Susan's Blog

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Descent of Woman

It’s difficult to get it right when you’re getting on in years. I am not complaining about all the wonderful attention I got yesterday; but I find it interesting to see how so many of my birthday wishes were about my unfortunate age (44) — either it was a joke about kind of getting old, or it was a joke about my being eternally 29, 35, whatever. I have never lied about my age, but I understand why people do. I think that for women, especially, there is almost no place to stand as you age. There’s no way to get it right, because our culture puts such a premium on youth — meaning, being in your twenties or even teens. I buy into it, of course, in my desire to stay slim, my pursuit of the latest fashion, my despair over every new wrinkle in my face. Seriously.

I don’t think I’m shallow, but I do admit to spending a little time every week wondering what I’m going to do, what will it be like, when I really start to “show my age.” I am a product of my culture. I have talked about this in therapy. I think showing my age will be a grieving process, a loss, or some kind of transition. Unless I start to “fight” it artifically. First, with diet, workout, haircolor, spa pamperings, and in-style clothing. (But I get exhausted thinking about how I’ll have to torque up my workout as my metabolism worsens, and depressed with I realize how this will all deplete my checkbook, too. Not to mention the time involved with all of it.) Then comes the question: how much further are you willing to go to turn back or stop the clock? All my friends talk about it. Are we or aren’t we? Some of them have already had things “done.” I think about Botox, I think about surgery for my eyes. I won’t do it, because it is dangerous and expensive. Ned is philosophically opposed to it, too. But then I feel that sense of loss, imagining what it will be like to look in the mirror and have my face no longer be what I have always seen. Even though, obviously, my face has changed since my twenties, it hasn’t worsened. But I believe there will come a time when I will feel like it has. Already there are days when I sigh and say to myself, “Scarlet, you done had three children.” I look at girls in their twenties and I can’t believe how soft and smooth and babylike their skin is! Did I once have that, too? Did I even appreciate it? No, I was caught up in feeling too fat or stupid or like an alien among earthlings (because of my perpetual sense of alienation, or — dare I say it — my own dusting of ASD).

Ned tells me that I’ll never feel like I’ve worsened from time, he says it will always be good, and feel right, and make sense, because it will always be me. I don’t agree (yet). But he says, “Look at your mom. Isn’t she beautiful?” And I say, “Yeah, and she doesn’t even wear any makeup! What’s with her?” My mother, who is 67, (and I don’t think minds telling people, at least I hope not), has only two concessions to age: she colors her hair, and she keeps her body extremely slim through careful diet and exercise. Mom raised me not to be vain. When she caught me looking in the mirror, she’d say, “Quit it!” But I’d keep doing it — guiltily. She would not let me have pierced ears (she relented when I was 10, much to my delight), or wear makeup until I was 13. She never let me wear the high-fashion stuff because she said it was “ridiculous” for girls to dress like much older women, or tsotskellahs. These days, so many parents don’t seem to mind if their little girls look like miniature fashion models, with hiphuggers and platform shoes! But should I judge them? I’m an old lady wearing that shit!

I am not where Ned is (or where Mom is) in terms of being in touch with what beauty really is. My ideal is far more stringent, much more attuned to what the fashion magazines say. Even if I were to stop reading them, I would know, because I see how young women dress/look and I get a sense from them what the current fashion is.

Current modes are also found on television, of course. I remember realizing, after watching Friends, that the fashion had changed in terms of how women’s arms are supposed to look. Courteney Cox had very thin, ropey, muscular arms and I was shocked at the time. My own arms were so much more doughy. I started to notice other celebrities’ arms, sinewy and strangely male, though thin, and I was disgusted. Now, my own arms are a lot more toned, though they will never by that skinny because my body can’t be that skinny. I have too much Eastern European genetic material to be that skinny.

To be honest, I am happy with my age probably only because I feel like I’ve done everything I can, fairly naturally, to look and feel my best. It is a slippery slope, and I feel like I’ve already begun the descent. I am hoping that in time I will acquire the wisdom to know how to apply the brakes without injuring myself.


Hi Susan…I recently had my 44th birthday as well. My kids are 22, 12 and 2. I have read your book and periodically followed your blog as my youngest child is autistic. Anyway…I really relate to all your comments about aging. I, like you, have done all I can to keep myself looking good without doing the surgery/botox route. Last night we went out on our motorcycle to the biketoberfest event in Daytona…I was all bikered out in a bikini top, tight jeans and leather vest…fun, fun, fun!!!One women said she couldnt believe I’d been married 22 years as I looked only 25 myself. So yeah, whats gonna happen when comments like that go away and I am truly..old..old??? Thanks for sharing, you look fabulous BTW-Eileen

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 10:01 am

A belated happy birthday to you, Susan. I’ll be turning 45 in January. I have my mother’s genetic make-up, so for now I don’t look or feel old. Mom is 71 though, and in just the past few years is really showing her age. Her knees and back are arthritic, which cuts out certain exercises that she used to do. Her metabolism has slowed and she can’t seem to take weight off as in previous years.

Having my son, Daniel, who is profoundly physically and mentally disabled, has really opened my eyes to how focused our society is on perfection (myself included). I’m trying to change that in myself, but it’s hard. I have an almost 11 year old daughter and I want her to be less body and face obsessed than I was as a teenager. Yeah. Not happening yet, but I’m trying.

I’ve also thought about how it will hit me when I look in the mirror and my neck looks like a sharpei puppy. I guess I’ll find out in about a decade or so!

— added by Carolyn on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 10:33 am

I turned 45 at the beginning of the month and as much as I would like to pretend to be above the fray and unfazed by aging, I am not. It certainly would be nice to have a youthful exterior to match my youthful soul but alas that’s not the case. That said, I don’t see hair plugs or cosmetic surgery in my future. There is a part of me that enjoys the weathering.

— added by Pete Lyons on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 12:50 pm

Hi susan……Happy birthday!
and btw I think you look awesome!

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 8:13 pm

Just for the record…I think it is better to dress younger than to dress a little girl older. Remember-the skinny pant is back in. We’ll see which age group is more reluctant to wear them..I am curious. I want some leg-warmers one of these days.

— added by mrs. gilb on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 9:23 pm

Eileen — Rock on!! A motorcycle, hmm.. maybe that’s next for me!

Carolyn, keep me posted about that mirror!!!

Pete — It’s good to hear from a man who has such a great attitude.

Don — What can I say, thanks!

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 7:17 am

Skinny black pant, eh? I used to live in those. I agree that little girls should not dress older. My boyfriend’s 13 yo is started to wear hoochy clothes and eye make-up. Fortunately, my kid is pretty basic in her tee shirts and jeans (much like her boring mother).

— added by Carolyn on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 7:49 am

I am 41, and also agree that one should come to terms with aging, and age gracefully – but that doesn’t mean, give up! I work out regulary, I love Pilates! And, I take care of my skin! My mother always told me the one thing that will always make you feel better ( and look better)is to be clean! My clothes, my hair and my body! I know so many women who make excuses for not being able to wash! I have 2 extremely active young boys, one who is Autistic, and I’ve always made sure to get in that shower, or tub. Sometimes, I have lots of company – but at least I know where they are!

— added by Anonymous on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 8:11 am

oh shmeeky, you are so whimsical!! like, lol!

— added by your biffle on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 8:43 pm


— added by Susan Senator on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 11:51 pm

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