Hats off to Mary J. Blige for the lyrics of her song, Just Fine*, because they capture the way I’ve come to feel about my physical self in tmy middle years. Mary J. sings this song, I mean she “sangs it” (as we say in the Black community when somebody really sings). All of the lyrics are wonderful, but I particularly like this refrain:
“So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
When I’m walking past the mirror
No stress through the night, at a time in my life
Ain’t worried about if you feel it
Got my head on straight, I got my mind right
I aint gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just…..
Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
Just fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just fine…”
This anthem to feeling and being fine “at a time in my life” is imminently danceable. (Check out this video on YouTube , “Go Hard or Go Home –Line Dance – Just Fine,” Poorly lit though it is, it is a buoyant video of a group of Black people joyously dancing to this song at a festive gathering.)
Now, to get to the point of this post. Feeling good about the way you look is difficult for many women in this society no matter what our ages because so many of us have bought into “the beauty myth(s)”** hurled at us through various media and come to believe the hype.
Some of us, however, come to our senses and that often happens in middle age. I’m here to tell you that you can feel good about, accept and love the skin you’re in. You have a unique beauty in midlife. The freedom of being
- more certain,
- more joyful…
What a combination!
For examples of older beauty and chutzpah, look no further than the blog Advanced Style which features photos of fabulous, stylish, flamboyant women and men of the senior set, most of whom are everyday people. (The blog accepts photo submissions.) I like that the site features people from a wide range of ethnicities and sizes. It recently featured fabulous photos of 95 year old model and actress Mimi Weddell, who puts me in mind of the fabulous Carmen Dell’Orifice who is in her 70s and going strong as a model. She is beautiful and she wears her age well, in her own special way.
Particularly among the celebrity set, there is ample evidence of women who don’t embrace getting older, fight it tooth and nail, and often ending up looking like caricatures of themselves. Joan Rivers, Cher, and Madonna come quickly to mind.
Gillian Lancaster, on her blog, Midlife Rediscover, wrote a post, “Is Madonna the poster child for a midlife crisis?” Citing criteria for a midlife crisis by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, she writes:
“This conclusion was drawn from observing photos of Madonna, showing her dressing and behaving like a teenager, being fanatical about exercise and diet, and conspicuously having failed to re-define herself as a woman of fifty….The article goes on to suggest the range of behaviors women who can’t come to terms with aging will do to avoid facing reality. These include hanging on to outdated behaviors, dating much younger men, acquiring children to feel like a young mother for longer, and obsessively trying to make their bodies look like they did a quarter century earlier. Certainly from photographic evidence, it would appear that Madonna fits all those criteria.”
Oh, Madonna! She’s joined the legions of men who fight growing older by going through various midlife antics all of which are doomed to fail. We can be energetic, we can try new things, we can take care of ourselves but we cannot stop aging. The life contract just doesn’t work that way.
Linda Matchan, a columnist for the Boston Globe, wrote an essay entitled wrote an essay entitled “Zoomer Generation.” She borrows this phrase from Moses Znaimer who is president of CARP, a Canadian organization similar to America’s AARP. He is aiming to establish “a new vision of aging for Canada.” “You are a Zoomer,” he says, “If you still look forward in life and to life and remain open to new things.”
Matchan bemoans the frumpy looking clothes that are often designed for women over 40, especially “mother of the bride dresses.” (Although this is easily avoided if one doesn’t shop at stores that claim to offer clothes for a certain age.) Her rant makes some salient points, but it doesn’t quite get to my point.
I’m here to tell you:
- You can wear your hair long, no matter what your age, even long and grey/silver/white!
- You can wear bright colors.
- You can wear whatever you like really, even if it’s not my taste.
- If you are fashionable you can be fashionable at any age.
- If you’re not and don’t give a twit for fashion – you can be you!
After all beauty is in the eye of the beholder (even if you’re the beholder of your own beauty) and pretty is as pretty does.
And even though it’s not what I’m choosing to do – knock yourself out with lifts and tucks, dyes and Botox, this and that, film and flam. Just don’t think it’ll make you anything other than the age you are
Note: This blog first appeared on BlogHer.com
*Just Fine performed by Mary J. Blige.
Songwriters, Anton Phalon Alexander, Mary J. Blige, C.A. Stewart & Terius Youngdell.
**The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf was first published in 1991.