Monday, May 30, 2011

The "Older" Woman and her relationship with her body

The following has been inspired by a post from Hugo Schwyzer over at "Healthy is the New Skinny". A cause which I support if still a little in two-minds about. Skinny is still considered healthy way too much I think and for some of us older women (who don't have the genetic predisposition towards the metabolism of a race horse) - skinny is unobtainable.


Two pregnancies, some 20+ years, a predilection for sweets and an aversion to extreme sports has defined my body size and shape to be...well... pudgy.

Am I a victim of my genes or simply "out of control"?

The mixed messages young women receive about how they should appear and how effortless they have to make it all seem to be thin, popular and gorgeous is abhorrent. But it doesn't make it easier for us older women either to be saddled (sic) with the heavy weight of disdain for our physical selves.

When I turned 40 years of age, I celebrated this:
"I can be what I want to be now and not give a damn about what others think".

I guess it's true that I never really needed to give a damn in my teens, my 20's or my 30's but for some reason, turning 40 seemed to be a rite of passage that meant I was now "old" and that I needn't concern myself with my looks or my weight anymore because I should be proud to be an older woman. Besides, I was to all intents and purposes now effectively "invisible" to male scrutiny!

Yes! I thought turning forty meant a woman could turn off her obsessions with weight, skin, hair and fitness because it didn't matter anymore. And it didn't! But it does!

Well 6 months shy of 50 and I know it still matters. I am every bit as obsessed with weight, body size, and my looks as I was in my 20's. However, now I rarely bother with trying to make the effort because it is just too an insurmountable task to rectify the ravages of age.

Women in my age group suffer the ignominy of defeat more often than not. Why bust our weary guts over weights and jogging shoes when sharing a whinge and cake with a friend over coffee is so much more civilised and culturally acceptable?

And lets not even mention the equal measures of shame and excitement that come with sex! Having it I mean! It's okay to have sex at nearly long as one can do it in semi darkness under covers and in conventional ways that won't shine the scathing light of recrimination on your inability to control your daily calorie intake!

Women of nearly 50 should be graceful, confident with gleaming healthy skin and sparkling eyes! They must be wealthy and stable emotionally. They must carry their healthy, slender bodies with nubile grace and flexibility. They must wear their near perfect platinum hair short with carefree aplomb! Women of nearly 50 are supposed to be contained, healthy; happy to excess with their success and completely unfazed by the practicalities of managing carefully sculpted manicured and painted fingers and toes! Women of 50 are supposed to be denizens of female beauty and gloriously youthful personalities but still look like they're effortlessly 50!

it's enough to make a real 49 year old female weep from frustration!

I feel ugly 90% of the time. I feel like a frumpy, double-chinned, wangy-eyed monster! It's true. I rarely FEEL beautiful. I grasp at the desire to change my size, my weight, my lifestyle, my eating habits, my self-worth like pick-up sticks! If you do one thing wrong - the whole lot crumbles and you lose.

Lots of people - including certain family members who shall remain nameless - all try to inspire me to taking control of my "out of control" life, reminding me of my "responsibilities" to ensure that my weight remains in a healthy range and not become a slack-arsed blob hell-bent on dying from the familial blight of heart disease.

It's easy to cop out of course and therein lies the fundamental problem. Too much of my world is consumed with physical appearance as "THE" sign of health and prosperity! Too much of my world - like the world of my younger sisters - is consumed with the fatal disease of caring too much about the packaging and not nearly enough about the woman underneath.

Thing is...that woman underneath knows this so focuses most of her aspirations to being recognised for her packaging rather than her gifts, talents and strengths - many of which she's barely been able to identify within herself! This sad fact is due to nearly 40+ years of being misdirected in her attention to that packaging requirement.

I'd love to "lose weight" and be considered "healthy" but it kinda means that food becomes the Enemy. I have to corral it, infuse it with powers it shouldn't have; make it an agonising fight to the kilo.

At 49 - food should be my friend and ally. It should give me energy and a health fuelled life, full of joy. Eating should be something so pleasurable and sensual, that it must be savoured at all times, alone or with friends (and lovers).

At 49 - food should be something that I enjoy. But I do and I don't and I can't. My body - the body that is lumpy, bumpy and determinedly pudgy reminds me daily that *I* am a failure at being a woman even when my intelligence refuses to acknowledge such nonsense. I love food too much so my culture would have me know. I love the "wrong" foods according to the skinny celebrity nutritionists trolled out for current affairs programs. If they are so bloody wrong I ask you - why aren't there health warnings on the packets?

This is the war with which I live every day. My obvious "inability" to curb my female fatness and my desire to eat what I like usurps my theoretical acceptance that who *I* am is not defined by my appearance.

If health is the objective of eating then why is it so difficult? Why is eating so fucking HARD to get "right". Why do we need so many educational programs and tips, and points and "easy ways" to "improve" our eating habits? Why must food become such an enemy for the middle aged frumpy female when the real crux of the problem lies not with food but with society's obsessions with physical appearance!

Women in their middle years must be cut some slack. We need to be given a round of applause for our achievements, our intelligence, our Selves. We've raised kids, looked after others, nurtured, sacrificed, studied, learned, educated ourselves, given, travelled, exercised our rights as human beings. We've generated business, made profits, worked, invented, adopted technology, won races, run governments. We've designed, lifted the game, challenged stereotypes and loved with passion and vigour.

Instead - we are barrelled for our muffin tops and spare tyres and for what we put into our mouths. We're made to feel like unmitigated failures because we aren't the BMI of Beyonce or Madonna! Worse - we feel invisible because we aren't considered beautiful or desirable anymore!

It all really does have to stop!

I'm having toast....with margarine and jam! So what of it?