Archive for April, 2011

A Double Take on Getting Older

Friday, April 1st, 2011 © by Susan Swartz

It’s a mother-daughter thing. One day you, the fair, youngish daughter, look into the mirror and groan, “I’m looking older,” and your old-ish mother does a double take and says, “You? What about me?”

Then suddenly many years pass and you, now the old-ish mother, and your fair youngish daughter repeat the same script.

My daughters – I have three – and I are roughly 30 years apart. I identify with the Boomer generation, they with the Gen-X crowd. One daughter, Sam, is, like me, a writer and public speaker and we often discuss how our generations do things differently. Lately we’ve been talking about aging, because while there are many far worse things in life to hang you up, everyone has those moments when she asks, “When did that happen?”

Looks-wise, my daughter says her friends openly discuss laser treatments, chemical peels dermabrasion and botox. My friends and I talk about other people’s chemical peels, dermabrasion and botox, worrying quietly if we should do the same.

You don’t come a long way, baby, without getting older at the same time.

Sam’s generation is not as conflicted about cosmetic surgery. She says most of her friends would do it if they felt the need and had the money. My friends still get the Joan Rivers shivers just thinking about cutting.

We both are lured in by anti-aging goop and creams but also believe that strong women stay young, at least in an agile, limber, spine-healthy way. Sam and I were talking about this to a group of women at a spa in Austin and we all said we’re grateful to be living at a time when no one would dare say “why bother?” to any woman taking off for the gym or a jog.

My daughter said she feels like she’s in better shape now than when she was in her 20s. And I happily said, “Me too.” That’s one thing that I doubt my mother or grandmother would have ever boasted. My daughter goes to the gym five days a week and does boot camp workouts with things like kettle bell weights. I’ve never met a kettle bell but I can zumba and I do yoga. She thinks I should do more body sculpting. I tell her she needs to meditate.

My generation preached the idea that being intelligent and having ability mattered more than looks. But you don’t come a long way, baby, without getting older at the same time and even a feminist can be surprised by how quickly she reached the senior ranks and looks it.

However, my daughter and I both feel we’re in good company. I am grateful to Helen Mirren and Barbara Boxer for holding up so well in their advanced age. My daughter looks to Jennifer Aniston and Halle Barry. I have a 69-year-old friend who is taking up tap dancing. Sam has friends having babies in their 40s.

Her generation is in their 30s and creeping into their 40s but feel far too young to call themselves middle aged. My generation, in their 60s and creeping into 70, gratefully call ourselves middle aged. I read that in France you’re not considered old until you’re 80. That made us both happy.