March is my birthday month and as such a time for contemplation. Also a time for wine-drinking and merry-making (I am so not one of those people who says “don’t make a fuss … please fuss away!”) and I try to keep my ruminating to the grateful, optimistic type. But once we enter what will no doubt be the final third of our lives it is difficult to not take a little stock or wonder (when we look in the mirror) how the hell did this happen?
So in the midst of today’s thought-fest I came upon an article in Vanity Fair about Sharon Stone’s new movie “All I Wish” (which I believe comes out, oddly enough, at the end of this month which is exactly when my birthday will transpire). When first given the script, the soon to be 60 year old Stone was offered the part of “the mother”. But she had other ideas. She lobbied for the part of the 25 year old daughter. Not playing her as a 25 year old, mind you, but giving the story an entirely different slant with a much older daughter and a much older mother (Ellen Burstyn).
And there is a photo of Ms. Stone in a bikini top and long blonde pigtail and another of her in cutoff jeans on a beach and in my opinion, because she looks absolutely fucking fabulous, I immediately think – I want to be Sharon Stone when I grow up.
It hits me a moment later that I am grown up (and then some) and I am Sharon Stone. I mean I’m not a movie star nor do I have her movie star looks but I am sitting here writing this blog in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. My uniform. And I mean my uniform all year long. Even today when the snow has been flying, the winds howling and the temperatures maddeningly below zero I am sitting here in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, drinking wine and writing this blog. Our house is by no means hot (68) and neither am I (though I do tend to run somewhat warmish these days). These are just my happy clothes. And damnit it if I can’t live in my happy clothes at this stage of my life, when can I?
I do realize that many would say my attire is not “age appropriate”. God, how I despise that term. And who the hell got to make those rules anyway?
But it’s not the clothing, this I realize. It’s all about the attitude. And I have chosen to remain young at heart (everybody sing now!). And believe me, this is a choice that has to be worked on every single damn day. Much like we may colour our hair or get Botox or go to the gym or wear makeup to make ourselves look younger, we also must spend time on our attitude every single day to remain youthful. I try to keep up with technology, I cultivate friendships with younger people, I nurture a relationship with my 25 year old son which is open and non-judgmental and I just fucking refuse to “be” old.
Trust me, this is not an easy task. When I look in the mirror and see all those lines around my mouth, when I realize I just may be developing jowls, when the crow’s feet around my eyes can no longer be hidden with concealer and those damn brown spots just keep appearing like they were invited or something … well, it is disheartening to say the least. Don’t even get me started on chin hairs.
But then I look back and remember that for me life did not exactly unfold in what I might call a “usual” fashion. I actually hit the peak of my “physical” beauty in my late 40s. I went on the trauma diet, lost tons of weight, still didn’t have many wrinkles, figured out how to dress and it all came together for about 5 years of “Holy shit, look at me!” Believe me, I was more amazed than most.
Reality, however, never goes on permanent vacation. I come from good German/Russian Mennonite stock and we are genetically predisposed to, you know, girth. Add to that the fact that I love to cook and drink wine and well, bye-bye size 8.
I am okay with this. I am okay with this because I am currently madly in love with my own skin. Not it’s physical attributes, not the wrinkles and spots and saggy bits and extra bits. I am just madly in love with who I have become.
Now please don’t think I’m getting all vainglorious here. I say this from a place of torturous, struggling, hard-won acceptance. A place where I no longer have even a moment’s time for those who may choose to criticize me. A place where who I am far outweighs how I look. A place where my wide open eyes and wide open heart contribute far more to my “beauty” than a diet and plastic surgery could ever tender.
Of course I still get highlights in my hair and wear makeup when the occasion calls. And last year when I was undergoing some skin cancer treatment on my face I also had my dermatologist blast off as many brown spots as he could locate (well worth the price). I also wear a bikini when I feel like it, buy groceries in just lip gloss (well, and clothing, of course) and pretty much live in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. Don’t worry … if I don’t know you that well and you’re coming over to drink wine I’ll probably also put on a bra.
I truly believe it is this magnificent comfort-in-our-own skin that keeps us youthful. It also helps to have relatively good health, keep somewhat fit and enjoy genetic blessings (my mother died at 93 with still quite lovely skin). But the key word I think is curiosity. And the other key word is acceptance.
Curiosity is what keeps us in the game. It keeps us current and contemporary and vibrant and relevant. There is a reason I am friends with many of my son’s friends. A reason they actually come to visit me. A reason I am not just the old mom. The funny thing is I had him fairly late in life so I really am the old mom. But I don’t think they see it that way.
Acceptance is perhaps harder. I have friends who now dress only in baggy clothing or cover up with cardigans or shop at old-lady stores (never!) because they are now so uncomfortable in their skin they feel the need to hide it.
Not this girl. If I need to spanx it up I will. And if can’t, or don’t feel like it, I won’t. If those cool ripped jeans show off my muffin-top, oh well. If the low cut dress highlights my sun-spotted chest so be it (it also highlights my boobs!). And if I can head to the beach wearing whatever I choose and not worry even for an instant what anybody is thinking then praise Jesus! Because the fact of the matter is most people aren’t thinking about me at all. They are too worried about how they look in a bathing suit to worry one iota about me.
So bring it on Birthday! I am always so very thankful for another year on this plant. Doing it my way … in cut-off jeans. I think this year I may just celebrate at the cinema, with my new best friend Sharon Stone.