the waves kicking up our heels.
I am anything but graceful. I’m assertive, inquisitive, investigative and bold, but I’m downright afraid of getting old. I know my attitude stems from my feelings of inadequacy I’ve harbored since childhood, and since that time, I’ve been an ongoing work in progress with myself, always striving for ways to feel better about myself; mentally and physically. And just when I thought I had the perfect antidote for my self-esteem, menopause came along and assaulted much of my diligent lifetime work of maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. And so I persevered in a new battle.
I’m not delusional, certainly when we approach our fifties and onward, we’re not going to look or feel thirty. But with a little maintenance, we can look remarkably good as the years and decades try to take control of us. Now, I’m not talking about man-made alterations with surgeries and injections. I’m talking about taking care of ourselves from the inside and out with healthy eating, a little exercise, and a plethora of choices available from the beauty department. My decision not to ever have to succumb to polyester, elastic waist pants and orthopedic shoes is a driving force within me that keeps me focused on my maintenance plan.
Oh sure, I love my sweatpants when I’m home, and especially when writing. Everyone wants to be comfortable. But I know quite well that wearing them doesn’t give me licence to eat mindlessly because there are still those days I have to go out and fit into my ‘real’ clothes. And no, I don’t wear make-up while I’m home working, but that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t maintain my daily skincare regime. After all, I still need my skin to look good when I’m ready to go out somewhere. If I neglect my skin by getting to darned comfortable and lazy working at home too much, I can’t really expect my face to look bright and healthy when I want it to.
There are many precautions we can take to maintain our self-preservation; the key is to become faithful to them. ‘We are what we eat’ is an old adage, but I find it holds much truth. I happen to have many food intolerances and allergies that thankfully, won’t kill me if I eat them, but the side effects of severe bloating and cramping remind me that I’d rather not indulge. The same goes for exercise. I’ve no interest in becoming a body-builder or a fashion model, but moderate exercise keeps our bones limber, our hearts tuned up, and our lean muscle, burning fat. All of these factors help combat the lingering gift that menopause left me, particularly around my not-as-small-as it once was waistline, popularly known as Muffin Top.
Putting our best selves forward is not about being perfect — it’s about doing the best we can for ourselves with what we have left to work with. It’s about feeling good about ourselves. These are basic things we can do to help avoid waking up and not feeling rickety when getting out of bed and having to dread those moments when we have to get dressed and go somewhere when we want to look nice and presentable, and feel comfortable in our skin. Realistically, no, we’re not going to jump out of bed and feel like we’re twenty again, but certainly if we don’t take care of ourselves (and yes, we will all have those days when we’ve been naughty or neglectful to ourselves) it’s not uncommon to wake up some days feeling like we’re twenty years older than we actually are.
When it comes to warding off a bit of father-time on our skin, I’m sharing a few tricks that I use. I’m not claiming these are in any way, miracle cures, but since my early twenties, I began looking after my skin in preparation for my overwhelming fear of getting older. I believe that looking after our skin has big pay off effects.
- I wash my face every morning with water and tone with witch-hazel, which has good toning and cleansing properties without alcohol, and way cheaper than the fancy, chemical-laden toners on the market.
- At night, I wash my face and remove make-up with extra virgin coconut oil, which I get from the cooking aisle in the grocery store. It’s in its purest form without any additives. Coconut oil has many healing properties and removes make-up seamlessly without tugging at your skin. After washing, I tone again.
- As far as face creams and serums go, I admit I’m a product junkie, so there are too many to mention. But suffice it to say, I look for products without harmful chemicals, and which contain vitamins, retinol and hyaluronic acid. Just don’t forget to moisturize your neck too!
- After menopause, my once supple skin had become more reptilian-like, so I found through testing a multitude of body creams — both cheap and expensive, that the best cream for my dry skin is a pure shea butter, which helps maintain moisture. Coconut oil is equally good on the body, but it will leave a bit of an oily film.
- Our hair doesn’t escape the clutches of our moisture-robbing lack of estrogen, so once again, I use a shampoo and conditioner without sulphates, which should also contain some healthy oils, such as: coconut, macadamia, or argan, to name a few.
- And, for something most women don’t like to talk about, but don’t be fooled, it’s an issue — the drylands of ‘the nether region’, try olive oil for instant relief, or used as a lubricant. Some of you may be raising an eyebrow to this suggestion, but it’s a great alternative to chemically filled creams and ointments with side effects and irritants. My naturopath approved my discovery. Natch, I keep a separate little bottle in the bathroom for personal use.
- I read somewhere, decades ago, that sleeping with a satin or silk pillowcase will help deter wrinkles because the fabric doesn’t crease like cotton. I’ve been sleeping with one for almost twenty years and coincidence or not, at fifty-six, I still don’t have any lines on my face.
- One other wrinkle-forming habit I recently heard about was that in our digital era, with people constantly looking down at their smartphones and tablets, statistics are saying that women are forming more wrinkles around their necks now in as early as thirty years old. Fact or fiction, I’m not sure, but if you think about it, constantly looking down is sure to leave somewhat of an imprint on our skin, just as slumping at a computer for hours with bad posture will leave us looking less erect. So the advice here is to keep your devices at eye level to avoid premature wrinkling and hunchback.
I’m not a licenced doctor, but merely a woman who has traveled the road of trying to better herself to conquer her own self-esteem issues. I write about my self-esteem issues in my book Words We Carry, and about the menacing dragons of menopause in my book Menowhat? A Memoir. My stories come from my own experiences and perspectives; some with humor, and some, not so funny, but all from the heart, and by sharing my journeys, I hope that others can take something useful from them.
D.G. Kaye is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.