It’s with great pleasure that my first blog is about the evening I had on May 2nd in New York City with some fabulous women, from 26 years old into their 70s. I was honored to be the speaker for amazing.community’s inaugural Meetup event at WeWork NoMad. The photo above is with Stela Lupushor, Founder of amazing.community on the left and me, Executive Director, on the right (www.amazing.community).
That night was an opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned about the process of aging and body image, which stimulated wonderful conversation, sharing and questioning from the women who attended. We shared how hard it is to get away from feeling that our bodies define us, particularly when people – including co-workers – comment on whether we’ve gained or lost weight. We talked about how the weight and fat are ways of protecting ourselves from unwanted advances and other uncomfortable experiences, yet everyone agreed that we’ve all experienced this no matter what our size or our age. We talked about our mentors and friends from whom we learned, whom we love and who love us and that their body size has played absolutely no part in how we feel about them. And, we forget, that our size means nothing to them – it’s who we are.
We covered topics from our mothers and how their aging informed how we think of ourselves, to the changes in our own bodies as we now get older – weight gain, aches and pains, body shape changes, “midriff bulge”, greying and thinning hair. There are so few positive role models for us as we age –most of the women in television, movies and commercials don’t look like us. We often see older women in commercials for pharmaceuticals – Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis – but not in most of the other commercials. So many cosmetic products are “anti-aging”. “Anti-aging” is being against living. Thank goodness we’re whatever age we are – we’ve been living. If we look online we find photos and articles on how to “dress appropriately for your age”, “hairstyles that make you look young”, “how to do your makeup to hide lines and look more youthful.” Women should be able to express themselves through fashion and whatever feels right to them. There is no “appropriate” way to be.
It’s rare to see someone in the media who hasn’t had cosmetic surgery. Frances McDormand is one of the rare actors who has said her laugh lines are from joy and she calls her face “a map that carries my history.” Now that’s a role model.
We need to find ways to support ourselves – how to respect our bodies for getting us to this point and hopefully for many years more. To stop trashing ourselves when we overeat or get on the scale – as I read once: “If we talked to our friends the way we talk to our bodies, we’d have no friends.” We need to find ways to make friends with the place in which we live - our bodies - and to acknowledge how they have served us. To not say to ourselves “what the hell has happened” when we see wrinkles or lines but to take a moment to think about the wonderful times we’ve had and the remarkable things we’ve experienced that contribute to “the map of our histories”.
In future blogs, I’ll be writing about my and the women in my family’s experiences with body image and aging and what it looks like through four generations of women. I’ll be going into greater depth on the topics we touched on last night.
Think about your own experiences and how you feel about your aging body. I’d love to hear your thoughts – contact me.