YES…There really is a no risk, no obligation, no scalpel, no recovery time way to a youthful face!
Remember when plastic surgery was strictly the province of movie stars and heiresses?
Sure you do. In the 1960’s Phyllis Diller talked about hers openly and as often as anyone would let her. Joan
Rivers didn’t talk about hers, but we talked about it for her. And yes, we were all justifiably confused by facial choices made by the likes of Michael Jackson, Lisa Rinna, Li’l Kim and Kenny Rogers.
The facelift used to be a statement, an all out, no-expense-spared attempt at age avoidance—a vain effort to swim against the swift, strong current of that infamous river—Denial. A facelift said in no uncertain terms, that you had reached the point where it was no longer enough to lie about your age, you also had concluded that you must “look the lie,” as well as speak it.
Most of those early facelifts were scary—women looked as if their faces had been dipped in starch and pinned to a curtain stretcher. (Which, if you’re under fifty, you may have to look up.) And sadly, after one of those hush-
hush, top-secret procedures, the rich and famous denied
having had, they didn’t even look like real human beings anymore, much less like themselves.
Warp ahead to the Twenty First Century and thanks to our national addiction to ubiquitous makeover shows and infomercials, words like collagen, Juvéderm, Botox, Restylane, LifeStyleLift and Thermage are part of our daily vocabulary. We can be sucked, tucked, tightened, lifted, planed, lasered, peeled, and abraded to our hearts’ content. A full slate of “reality” medical programs available on our 9999 cable/satellite channels, means that we can actually watch procedures like Rhytidectomy (face lift), Malar augmentation (cheek implant) Mentoplasty (chin augmentation), blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) and Cervicoplasty (neck lift) being performed — in glorious hi-def no less, from the comfort of our own homes, while we snack on low-fat, sugar free bonbons. Since this lesson is about lifting your FACE, we will not cover all the other things you can have lifted— the bootylicious Brazilian butt lift, tantalizing tit tighten up or…Vaginoplasty—that name is self-explanatory and is definitely NOT part of your face.
There are now even quickie procedures (feather/thread lift) as short as thirty minutes that you can have performed on your lunch hour and be back at your desk in time for your afternoon staff meeting. How can you beat the promise of
a new, more youthful you in the same amount of time it takes to eat a salad with dressing on the side?
And to make it extra easy, any and all of these youthifications can be yours with a convenient financing plan from your very own plastic surgeon, a no money down easy-breezy cosmetic surgery finance center (yes there are loan businesses specifically for plastic surgery) or with a credit card you haven’t maxed out—you can even put your plastic on plastic! So what if you’re still making payments on that eye and neck lift when it’s time for you to collect Social Security—that is if Social Security hasn’t disappeared like your wrinkles by then.
Now before you call me a hater, let me be clear. I am not. Nor am I against plastic surgery in either a theoretical or practical way. I have a couple of good friends who are plastic surgeons. Heck. Who knows…one day I may even have some fallen part of my very own face and or body lifted, tucked or tightened. So I am not against the miracles that modern medicine have made possible in today’s world, quite the contrary.
However, I do believe, unequivocally, that there is an easier, cheaper, pain free, all natural, do-it-yourself facial rejuvenator that is available to one and all.
It is called a smile.
Despite the fact that human behaviorists and those who specialize in smile analysis (yes, for real) will say there are many sub-categories of smiles—lazy, sneaky, flirty, etc., in my book, there are really only two kinds of lip curling that count. There’s the polite, pleasant but disengaged smile that only requires the “zygomaticus major” muscle near your mouth to do its thing. And there’s the real, genuine smile that also brings the “orbicularis oculi” muscle near your eyes into play as well. I know—this is way too anatomical, so think of it like the difference between turning on just your parking lights and hitting the high beams.
It is that second smile, the real one, which provides an instant facelift. A full, heartfelt smile lifts your mouth, your cheeks, your forehead and your eyes. A real smile lights you up from inside and gives you a glow that ultimately makes you look brighter and more youthful. Once upon a time in a life long ago, I used to be a model, so believe me I know what the right lighting can do to erase sags, lumps, lines and shadows!
