The Princess bone

It has been a long day at the office, and for the second night this week, I found myself hanging out with the bosses while they enjoyed a beer (or 3). We started out in an actual meeting discussing our upcoming recruiting efforts and how the rest of the staff are holding up under yesterday’s events. In truth, I got very little actual work accomplished today, outside of attending a couple of meetings with clients. The rest of my time was spent reassuring staff and helping with reorganizing workloads and office spaces.None of this was unexpected.

My bosses are very good guys. They are extremely disciplined professionals with high standards and expectations for themselves as well as the staff they employ. However, they are also good guys, close friends as well as business partners, and I have falling into the fold nicely. So in many ways, I am conversationally one of the guys.

Since all 4 are in some stage of single and dating, the topic comes up fairly routinely. While I am not quite old enough to be their mothers (and I have met all their parents – lovely people), I am pretty far removed from the women they tend to gravitate toward in social circumstances. The joke is if there is a second or third date, I start wondering if I need to invite them to a office lunch so I can size them up for myself. Hopefully they continue to be secure, confident men who are highly unlikely to ask me what I think about their squeezes;  my honesty could go to war with my sense of employment self-preservation.

Just last week one of them told me my “Build a Better Butt” project (as I refer to my ongoing training with J and exercise pursuits) was working out well for me. I jokingly reminded him that he should be careful what he says to a female subordinate, that sort of trash talk could find him on the wrong end of a harassment complaint. He gives me the puzzled face – am I insulted? Should he not compliment me? Is the workplace hostile because he thinks I am looking fitter? Because I know he’s teasing in his defense, and genuine in his compliments, and not a slap-and-tickle disrespecting mysogenist, I do not take it seriously and have to laugh with him. Plus I take it as a huge compliment that he and the other bosses feel comfortable enough with me to know that I am not going to take their kindness in a wrong, litigious sort of way.

So today we somehow got on the topic of breast implants. One of their sisters is in her mid-30s, getting married later this year, shopping for a wedding gown, and considering breast enhancement surgery. The boss is very upset about this, feels his sister is absolutely beautiful just the way she is and immediately suspected this was coming from the fiance. Since we were just shooting the breeze anyway, he brought it up and asked me what I thought about it and what else he might say to try and get her to embrace her unaltered shape.

The whole conversation made me vaguely uncomfortable. Not because I was talking boobs with men I work with, because that part was perfectly fine. No, I was vaguely uncomfortable because I find the topic of plastic surgery of any sort makes me uncomfortable. And I am not precisely sure why, although I did try to articulate my general thought that while it seems like a bad idea she may come to regret, I was sort of stumped as to why it is I feel that way. But thinking about it driving home, chatting with M about it, I think I have a better and more complete reasoning on the subject.

Essentially, I lack the princess bone. Or gene. Or whatever it is that makes people have more vanity than I seem to possess.

When it comes to bugs, vermin, snakes, and frogs, I got a big giant body of skin in the princess game. I want someone to take care of the bug, vermin, snake, and frog post haste, while I cower on a high surface where the evil creepy things cannot get me.

But when it comes to issues like plastic surgery, it all seems rather pointless to me. And for someone who has felt like being invisible is preferable to being recognized for my basic average (at best) appearance, my logical mind says my insecurity about my appearance would make me a prime candidate for anything that would make me appear more mainstream pretty. Except my mind does not work that way. If it did, I would probably have a drawer full of cosmetics that I paint on daily. Instead, I have an new tube of chapstick waiting to be deployed when I lose the one in my purse right now, a rarely used tube of mascara, and I think maybe a lipstick that might have escaped my most recent decluttering mania. I could write whole blogs on my anxiety about cosmetics and fears of being viewed as a clown school candidate reject for my efforts in using them effectively.

With any type of elective surgery, my mind says it is dangerous, painful, not covered by insurance and therefore ridiculously expenses. And for me personally, really kind of pointless at this waypoint in my life. Many of my friends have had some work done, or are desiring to have some work done, and frankly my understanding does not seem expansive enough to be able to successfully empathize with them on the subject. Everyone ages. Everyone has some piece or part of their body they wish to change, and I am not sure doing so that way is ever going to be a good idea. Then again, I am not the one who has to be convinced or encouraged to embrace their new look. If you are my friend, you with less wrinkles and perkier butt or boobs or flatter stomach is not going to do much anything to alter that.

