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"If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - OK/Not OK at 60, The Checklist
Jean P. Moore was born in 1946, in Brooklyn, New York and now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is a former English teacher and telecommunications executive. Currently a writer, her publications include business books and articles, short stories, poetry, humor pieces and newspaper commentaries.
OK/Not OK at 60, The Checklist
For years a good friend of mine and I have been saying we are 35 (not that anyone buys it), but the fact is we are leading edge boomer women, born in 1946. Now, however, it is OK to be sixty-something. How do I know this? Because two of our favorite contemporaries were "outed" at 60 in recent film roles. Diane Keaton's character in Because I Said So had a 60th birthday party and Sally Field's Nora of Brothers & Sisters celebrated her 60th on the show last season.
These two stars have long been my canaries in the coalmine. I've been with Sally since Gidget and the Flying Nun. I even endured Smokey and the Bandit for her. Then came her golden period: I cheered for her in Norma Rae, felt for her in Absence of Malice, cried for her in Places in the Heart, and laughed with her in Soapdish. I have been with her through the Lifetime era to, now, a phoenix-like reemergence in B&S.
Then there's Diane. Annie Hall was a defining moment for me. Not since Moira Shearer in the Red Shoes, when I wanted to die en pointe, or since Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, when I wanted to be flat-chested and skinny, have I been more influenced by an actress. I still have funny clothes and hats from My Annie Hall phase, but I've finally given up the various nervous tics, as they now seem to presage some sort of aging disorder. I've been with Diane since early Woody Allen. Later, I was proud of her in Looking for Mr. Goodbar and reverential about her in Reds. Then came the "father movies": the Godfather saga and the Father of the Bride period. I've been with her through bad hair and fluff movies, happy to see her emerge triumphant in Something's Gotta Give.
So, over the years, no matter what Sally and Diane were doing, I thought if I could if match them pound for pound, wrinkle for wrinkle, I'd be OK. For decades, I've checked my progress against theirs-they were thin and flirty at 30; so was I. They were pulling it off at 40; so was I. They were surviving menopause; so was I (Diane put on a little weight, but quickly brought it under control; so did I.). They disappeared from the A list; so did I, in a different sort of way. I dropped off the fast track at work and went to the back row of my aerobics class.
Now here they both are in their sixties, great looking and proud of their age, glamorous-but definitely not trying too hard (with the exception of their television ads for bone strength and age-defying make-up-shot through enough diffused light to make them look heaven bound.) Their longevity as stars is causing me to take stock anew. What does it really mean to be OK at 60?
After observing friends and family as they navigate through the shoals of this particular passage, I've come up with a checklist of "OK/Not OK at 60." For example, it's definitely OK to stay current with fashion. I have Manhattan friends from the 60s now in their 60s who shop at Theory, Scoop, and Lucky Brand Jeans who all look fabulous in their sleek stretch shirts, low-cut jeans, and ballet slippers. This is upscale, age appropriate. Personally, I have a lot of trouble with low-cut jeans. They take me back to when I had no hips and could not keep a skirt up. Now lack of hips is not the issue. It's just that once an item of clothing is located below the hipline, how do you avoid the bent over plumber look?
What is not OK, however, fashion-wise, is a teen wanna-be, a woman who dresses like her daughter. In my case, it would be dressing like my daughters-in-law, both of whom are about 6 feet tall, weigh 120 pounds, and wear a size two. I couldn't dress like them if I wanted to. On the other hand, although I thoroughly disapprove, one wouldn't mind occasionally being considered a "heater"; that is, an older woman who is "hot" who dresses like her daughter.
The OK/Not OK checklist also includes approaches to anti-aging, diet, and exercise, the "triple play" of boomer women. When it comes to anti-aging, there are three distinct categories: "Totally at Peace," "Trying to Hang On," and "Scared Witless." In the first is my sister whose response to turning 60 was to let her hair go gray, a completely counter-intuitive move. If it's true that hair dye seeps into your skull while you sleep, then my brain is now various shades of brown, red, and-more recently-blonde. My sister does not do fillers, Botox, or heresy of heresy-surgery. She juices and hikes. This is definitely, OK, and a little irritating.
In the next category, Trying to Hold On, are women (myself included) who have been shopping for glycolic acid and retinol at their dermatologist's office since puberty, who have recently moved up to injections, and who are now consulting with the most Googled plastic surgeons they can find. They are taking comfort in the sage advice, "If it makes you feel good about yourself, do it." If these women go under the knife, it will be for a little nip and tuck because they, and I quote, "love the hard-won wrinkles (right), but don't like bags and sags." This category is OK, if not as courageous as the Totally at Peaceniks.
In the Scared Witless category are those women so afraid of the ravages of time, they will endure anything to look like their younger selves. These are the women who have brow lifts, eye lifts, face lifts-and while they're at it-deep chemical peels-all at the same time. After surgery, in bandages reminiscent of the English patient (from movie of same name) they go away someplace in the care of a full-time nurse, medicated to the brink of coma until they heal. They are afraid of aging but, apparently, not pain. While this may not be OK for most of us, you have to admit, it takes guts.
As far as eating goes, I've observed several distinct types of boomer diets: the Fish, Chicken, and Sparkling Water Diet; Low Metabolism Diet; and Food. While there does not seem to be a single thing more to be said about diets, let me just jump in with this: most diets do not focus on older eaters. Our issues are not nutritional; they are delusional. For example, those on the Fish, Chicken, and Sparkling Water diet think that because they look like the gangly free-range chickens they feast on, they must look young. How to tell them, "Yes, you can be too thin"? This is definitely not OK.
On the other hand, I have a friend who is on the Low Metabolism Diet. She has gone from Renee Zellweger in Chicago to Renee in Bridget Jones' Diary. This friend typically eats bowling-ball sized scones for breakfast, "tea" sandwiches for lunch (half a dozen, "but they're so small"), and anything smothered in Gruyere for dinner. Before settling down to her favorite vintage flick on AMC, she brews mint tea and downs it with fresh baked lemon squares. Her delusion? Insisting that no matter how she diets, her low metabolism keeps her from ever losing weight. ("Ever since the change, blah, blah...") This is a Not OK diet, but those on it make the rest of us feel superior.
The Food Diet? What more needs to be said: veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Obviously, OK, but those of you with the discipline for this, you're boring.
Now a word about exercise. No, riding in a golf cart and walking two feet to your ball does not constitute exercise. And, no, training for a marathon after knee replacement and spinal stenosis surgery is not OK. Why is it so hard to get this right as we get older? Even those of us trying "To Be" in yoga often get pulled to one extreme or the other. I've been next to women who come to class and sink into child's pose at every opportunity, anxiously waiting to flip over like beached whales for final relaxation. On the other hand, a woman of 60 with a torn rotator cuff and a slipped lumbar disc, all resulting from too many chaturangas and up dogs, needs to move from her power yoga class at the Y to a restorative session at a real yoga studio.
So, to sum up, to have the grace under pressure that my idols Sally and Diane display-we're all going to need a little humility, humor, and good sense. Maybe then, when it's our time to move on to that treadmill in the sky, we will be able to say, like Norma Rae, "Forget it! I'm stayin' right where I am. It's gonna take you and the police department and the fire department and the National Guard to get me outta here!"
Well, whoever said boomers would go anywhere peacefully?