I have, in fact, been posting THEN/NOW photos from my modeling days and the present on my Instagram (http://instagram.com/virginiadeberry or http://instagram.com/cutestillcounts). In many of the professional pics from back in the 80’s I am featured with a pouty mouth (that’s POUTY, not POTTY though that can also be true!) and a haughty, far away gaze. That look worked when I was 30 years younger. Now if I pout it’s just my RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and I look mean and tired. So in almost all of the NOW pics, I am smiling…because I KNOW what a smile does to project the appearance of youth and vitality! 😉
I am convinced that smiling plays a huge part of the reason people think I am a dozen or so years younger than my birth certificate states. Mind you, my smile is all natural—homemade by John and Juanita DeBerry back in 1949. It was not manufactured at a “smile center” by a board certified cosmetic dentist— my teeth don’t have veneers—they are a bit too big and slightly crooked and I’m in a constant battle with a black head that refuses to leave my lower lip line no matter how often I squeeze the life out of it. But even with its imperfections, my smile is now and has always been, the attribute I get the most compliments about.
It is also my most natural and most frequently occurring expression.
No matter what the song says, I don’t know if a smile can actually be your umbrella. Or if you can really smile when your heart is breaking. And while I’m not convinced that as an economic principle, a rising tide lifts all boats, I am absolutely certain that a smile lifts both your face, your spirit and the spirit of others who are the beneficiaries of its magical power. I smile so regularly and have done so for so long, that it’s unconscious at this point. And whaddaya know—it makes other people smile at me—be they babies in line at the supermarket (good) or the strange man filling up his gas tank on the other side of the pump (maybe good, but probably not.)
So…why don’t you consider this a free trial offer? I guarantee that it’s safe and has no risk, no obligation and no shipping and handling charges. If you don’t return it before the trial period expires, your credit card will not be charged automatically. This facelift requires no anesthesia, no releases to sign, no black and blue recovery time or stitches to remove. It truly is a worry free trial and you have nothing to lose but years off your face.
Smile at yourself in the mirror.
Smile at 10 people you know.
Smile at 5 people you don’t know.
Remember—practice makes perfect!
When I saw this image posted on the Facebook page Fly, Hip & Ageless the other day, it reminded me of how many of us have lost our way “home;” the way back to the essence of who we are…or were. We’ve been whoever we needed to be, for whomever needed us to be whatever that is (daughter/wife/sister/boss/mother/employee/grandmother/etc.) for so long that we no longer remember who we used to be. Back before the world crept into our sense of self, our dreams and our belief in possibilities and re-shaped who we were…who we might have been.
I realized this about myself about 25 years ago and began my journey “home,” my journey to finding the girl I had left behind. When I came across these childhood photos of me as a toddler. I was struck by how completely self possesed I was. I decided to have the picture enlarged, matted and framed. I hung them on my bedroom wall as a daily reminder not to forget “HER”–that little girl who so seemed to know exactly who she was. The Virginia who took life just seriously enough. The Virginia who felt and expressed more joy in a laugh than words could ever communicate. The Virginia who believed that a pretty dress could always make her feel pretty.
These grainy old snapshots helped me find my way home…my way back to me and I haven’t lost my way since!
Look for whatever it is that will be YOUR trail of breadcrumbs, your Glinda, your GPS. It might be a song, a book, a photo, a memory…it doesn’t matter what the trigger is, as long as it leads you back to YOU. When you find your way back home, LOVE the YOU you find there, invite her back into your world and LISTEN to her when she speaks to you in the midst of all the noise you are surrounded by. You will soon realize that because she has no guile, that girl will always tell you the truth–and I’m sure you will find that being in your own skin, the skin that was made just for you as opposed to the skin you’ve been trying to fit in, is pretty gosh darn comfortable! Because…there really is no place like home!