I think my discomfort comes from someone else’s level of dissatisfaction with their own body. Believe me, I have plenty of body issues myself and if elective surgery did not have risks and was not painful I might be tempted to consider that route to altering body as well. But it does have risks and surgery is painful, so I shall continue my build a better butt project within the confines of the gym, thank you very much.

I also think know there are reasons well beyond vanity that people undertake such drastic measures, and somehow it’s easier for me to understand breast reduction than breast augmentation. Removing patches of skin cancer and maybe having some nipping and tucking done at the same time seems reasonable. Having noses reshaped while having some sort of sinus problem repaired seems perfectly understandable. Essentially, if there is some medically necessary reason to go under the knife and you a couple of upgrades, it does not seem like such an extravagant decision.

Obviously, at my core, I am a practical person.

But for a young woman to consider breast implants before getting married just seems extreme and wrong. I would rather see her invest the money she would spend with a good therapist talking about why she wants to do such a thing and seeing if improving self-esteem without surgical body modification.

Sometimes it seems many of my male friends do not know any regular, down-to-earth women they can have candid conversations with, or I am just naive enough to be perfectly honest about what I think and how I feel. I was telling M about this exchange tonight and he says it’s probably because of their current relationship status. Maybe. Divorce does skew your perspective for awhile, as does ending of long-term relationships.

At the end of our conversation, I simply told my boss to continue to remind his sister that she’s a beautiful young woman and perfect just as she is right now. Because maybe that’s what she needs most of all: encouragement to be comfortable in her own skin and to be both supportive and specific about why she is beautiful, inside and out. With family and family dynamics, I am kind of fuzzy about whether or not such statements make a difference. In my own family of origin, it was not normal or natural for my sibling or my parents to compliment me ever. With M and my children, though, I am unwavering in my support and encouragement of the development and good people qualities, including physical appearance when appropriate. My theory is that sincerity of affection is more meaningful than being told not to do something because big brother does not like or is terrified of the consequences of such action.

 

 

 

 

 

Authenticity, values, being true to ourselves

While working out this morning I was pondering the female midlife crisis. This came up on Monday during training with J and has been an ongoing, informal survey the last few days with me asking other friends in the age range of susceptibility to such things.

The responses have been interesting. The friends I asked are divorced and dating, in steady or serious relationships, married with kids, empty nesters, and even ladies who have never married or have been married and are without children. Everyone had their own versions of having gone through it or projecting what that would or will do if and when that time arrives for them.

Those who felt they went a little crazy between mid-40s and mid-50s said it was because of relationship breakdown – boredom, break-up, infidelity on one or both sides, issues with their young adult children or aging parents. If they had been long-term caretakers, i.e., kids and/or other family members and those situations had resolved, it was as if they had been set adrift and lost purpose in their lives. Perhaps triggered by a job loss or a breakdown in the romantic relationships. It is as if they have been avoiding the mirror for a quarter century and suddenly realize they are thicker, middle aged, unattractive, and boring (common phrases I heard from several). Suddenly it’s all about going blond or covering gray, getting into shape, getting tan, finding their inner slut and getting laid. A couple of them – I admit to thinking about that period with a wincing grin. It was a bit like crazy town for awhile, until the crisis passed and they settled down into who they are now. Some reinvented themselves, got new careers or restarted ones they had abandoned to raise their families. Many changed their hair – went blonde or red or dark or all of the above – and/or reshaped their shapes with diet and exercise.

I am not sure if I have had mine yet or if some of us just bypass it completely. My reasons for with training with J, altering my diet with RD, elevating my self-esteem and confidence with TM – all these things are related to better health and improving outlook that regaining lost youth or the “hotness” that gradually fades with aging and maturity. I think, anyway; I was never hot in the first place and cannot comprehend what that might mean in middle age. Besides, the current definition of sexy has never been my style. A cougar or MILF is not something I have ever aspired to be, and I would be truly horrified to be characterized as either.

