Feeling Agelessly Comfortable In My Skin
I have a milestone birthday this year. You know, one with a zero at the end of the number. And that is making me think of my mother. On her 85th birthday, I called her to wish her a happy day. My mother had a very heavy German accent, and she started just about every sentence…be it a declaration or a question…with the monosyllable, “Oh.”
“Mom! Eighty-five!” I said. “That’s amazing!”
“Oh. But I don’t feel eighty-five.”
That statement has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. My mother felt like herself. The number didn’t matter. She was who she was, always. I loved that about her. And I love having inherited that joyous view of life from her.
And as I approach the beginning of a new decade (okay, okay, enough being coy…I’m going to be 60 in October…there I said it!), I feel better than I have ever felt, and I feel more like myself than I have ever felt. And this wonderful Beauty of a Woman Blogfest has inspired me to reflect on a few reasons why that is the case.
Three things immediately came to mind. I had rhinoplasty thirty-five years ago. I had a large Sicilian nose that came from my father’s side of the family. It was the same nose my dad had. That nose looked great on his face. It didn’t fit my face. I was very, very, very self-conscious about it.
A few years after graduating from college, I was going through a bit of a rough period, personally and professionally. And I got the idea in my head that having my nose fixed would make me feel better. My parents were very concerned about me at that point, so they agreed to get me the operation, hoping that it would help lift my spirits.
A wonderful plastic surgeon in New York City, where I lived at the time, was recommended to us. He was such a nice man. He looked at the stark black and white pre-op photograph of my profile, and took a pencil to shade out the big bump and the tip of my nose, which turned downward. The change in the look of the photograph was simple but profound.
“I’m just fixing a mistake that nature made,” the doctor said.
“You’re making me look like me,” I remember saying through a voice that was joyously teary.
I had twilight drugs during the operation. I remember waking up in the middle of it and hearing a grinding sound up and down my nose.
“Yikes,” I remember thinking. “Best to pass out again, pronto.”
After the swelling went down in a few weeks, the results were simple and profound. I felt like myself.
A few years after that, I happened to bump into someone from college on the 86th Street crosstown bus. I hadn’t seen him since graduating, so after catching up, I proudly said, “Notice anything different about me?” He didn’t. My nose job was very subtle from face-on. It was really more in profile that the changes could be seen. He admired my new profile, and then he said, “Gosh, your nose never bothered me.”
Which is a lovely comment. And of course I had to answer, “That’s lovely. And it’s kind of not the point…”
Because my nose really bothered me. I had it changed for myself, and for myself only. I have now had this nose much longer than I had the other one. I really like it. It feels like me.
Another thing I did many years ago that has stayed with me for decades happened a few years before I had my nose job. I had never exercised in college. I walked across campus, but I never went to the gym. It never occurred to me to work out.
When I was in New York, a glib comment by a then-boyfriend that I looked like I was putting on weight got me to go to a gym near my apartment to join. I was so pissed at him for making such a snippy reference to my figure, that I wanted to “show him.”
I’m not quite sure what I meant by “show him.” What I am sure of is that this was a major turning point for me. It happened almost forty years ago. I have worked out regularly since then. It is one of the most consistent things in my life. Because I absolutely love it. I love going to the gym. I love hiking. I love taking long walks. I love keeping moving. It makes me feel joyous and energized and relaxed and it helps me sleep better.
And, finally, the best thing for me about getting older is that I am living my values now more than I ever have before. A very dear friend of mine once said something that I absolutely loved… She commented that if anyone wanted to know who I am, all they would have to do is read my Facebook posts.
I’m rather passionate on Facebook…
I’m passionate about animal rescue and animal welfare. I’m passionate about volunteer work. I’m passionate about being a proud liberal feminist Democrat. I’m passionate about the glory of storytelling. I’m passionate about the Oxford comma. I’m passionate about love and kindness and generosity and my wonderful husband and friends and family. I’m passionate about our three rescued senior dogs, Chester and Maggie and Squeaks. I am passionate about gratitude.
I am now in a place in my life where I have the emotional and financial and physical resources to do what I want, when I want. I am grateful for that beyond the ability of words to describe. When I look in the mirror now, I have the same experience I imagine my mother had when she looked in the mirror, up to her 88th and last birthday. I see myself, agelessly comfortable in my skin.