What’s the difference between a classic car and a junker?
(You will get the answer at the end!)
Ever notice how carefully collectors of old stuff— cars, antiques, books, works of art, treat their treasures? Vintage autos are sheltered in temperature controlled environments, their finishes, interior and exterior, are regularly polished and buffed until they gleam. When they do venture out of their protected luxury garages and onto the road, there are special license plates designating them as exceptional and unique, and these classic vehicles are exempted from the compliance standards and regulations that apply to newer models. And whether it’s a stately sedan or a racy roadster, these classic cars get noticed. People slow down, take a second or third look and toot their horn or wave as an expression of their admiration—or envy. Sometimes the driver acknowledges the admiring glances with a nod or a casually tossed hand in the air. Other times they continue on their merry way oblivious to everything but their own enjoyment.
Collectors of these rare and beautiful automobiles have their own societies and they gather regularly for the express purpose of displaying, comparing and discussing their four wheeled treasures. Owners stand around proclaiming the virtues of chamois, sea sponge, sheepskin and wicking towels as the care tools of choice. But whatever they use to clean, dry and polish, they are full of nothing but praise for each other’s gorgeous classic wheels. And between these public displays of affection, the owners of these gems can peruse magazines and websites devoted to these treasured autos.
The same type of behavior applies to antiques and those who collect them. Antique stores are jewel boxes—purposefully designed and lighted to display their venerable contents to best advantage. No sunlight fades or damages fine woods or upholstery. Lamps cast perfect shadows and highlights to make an item appear imposing, delicate—and most importantly, precious.
Ever notice on the Antiques Roadshow how those clever Keno brothers carefully examine the craftsmanship and handiwork of a piece of period furniture? They don special white cotton gloves so as to protect the precious satinwood or walnut finish from even the most imperceptible trace of oil from human skin. The Keno boys salivate as they oooh! and aaah! while smoothing their gloved hands over inlay, scrollwork, curved legs and of course those amazing claw feet. They exude an almost sexual excitement and tension as they examine the console table or settee, and you can feel it. You’re in your living room, hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the Oklahoma Convention Center or the Peoria-Dome, but your excitement grows right along with theirs. Their saliva very nearly turns too drool as they turn the table or chest upside down and find original dove tail joints or look at the inside of a drawer and find wood older than the surface, indicating even more specifically a period and style in furniture history. We’re at home holding our breath. Hoping for a huge climax— (a financial one of course) we’ve been teased and toyed with long enough. Then at last, they give us all what we want. The Kenos are gleeful as they tell the now drop-jawed possessor of this mighty treasure the value of the commode/desk/highboy that has been languishing untended and undusted in an attic corner, ever since Great Aunt Gertie (who got the piece from her mother who got it from a neighbor who got it from…) went on to glory.
But back in the real world most of us live in, old sofas and tables are moved to the basement or storage room until-well until they end up donated to charity, left on the curb for the trash collector or carted away by the kindly New Furniture Company that is delivering their shiny replacements.
And as for cars? The clunkers and wrecks are traded in, abandoned in a junkyard or stashed behind the garage. They are left at the mercy of the elements, are subjected to the games of neighborhood children, fall prey to vandals who shatter windows, scratch obscenities on their once lustrous finishes, or become unlikely planters for anything wild enough to take root in the inhospitable old steel. Then they finally rust their way to oblivion.
So it seems the appropriate determination of worth for “old stuff” has something to do with the intrinsic value it was originally assigned. An object is deemed special because it is well crafted, beautiful to the beholder, and therefore desired. But the assignment of value and desirability also has a great deal to do with the perception of worth and importance.
Beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter, we live in a society where most of us want what we are told we want. Really. I will repeat that sentence. We want what we are TOLD to want. We are all consumers. And we are being marketed to every single minute of every single day. I mean who knew that one day I’d actually WANT a phone in my purse? If someone had told me that twenty years ago, I would have thought the notion absurd. Why on earth would anyone want to carry a telephone around with them? Ludicrous! But now, nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their handbag, pocket, wirelessly hooked up to their car—or worse, their ear—all the time!
