Accepting the new reality: a generation in denial

March 21, 2014
Fountain saratoga

Downtown Saratoga, Calif. at sundown last week

The hunt for the mythical Fountain of Youth didn’t die with Ponce de Leon. It’s still alive and well. Just look around. Desperate attempts to look younger are everywhere in the Boomer cohort.  Lifts and tucks, mini-skirts and diets and anxiety, such anxiety.

We lament our invisibility. We transform the beauty of our youth to labels like “used to be beautiful.”  Boomer blog post after blog post bemoan our status as aging adults in a  youth-oriented culture.

We may be lifted and tucked, but we are not aging well.  Reality bites people concerned with aging; it digs in its teeth and leaves scars. And for what?

We’re a more healthy and fit bunch in some ways, but in others? We’re a generation in denial.

The hard truth is that midlife and the years after bring a new reality and that’s something we can’t do much about, at least not at this stage of medical research.

The other day a friend my age commented that he hated the term “midlife sex.”

“Sex is just sex,” he said, “midlife or not.”

Oh, were that true for us all. It’s not.

Here’s what IS true:

Things are different at midlife. Lots of things. Maybe everything.

Why pretend it isn’t true?

If we’ve really lived, gained those badges of a life well-lived? It shows.

Our skin is no longer supple and smooth. Hair thins or disappears. We gain or lose weight.  Have I mentioned varicose veins?  And yes, sexual response can be very different as hormones ebb and flow at this stage of life, mostly ebbing.

This new reality seems to be hard to swallow, from all the wailing and grieving going on in our age group.

Here’s what I say:


I say  many of us are spending too much time, energy and money on trying to recapture –or bemoaning—something that’s no longer available to us.  And for those most part, all of those losses are superficial.

Sure, I’d like to look like I did at 30. Hell, I’d love to BE 30.  But I’m not.

By all means, look good for your age. But “for your age” is the key phrase. Let’s not be afraid of it. Because the reality is that we are aging.  We can age or we can die. I know which I choose.

And by the way, most of the bemoaning I hear has to do with the superficial things: how we look.  Why not turn that around and focus on the wisdom we’ve gained and the ways we can share it?

Oh, you say no one’s listening?  I haven’t found that to be true, not at all.  Younger people still ask for my opinion. I still give it, sometimes unasked. I teach. I write.  I have an audience and oh-by-the-way?  So do you.

If you’ve got time to worry about stretch marks and wrinkles, well, you’re lucky. Because I know plenty of people who are concerned with how long they’ll get to draw breath at all. Or how they’re going to maintain their energy in the face of a debilitating treatment regine.

I’m not saying that appearance is unimportant, just that in the scheme of things, it’s pretty superficial.  Not to mention futile.

Retain a youthful outlook. But age-appropriate is a good thing, in my opinion.

Let’s stop wasting energy on the superficial parts of aging and instead, focus on what we can contribute to the world.

32 comments on “Accepting the new reality: a generation in denial
  1. Julie Phelps says:

    Hear hear! I so agree. The cherry on top of this potential bowl of ice cream you offer is that many of us now at the mid to senior stage of life act and look more healthy and vibrant than previous generations of the same age. Perhaps we are gaining ground in attitude after all? Hope so.

  2. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    I would never go back to my crazy thirties. But I must say, I wish I had know how fit and pretty I was then. I had NO idea, but looking back, I wasted more time then fretting over how I looked.I had a neck and eye lift at 56, I have done botox since the late 90’s, filler, more recently, fraxel . And I think it was worth it TO ME because my looks are all tied up in my self esteem, as is my mother’s( at 84!) and my sister’s.So is second nature to me to keep my appearances up.But I love being 59-I love the mental freedom of it.The saggy-ness, well, there are Spanx and longer sleeves and knee length skirts for that. The forgetting your best friends name? There are many laughs.The sex? Well, its more the closeness I crave now. I am going back to college, as you know Carol, to get my MFA in writing, so its this freedom to finally know I have arrived at MY time, that I love about being well PAST mid-life.