But anyway, my ponderings about the stuff I have learned from other friends has made me consider what makes a woman feel the need to try and completely reinvent herself when she hits some age-related milestone. Thinking about it, a midlife crisis need not be a bad thing, either. Losing some weight, eating better, doing things that make us feel better about ourselves is good and healthy behavior in the right context. But again, managing our expectations and keeping it real should also be part of any sort of undertaking.

From my informal and completely unscientific discussions, consensus is that the female midlife crisis is spurned by life events that may inspire feelings of insecurity or drops in self-esteem or simply feeling the weight of our ages. Divorces, relationships ending, kids moving out of the house or getting married or having babies. More than anything, though, there is little graceful about aging. I remember being offended 10 years ago when a young woman at the local pizza parlor wanted to give me the senior discount, apparently believing I was over 62. I was so upset, and M was truly unsympathetic in telling me that I should not be so angry and upset, that this young girl saw gray hair and assumed I was in my 60s. (That I was then really angry with M after that is another story for another day, a teachable moment for why men should evaluate and put their practical pragmatism aside before opening their mouths when their partners are genuinely upset about a vanity-related situation.)

However fuzzy I am about my self-esteem and baseline netball crazy, I am pretty certain about who I am, the content of my character and what I value and hold dear. My vanity is nearly non-existent, but I am greatly bothered by being thought 15+ years older by some brainless teenager. I have been underestimated, thought of as dumber than the average bear by my parents and family, and I have fought hard to rise above that particular brand of family lore. These days I hope to be bright enough to recognize what is real, what is important, what is worth caring about, what is worth fighting over and fighting for. For much of my life I questioned my personal integrity because of how I grew up, the ways I raised myself, events completely beyond my control. It took years and thousands of hours of therapy to make me realize that as damaged as I am by those events, it shaped and hardened my own vision and judgment of good personhood.

I dislike deception and strive for painful honesty whenever possible. I hate cruelty in any form. My sense of justice is strong, and I bend over backwards trying to be fair in my judgments and try to weigh my own biases. Deliberately harming a child is a crime against all humanity, yet I believe very strongly in discipline, am not against spanking in certain well defined situations, and believe that as parents and responsible adults we should train children to appropriate behaviors. I believe in sincerity and genuineness; fake is a horrible quality to foist off onto other people.

My view is that there is a fixation of physical appearance and beauty, yet I wonder if it is because I am not typical or mainstream sort of pretty, even as a much younger woman. I am not saying I am blind to appearances, I know there are physical attributes that draw me in and others that repel me completely. As I march onward through my life I find myself recognizing the signs of what I thought, how I felt about my parents’ thoughts and ideas and how generational differences manifest. I do not necessarily believe the next generations are better or worse; they are living their own lives and times with their particular circumstances with all its advantages and problems.

The entitlement I hear about, read about, see wafting in and out of my own life is difficult to cope with if I have to work with those holding onto such ideals. But I’m not one to paint entire groups with that sort of wide brush, nor am I naive enough to say it does not happen and is not an evident quality in the emerging generation. That said, there is a flaw in the parenting that happened there as well, and since I know some of those parents raising some of those entitlement kids, I feel pretty comfortable in saying the kids’ attitude was not necessarily something from nature’s kitchen.

If and when I have a midlife crisis, I suspect it will look very much like my anxiety and gym crazy attacks. I do not imagine myself going blonde or buying a sports car or even telling J to write workouts that will alter my shape and make me into a size 0 someone else. I am realistic – I am not ever going to be nor do I aspire to be the tiniest, skeletoria version of myself. I’d like to be a better, healthier, and happier woman, and if that’s the result of a midlife crisis, more power to me.

But I’m learning to like the woman I am, right here, right now. With my crazy brain and all its baggage, I have people who care for and about me, who support me in my endeavors and think my pursuits are worthwhile and something they can get behind 110% with me. I’m never going to be a head-turning beauty, and there is no way to turn back the clock or roll back the years. I can disguise it – continue to color my hair, continue my pursuit of consistent exercise and healthier eating and be my best self in the present day. That’s authentic me, not the me marketing says it is possible for me to evolve into for some of my time and lots of money for products and plastic surgeries.