So we’re back to the original premise. Making something valuable enough to want, is either a result of the object’s value because it is rare and finely wrought of the best materials. Or it is worth something because someone has told us it is worth something by desiring it?
Think about this…a 1948 Ford that has been well cared for can be worth much more than a 1998 Mercedes Benz. The fifty years the Ford has on the Benz is not a problem, but rather the thing that makes it worthy. And if you can authenticate provenance—who owned it when, and for how long—the value of that Ford can go up even more.
So here’s the good news—you are the original owner of you. You may have done some long term leasing of yourself—to build a marriage, raise children, develop a career—but there’s never been another owner. You are it. How have you treated yourself? How much of your intrinsic value have you retained? How much of it do you want to reclaim?
The difference between a classic car and a junker has nothing to do with age. It’s all in the way it’s cared for.
Whether you want to be a Classy Classic or a Walking Wreck is up to you.
Get up now and go stand in front of your full length mirror. (You can keep your clothes on—this time.) If you don’t have a full length mirror, shame on you, but find the closest substitute. Take a long look. What do you see—a valuable collectible or a junker? Right now, DECIDE that you will follow the example of the collectible car enthusiasts and antique aficionados—who know something special when they see it. You are a treasure, so treat yourself like the special, classic babe you are—starting now!
If you haven’t shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—put that on your calendar right now.
If you have shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—do it again!
I am, therefore I play!
Playing is fun.
Fun is important.
These are things I learned early in life. And like most things we pick up early, I learned them at home. Which I know may seem like a pretty unusual place to learn about the importance of having fun.
When my father was a boy, he and his brothers coaxed a cow from the pasture into the house—and up the stairs to the second floor, just to see if they could do it. AND because they thought it would be fun. At least that’s how the story went every time Daddy told it, and believe me, he told it dozens of times. Many years later in a house of his own, and with no livestock of the bovine kind readily available, he enticed a semi-willing, fairly gullible squirrel into our back hall and up the stairs, for what must have been the exact same reasons. Why else would he do it? And to the delight of my brother, sister and I, that little fluffy tailed rodent stopped by often for a visit and a treat (peanuts in the shell). We named him Tony. And sometimes he brought a friend along. Tony (and his descendants) became a regular visitors to our home and when my mom sold the house after my dad passed, she adopted a new squirrel family at her new digs…because it was fun.
My mother, somewhere in her mid seventies at the time, was caught red handed, in a contest with my nephew who was then seven or eight, to see who could stuff the most grapes in their mouth. My sister found them sitting on the sofa, cheeks bulging with grapes they weren’t allowed to chew—how else could you keep count and determine the winner?
And these comical, entertaining parents of mine had the nerve, the temerity, to call me their “silly” child!!! Duh?! I say “takes one to know one!”
In one of the novels Donna and I wrote, one character admonishes another saying “the surest way to end up with nowhere to go, is to forget where you came from.” And although it still feels odd, even after all these years to quote our own work, I think the words Loretta spoke to Pat in Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made are a wise warning we should all heed and a sentiment that is perfectly applicable to aging.
The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.
I’ll repeat that just in case you missed it the first time.
The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.
I don’t know how much of our forgetting is truly a failure to recall – goodness knows most of us, at this stage of life, have more than a touch of “CRS” (Can’t Remember Shit), and how much is a deliberate choice not to recall. This is choice results in a peculiar form of amnesia we can all be found guilty of. You watched your parents come down with it, promised yourself it would never happen to you, and yet, here you are—so far long life’s rocky climb to wherever it is you think you’re supposed to be going, that you can’t even remember that fun used to be important—hell, it was everything. In your full speed ahead quest to reach adulthood—and you really were in a hurry weren’t you? You deemed certain behavior childish and unsuitable. And since we have been taught that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun, in the name of being a grown up, one of the first things to be declared out of season and cast aside, is play.
