For the past few months or so it seems that one of my emotional, developmental tasks has been coming to grips with going grey. My grasping of this and acceptance of my hair as it is has had its ups and downs, but gradually I am moving in a good direction. It seems my next task may be a bit more daunting. Whereas, should I decide that my confidence, my psyche, my self-esteem just isn't quite there yet, the grey is an easy, quick fix. But my other issue isn't.
One of the reasons that I have so desired to let myself go grey and be at peace with it is to help push back against the cultural stereotypes of beauty and the negative view of aging. I can't complain about it, about the expectations that I can get older internally but externally I can't change (whoever came up with this crackpot idea anyway?) and yet still cave to the pressure. I'm a bit of a rebel. I will refuse the status quo if I think the status quo is screwed up. So, grey I am becoming.
My next task is gonna be a beast though as it entails coming to terms with my changing body. I have so much more against me here. Not only do I have the beauty culture against me, I have the fitness culture against me, too. And behind all that I have the message I received from birth: that being fat is about the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
I have told bits and pieces of my story before. Of my weight obsessed mother who hated her body. Of the weight obsessed culture of my childhood. Of my own success in weight loss that led to a serious eating disorder in high school.
Over time I began to eat healthy and watched my body go up and down in size until it adjusted because it knew I wasn't going to starve it any more. Then I learned to trust my body. My hunger. My cravings. I began eating when I was hungry and not when I wasn't (well, some of the time anyway). I grew babies and nursed babies and my body responded to me kindly as I treated it kindly. My relationship with food has been healthy, I would say more healthy than average, even more healthy than most, for decades now. My relationship with my changing body has been a different story.
It is still so easy to put my value in my appearance. That is what our culture does. I've written about some of my struggles in posts like #metoo and Eating Out of the Trash Can. Youth, beauty, fitness. That's what really matters, right? It certainly would seem so. But time marches on and marches right across your torso, thighs, hips, and arms. Menopause enters. Estrogen leaves. Metabolism tanks. Skin elasticity goes to pot. Who I am as defined by my physical body comes into question. Our culture tells me I must fight. Fight it all. I must eat less. Exercise more. I must look awesome in a bikini at age 62 (yes, I saw that on a magazine cover once). It is all too much.
I am a grandma, dammit! I know people in their 70s and 80s who are still wringing their hands over their weight and trying yet another diet. I don't want to spend the rest of my life fighting my body. Fighting nature. There is do much more to life than driving yourself insane trying to achieve some subjective, and quite honestly fucked up (yes, I said it because sometimes situations warrant it and this is one of those) standard of beauty and acceptance.
So here I am. Looking 55 in the face. A bit more bulky than I was this time last year. Considerably more wobbly. But making the choice to say no to the pressure to maintain the body of my youth. We gotta fight this, people. Who's with me?