  3. Well said, Carol. Of course, I haven’t aged since I was 30, so I have no idea what you are talking about.

  4. Yes! That beautiful fountain in your photo is not spouting any aging miracles! I totally agree we need to accept and embrace where we are — and realize how lucky we are to have gotten here!

  5. Michael Bell says:

    Congratulations on your post. So timely for us boomers, so well written and you speak right to the point. Kudos again!

  6. “If we’ve really lived, gained those badges of a life well-lived? It shows. ”

    Exactly. I’ve never laughed as much or been told as often how happy I seem, never been as discriminating about how I spend my time. I don’t begrudge anyone the benefits of a younger age, I just like my own company more since realizing: each year serves a purpose and then should be allowed to slip away without a fight.

    Thanks for saying this the way you did. It is tiring to hear people claim to be celebrating their later years while trying to make them resemble younger ones.

    • admin says:

      I follow so many boomer blogs and I do get tired of all this discussion of mini skirts and face lifts and tucks and how we don’t look as young as we did before….blah blah blah blah….and then I see my friends struggling just to survive disease and know that priorities need to be reset for some of us.

  7. Hi Carol! As I think you know I so agree that too much time and energy is spent on people trying to be young again instead of appreciating the many benefits of aging. Maintaining genuine happiness is the best long-life enhancer there is!

  8. Haralee says:

    Great post! Just speaking about menopause, so many women are in denial. I don’t understand it but it happens.

  9. Doreen McGettigan says:

    I have always been carefree about my age and just always tried to look and act my age. Lately, for the first time in my life I am bothered by my looks.
    You are so right, though. I believe it all starts on the inside and if we don’t feel well on the inside how could we ever feel good about our outsides.

  10. I love everything you said here because it ALL resonates with me! I miss my former THINNER self, but I prefer my personality and my lifestyle to anything I had in my youth. We can feel younger by staying active, eating right and using a LOT of moisturizers on our skin. I feel like there is less drama now in life and I have a much more relaxed attitude about things. I once stressed over what people thought. Now I just live how I want to live and don’t worry nearly as much about what others think!

  11. Sandra tyler says:

    I agree. Though I admit I really don’t like what’s happening to my neck.

  12. Jennifer Steck says:

    You always hit the nail on the head, Carol. While I would love to be in the same shape I was at 30, I wouldn’t change it for all the life lessons that have brought me to this point. I’m happy where I am, other than needing to get healthier by losing weight. I am what I am…and that’s not too bad. 🙂

  13. Amen sister! I have found that Attitude, happy, confident, funny, brave, make me appear younger. Perception IS Reality!

  14. Jay Lickus says:

    Carol, I have always lived by the philosophy: “Youth passes away but immaturity can last a lifetime.” Don’t grow old and don’t grow up !!!

  15. Mindy Mitchell says:

    Excellent! I’ve shared this everywhere I can think of 😉

  16. Great conversation going here. As I look at 60 coming fast I am, for the first time, thinking a little about ‘aging’. I don’t look back as that serves no purpose and so far I’m doing a good job of making the most of what I’ve got–right now, right here. Hair dye, shots, expensive treatments are not going to change my attitude or give me greater happiness. It’s the acceptance part that allows us/me to be happy!

  17. To me there’s nothing more pathetic than a woman at 50+ trying to look 30 or even 40. Put away the baby doll dresses, mini skirts and short shorts, own your age and stop trying to be something you once were that you’ll never be again. Yes, some women – like Christie Brinkley – can pull it off, but mostly it just doesn’t work.

    Being 52 is wonderful – partly because my looks are no longer a huge focus of my life. Yes, I want to be well-dressed and attractive – I wear makeup, I color my hair – but it’s not something I obsess about like I did when I was younger. I’m happy to be here and be older.

  18. Puneet Kumar says:

    I read your articles and it reminds me of my few friends who are worried for their looks. They have a bad feeling that they are no more so beautiful as they were. Age has stolen their youth. I will ask them to read you here. thanks for writing this article.

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