One day when I was 45, wearing an expensive equivalent of a Mumu (a linen sack minus the pineapples and war canoes), I went back to therapy.
I said, “Help me make a graceful transition into middle age.” (Okay, so I was running a little late.)
He looked at me like I had grown a third eye right there in his office.
“No really. I’ve watched too many of my friends have difficulty with this change.”
He continued to smile benignly at me. “Why do you think you’ll have a difficulty with it?”
I looked at him like he sprouted a third arm. “Ah, society is not very accepting of middle age. They have two options – become invisible or act like a hypersexual 20 year old.” Internally, I was wondering if we lived in the same culture. Guess it is different for men.
We sat there for a minutes. Me with my third eye. Him with his third arm.
At last the font of wisdom spoke. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, I’m invisible. I don’t feel invisible but I am to men. And women seem to expect me to move into this matronly grandmother role. I don’t have kids.”
“Yeah. I guess that could be confusing,” he said. “I don’t think you’re invisible.”
“You have to say that. You’re my therapist.”
Really? No one else has asked for help around aging? Really?
We worked on the changing role and self-identity for maybe 2 years. I learned some love of my changing body. I discussed Botox with him. I told him about my changing intimacy needs along with the lack of available men. I expressed my frustration with the culture.
“I tell you I could stand naked by a Motel 66 with a sign reading, ‘The room is already paid for’ and no one would notice, not even slow down their car,’ I said.
“I find that hard to believe,” he said looking uncomfortable.
(I love when I can make my therapist uncomfortable – means I’ve struck a cord. He’ll probably go for supervision – a chain of therapists providing for each other’s retirement. Yay!)
“You still look good,” he said.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“You have nice skin and are sexy.”
(Eeoough. Sex with your therapist is a no-no, the big F for Felony.) I knew he wasn’t hitting on me but it was time to end therapy.
So, I went to yoga class to work on my aging but not decrepit body. My yoga practice had changed. No way was I practicing like I would have done in my 30s. That’s disrespectful to myself. And dangerous. I guess I did learn some stuff in therapy …
In this yoga studio, most of the students and teachers are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s. By this time I was moving towards 50, yes 50 years of middle age. I plopped in wearing the de rigueur yoga leggings and some kind of spaghetti strapped top. The teacher said, “Fix your top.”
Another student said, “You may as well be naked.”
I thought, “Why? Other people in here are wearing a little sports bra and something that might pass for shorts on a preteen.” (Oops, there goes my judgmental self.)
I bounced over to a friend’s mat. She said, “You just exude sex.”
I walked back to my mat. Was I putting out the sexy vibe? My skin wasn’t over exposed. I hadn’t even looked at the men in the class.
Then I realized women over 50 who are confident in themselves, with an integrated sexuality, are a threat. We know things. Things other people want to do. With them. We know how to use words to ask for what we want, to clarify, and to connect. We have developed a proper place for sex in our lives. Sex being only one thing among many things that define us.
Two years ago, well into my 50s, waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I overheard two people from my decade. He said, “There’s nothing like young skin. There’s nothing like youth.” She started to cry.
I wanted to go over and hold their hands saying, “Yes that’s the truth of it. Each age has a particular beauty. Look for it in every one you come in contact with but don’t negate your own loveliness.”
A photographer friend asked me, “What is it about women in their 50s that makes them so attractive?”
“We have worked to become comfortable with ourselves.” Ha!
The therapy worked. I no longer wear Mumus. Mostly I am comfortable in my own skin – that’s my beauty in middle age.