I value my family, my friends, my tribe more than beauty or money or possessions. They are the important pillars of my life, and a huge part of the why I am pursuing better health in the first place. I want to be here to enjoy the next chapters with them, explore the undiscovered country, and I most certainly do not want to be doing that from a wheelchair or dependent upon oxygen to get through my days.

Maybe I will miss the midlife crisis. Or maybe being true to myself, my authentic self, means embracing who I am right now as well as the woman I will become as the days and the months and the years of the rest of my life pass into history.

It has not always been this way, but right this minute, I truly believe I am preparing well and can look forward to all the adventures ahead.

Appearances and age discrimination

My full-time job has its financial/cash flow struggles, always. As the keeper of the books and watcher of all things financial, I see a steady downward trend that is not sustainable forever. This has been progressively worse the last several years, and each year I think this may be it, when I am finally going to have to seek out new full-time employment. While it has not happened yet, our dwindling project base and the truly dumb financial decisions being made by the owners make me feel itchy to be ready for something to happen. My resume is updated. I’m taking some additional courses to freshen and sharpen my unused skills. I am exploring other areas where I could increase my marketability as a candidate. I am not yet ready to start looking for something else, but I am ready if it happens more suddenly than I anticipate.

To this end I am also evaluating my appearance and trying to be realistic in what I can or should do to present myself better in a competitive job market.

Being 53, I am starting to be concerned about age discrimination. I know it is illegal, yet I know it still happens. It makes me a uncomfortable to contemplate, and I am trying to think objectively about what steps I might take to overcome that unspoken hurdle. First on my agenda: coloring my hair.

*sigh*

I actually hate dealing with hair and hair-related issues. I like my simple style and the minimal amount of products, blow drying, and flat ironing involved. Probably 15 years ago I sheared my hair off into a cute cropped look. With that cut I got rid of all the dry, damaged, colored hair strands and resolved to cease coloring and let it just naturally go gray. While I only lasted about 6 months of short hair before I began growing it back out again, I stuck to the not removing my gray. For the most part it has suited me and my lifestyle.

Now that I am thinking about job hunting again, I am thinking about covering some of the gray. I kind of hate the idea, yet I think it is necessary. Conversations with friends in and around my age range bring out an unwavering opinion that cover the gray is in my best interests. So while getting my hair trimmed yesterday, I consulted with my stylist and have made an appointment to have a partial gray-covering highlight coloring session done. She assures me it will be subtle. I am afraid it will be so subtle I do not even notice that anything has been done.

That’s my first major step. I am keeping fingers and toes crossed it works out well.

Next I am going to work with her on some SIMPLE and SUBTLE makeup techniques. Currently I wear nothing other than moisturizer and sunscreen. No make-up, period. It has probably been 30+ years since I last experimented and I have been fine since then. Cosmetics being something that washes off, I feel only a little apprehensive about this baby step into experimentation. I fear walking out of her salon looking like I’ve been to clown school.

Then there is the issue of healthy body weight. I am not morbidly obese, but losing several pounds would benefit me in so many ways. I have some classic business clothes in my closet, holdovers from prior purges, simply because I love them so much I cannot bear to part with them. However, I am minimum of 10 lbs. away from fitting into the skirts comfortably. If I had to present myself for an interview at a professional organization tomorrow, I would be at the mall frantically trying to find something suitable. My present firm is absolutely casual – jeans and t-shirts are pretty standard – and while I have many dresses, skirts and blouses that I wear throughout the year, none of it is interview-worthy unless they told me it was a business casual event.

So it feels as if my vanity is surging to the forefront as I contemplate my future employment prospects. While I would love for my full-time job to not feel endangered and stay in my jeans-and-t-shirt/granola kid environment, it’s unwise and unrealistic. I am the one who prepares the monthly financials and can see the downward trajectory of our business. I had better get myself organized and prepared, because I am feeling more confident that the time to be searching for another full-time gig will happen sometime in the next year. If something dramatic happens and things change, I will have acquired some new skills and a different look just for the adventure of it. If we continue, I will be happier I have thought ahead and prepared.

Unless it’s a disaster. Then I will be happy I had time to fix it. *sigh* Kind of sucks getting older and trying to minimize the appearance of getting older.