Milfs and the (un)Real Housewives…

Woke up feeling kind of hung over this morning, though I didn’t even enjoy any drinks last night.  Along with this new, improved internal heating system and hair that magically streaks itself, that’s another new thing about 50 – drink free hangovers.  Who’d have thought 50 came with so much new and free awesome-ness?

Years ago, my then 70-year-old mother in law enthusiastically told me, ‘my 30’s and 40’s, they were okay.  but let me tell you,  my 50’s, 60’s and 70’s – now that’s really living’.  I looked at her greying hair and softening body from my 30 something perspective and was to be honest, a little grossed out and afraid.  Those years came with visions of polyester leisure suits, support hose,  musty perfume,  and  50 shades of bitterness.

Aging isn’t something many of us accept easily.  Entire industries are built on our inability to let go of the us we were at 20.  And there are few examples of how to grow older well, and god forbid, die well.   I cringe when I see faces immobilized by botox or people desperately scrambling after their youth.  It embarrasses me    But do I understand it?  Damn right.  Wrinkles and grey hair scare me too.

Last week, I came across a cosmetic ad featuring  Jane Fonda, who looked nothing short of unreal for  her 75 years.   And unreal she is, by her own admission; botoxed, nipped, tucked,  testosteroned – to maintain her sex drive,  and photoshopped.  Selling for L’Oreal,  an impossible standard of aging in a product  ironically called ‘age perfect’.   I have nothing against Jane Fonda,  I empathize with her very public though ultimately fultile race against time.  But I think it’s sad when our self acceptance is so tied to our ever-changing physical bodies.

jane

seriously, 75?

There are lots of messed up places to seek worth.  A woman I know recently achieved milf status.  She told me proudly that one of her son’s friends had paid her that compliment.   Being called a milf, in my opinion, isn’t a badge of attractiveness.   It’s as degrading and objectifiying  a word and image as cougar.   The most notable cougars being those very unreal, Real Housewives whose ridiculous antics I watch with a kind of  sick fascination.  I can tell you from experience, that isn’t what being a real housewife is all about.  Most of the real housewives I know are intelligent, self-sacrificing women of depth –  not sex glorifying, attention seeking, middle-aged women behaving like teenagers.  I’m not quite as empathetic toward the Real Housewives as Jane Fonda, apparently.

real housewives

like, seriously?

But even those of us who disdain superficial, misplaced values,  can’t help sometimes but feel a twinge of comparison over popularity and perfect appearance.  Human nature is a fickle, fickle thing –  foraging for worth and happiness in ways that can never provide it.

I’ve been thinking lately about what being ok with myself means.  I have a very smart friend who says, ‘good self esteem isn’t the opposite of bad self esteem, self acceptance is the opposite of bad self esteem’  or something close to that.   I like that definition.  Self acceptance means being able to see ourselves realistically and be ok with it.   Not just our external selves, but also our internal selves.  Because it’s our internal selves that really make or break our lives.

A few years ago, I dragged myself kicking and screaming to a therapist.  I knew I was having a tough time coping but had little insight as to why, and even less about how to fix it.   It began an unwinding that has been both the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.   I learned about stuff like cognitive distortions, STOPP therapy, mindfulness and authenticity.  And I can say without reservation, those things have more power to affect self acceptance than any 50 dollar injection of Botox or surgical enhancement.  It’s internal change that truly makes us happy, settled and real.

Every year at this time, I pull out one of my fave books from when my kids were small, The Velveteen Rabbit – or How Toys Become Real.  Kids stories can illustrate important adult ideas in the best ways…

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it’s a typically soggy march morning here on the west coast.   but i’ve been noticing little bits of oh so welcome green sprouting up everywhere.   it might just be new moss rooting itself in my front lawn but i’m ok with that.  spring is my favourite season.  i love the slow anticipation of watching things bud and swell,  bursting out of their old colours and into their new.

today, i’m making a paper frog.  these are not words i’ve ever put together in a sentence to describe my day before.  i’m not even really into frogs. but i’m imagining a cocky green one reclining on the roof of this oh so sweet fantasy paper mache castle i’m building for my art portfolio.   when i described the project to my admissions advisor, she responded, ‘well, that will add a divergent element to your portfolio.’  i’m not sure how i feel about the word divergent…

one of the things i noticed about the art displayed along the hallways of  the university is that it’s almost all ‘edgy’.  i get that.  i appreciate edgy,  in fact have spent years chasing edgy and still revisit it often.  nothing beats the chain-smoking, hell blazing cool of john constantine, the irish swag of the boon dock saints or the shrewd, swash buckling charm of captain jack sparrow.   i’m all over that kind of cool.  philosophically speaking, of course.

and yet here i am, spinning fairy tales out of shredded bits of cellulose.

i’ve  been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be who we are.   the older i get, the more i realize being who i am doesn’t mean being defined by just one thing. i spent my 20’s as the punk rock girlfriend of a chinese gang leader.  by 30,  i’d married a devoutly dedicated evangelical and was well on the way to’ 5 kids.  in my 40’s,  much to the dismay of the devout evangelical,  i enjoyed a whole lot of good vodka and live music at the little restaurant i owned with some friends.   but now at 50, i’m a bit confused.   who is this strange cross breed building whimsical golden vined fairy castles, learning about string theory and physics and for the first time in 5 decades, appreciating the elegance and creative power of math?

and the best i can conclude is that i am the sum of all the above.  the good, the bad and ugly – the rebel, idealist and dreamer.   authenticity is not a single digit number but an equation made up of all our variables.   it’s tempting sometimes to edit out pieces of ourselves, to pretend that we are or we aren’t,  trying to cover our embarrassingly insistent divergences.  but they force themselves out, unapologetic and naked,  pressing us into  our own unique and glorious definition of ‘real’.

it’s evening now, and i’m writing from the quiet of my room.  acrosss the hall there’s a not quite finished, chain smoking, bad ass toad with a gold tooth and celtic tattoo perched on the edge of my sugar sweet castle.

it’s been a very good day in fairyland.

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