beauty

'Don't listen to JLo. This is what your 50s are really like.'

JLo is setting the bar far too high for us oldies.

At nearly 52, she is still gyrating on stage like a teenager, all the while belting out sexy tunes and flashing sculpted body bits in nearly-there outfits. 

Maybe it IS just moisturiser, good genes, water and sunscreen. 

Perhaps it’s Botox, subtle surgery and money to devote masses of time and resources to her most valuable asset – youth and beauty. 

Either way, she is a story from Hollywood, her public persona is a carefully crafted creation and comparing ourselves to JLo is like measuring ourselves against an Avatar.

This is SO not my experience...

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When I turned 50 years old, I told myself that age was just a number and deep down, I knew that age would not affect my lifestyle. 

I vowed to do something new and adventurous every week, so I jumped out of an aeroplane, leapt from bridges into water below, took up trail running, joined a footy team, signed up for academic courses and planned a new career.

What a freakin’ misguided age-denier!

Seven years later, and I feel deeply tired, a little lost and bewildered, very confused with modern life, and physically, so bloody sore. 

It was like tumbling down a hill over rocky patches and prickly bits and ending up bruised and battered in a heap on the floor wondering what the hell happened.

I hardly recognise the fat and wrinkly old lady staring back at me in the mirror, I can’t move without painful sound effects due to arthritic knees and spine, kids are leaving the nest, parents are looking terribly vulnerable, and I have gotten to that unemployable age and invisible age where friends drop dead of heart attacks.

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It is hard to get a grip on the fifties because it all shifts so quickly. 

The only certainty is that how I look and feel this year bears so little reality to how I’ll feel and look a year down the line.

I had thought I was too old for a midlife crisis – so I looked it up and it is defined as a condition occurring for people aged from 45 to 64 – and this has been me for the past two years. 

This transition of identity appears to be caused by a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person's growing age and inevitable mortality. 

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I have got to my age and I still do not know what my purpose in life is, where I am going, what I’m doing here on this earth or what any of this existence means. It was that clichéd “What is the point of this all?” 

My teenage sons are on the brink of young adulthood and once they have their car licences next year, they will be off like a pair of dirty panties, rushing along the youthful road of freedom and Independence. 

Yes, they will still be at home for food, laundry and a dose of Mummy love, but they will always head back again, returning less and less frequently and then one day, they will have their own homes and family. 

My parents are now in the last chapter of their lives, and watching death creep nearer to snatch away my security and anchor leaves me feeling vulnerable and uncertain, like my anchor has been ripped up to leave me drifting in an unfamiliar sea with no land in sight.  

With age, I’ve become less confident in decision making, through realising there is little certainly, loads of areas of grey, and having a much more tolerant attitude to differing points of view. 

When I was young and opinionated, decisions were clear-cut and easy. 

Now I see so many different dimensions and possibilities, so many colours and scenarios, that it’s easy to get trapped in a quagmire of options. 

I’ve become emotionally lazy, or gentle, where great extremes of emotion exhaust me. I need to conserve my energy these days, so prefer to use it very carefully, and fretting the small stuff seems wasteful. 

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So my headspace became a little loose. 

But what annoys me is the physical stuff. My back and neck are killing me as arthritis has ravaged my spine. 

My muscles are fading because weight training has to be light to cope with my joints, and from doing 20 straight-legged push ups easily 10 years ago, I now hardly get out 10 while resting on my knees.

I can’t run or jump and even hiking aggravates my injuries. My knees creak and throb, so every time I stand up, it involves much huffing and puffing and groaning. 

My teeth have cost me a small house as they crumble and break, I have a stomach ulcer, and my once long and thick hair is now lacklustre.

Hair doesn’t even bother to grow in my armpits or legs anymore; it’s clearly too much effort. Being physically weaker has made me feel old.

Even more trivial is the unnerving disconnect between what I look like and who I am in my head. 

I used to be fairly attractive and athletic looking. Now I am a stolid, bossomy matron whose hooded eyes disappear into folds of skin when I smile. 

When I lean over, my entire body falls into my neck. And when I stand up, I have crinkly knees and ankles. Like really, who has wrinkles down there?

My bum has fallen onto the back of my legs, and my muffin top flops tumbles down in cascading waves. I also have back fat that flaps and I have to arrange my flopsy inner thighs so I can fit on my undies.

I get a fright when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror – when I am actually wearing my glasses or contact lenses – and a strange woman looks back. 

While I seriously mourn not being able to go for a long run or do a gym class, I do grieve for my previous face and body as I now accept fully that they are never coming back. 

That physical me is dead. To fight against it would mean that I saw my own value as a person correlate to whether I looked like a young woman. 

My intellect knows that to subscribe to the one shallow beauty standard for woman – firm, trim and young with no wobbly bits allowed and definitely no droopy folds – is essentially anti-female.  

Society has lots of standards of male beauty, old and young, but only one for women – young and pretty - which we perpetuate by indulging in Botox and plastic surgery. 

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It is all so complicated and distressing that women hate themselves for getting older – and I know I need to simply accept ageing with grace and dignity, flaunting my age, celebrating my years, and stop with this shallow stuff. 

The good news is that I recently had an epiphany – I saw the light, so to speak – and realised that the light shining within us is the spark that counts – and I now is my time to fuel that dimming light so it becomes a steady glow that radiates warmth to myself and those around me.

This year, I may have begun to get a grip on what getting older means. 

I recently read a magnificent book called Phosphorescence, which addresses awe and wonder, and the fact that a study shows humans can shine like glow worms in the dark. 

I like to imagine it is because we are made from stardust. But it led me to when I was a child, and we sung this song at church that went like this: 

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
 You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Suddenly I had an epiphany. It’s the light within us that counts. It was like a light was turned on inside my body, 

But you know one thing I have not given up on? Being successful, having a job I love, making money, finding out what my purpose here on earth is, good times and adventures. 

We all have that inner light of hope and happiness. As we age, it tends to grow dim. But we need to stoke that fire, feed it so it burns high and brightly to guide us through the darkness to the white light at life’s end.

I am probably happier and more content at this stage in my life than ever before, maybe because I am emotionally lazier. 

Seriously, it is actually better this side of the life cycle. I have begun to accept these adventures probably won’t be as physical as they once were. 

The closing of some options opens doors for others, and I have time to pursue things I use to be too busy for. 

So do not look at J-Lo as the benchmark for what women in their fifties should look and feel like. She is setting the bar way too high. Instead, look to the inner self and concentrating on the glow within. 

Feature Image: Supplied.