Play means doing something simply because it brings you pleasure. No other reason is needed—just plain old fun. There may be some tangential value that comes from playing, but it’s a by-product and should be considered gravy. So while your workout at the gym may leave you invigorated (or exhausted) and the hour you spent in spinning class makes you feel strong and smug, these activities do NOT equal play. Yes, they are healthful, helpful and undoubtedly important, but they are not to be confused with playing.
Just in case you can’t even conjure up a picture of what having fun really looks like, take a gander at any four year old seriously engaged in her most important task—playing. She can be lost in an imaginary scenario involving an ersatz family of dolls for whom she has created specific relationships, and will tell you so in no uncertain terms. “No!! That’s the Mommy not the Big Sister!” She may be moving sand from one pile to another, watching with delight as the grains spill through her hands, repeating the process over and over again. Or she may be running in circles until she’s dizzy with glee and vertigo. It doesn’t matter to her—as long as she gets joy from the experience—and she will.
And because, as a general rule, children play every day, she will wake up the next day anxious to seek and find joy in play once again. Of necessity, as we get older, the amount of time we spend playing diminishes proportionately until we’ve reached the age of presumed maturity— at which point we proudly kick play to the curb permanently, declaring fun a “waste of time.”
This is a BIG MISTAKE. One you are now in a position to correct.
The honest truth is that men are way better at keeping play as a part of their day to day life than women, and we give them grief for it. Whether it’s golf, poker, fishing or a pick-up game of hoops, we are more likely than not
to harp on the amount of time they waste being childish– playing silly games or complain about the hours they spend glued to the tube, playing vicariously. How dare they goof-off when there are errands to be run, gutters to be cleaned, garages (attics, basements, spare rooms) to be cleared, lawns to be mowed? Their “Honey Do” list of chores is relentlessly endless. What immature, childish oafs they are! And what conscientious, hardworking, mature adults we are by comparison.
But what if, instead of being indignant at their irresponsible, juvenile behavior, or flexing our passive-agressive (“It’s ok. Go on…play games with your friends. “) muscles, we considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is a little something we could learn from them?
I know, it may sound like sacrilege. I’m probably even in violation of some secret female code of conduct known only, and instinctively, I might add, to the members of the XX Chromosome Club. And I will probably be hunted down like a traitor and forced to cut
up my XXCC membership card for uttering this. Don’t you think it pains me to admit that areas might even exist where women are not equal or superior to the XY Guys?! But I willingly make this sacrifice because I call ‘em like I see ‘em. When it comes to honoring play- and the spirit of play, the boys win– hands down.
When is the last time you exhausted yourself having fun instead of worn yourself out with duty or obligation? Can’t remember can you? So what’s a woman to do? Well in the case of the play- challenged chick, the answer is: definitely not what she’s always done. You must accept first that play is not ageist—
OK, I grant you my knees don’t hold up as well during a kitchen floor game of jacks as they once did. But like with everything else about this getting older business, I’m smart enough to compensate–I don’t play jacks often, a pillow is helpful, I only play for a short time and I’ve even played standing at a table. The point is that I still enjoy jacks so why not play? Of course, there are other, more mature things I have fun doing as well— going dancing, cooking for friends and sex (Yep!), but I thought my love of jacks, precisely because it’s silly, would offer a better illustration.
The street lights haven’t come on yet, the day isn’t over and your Mom is not waiting at the door for you to come inside (or maybe she is, but that’s an issue for another book.)
There’s still time…but the clock is ticking. It REALLY IS OK to have fun—for no reason and have no guilt about it. You don’t need excuses, or apologies, or to make it look like work in case you get caught. Keep in mind—YOU are the only one who can define what fun is for you.
Think back. Way back. No. No. Longer ago than that. Keep going—-until you can remember what it felt like to be on a swing. Flying and free. You had waited and waited until it was finally your turn. Your braids and the laces of your sneakers were both coming undone. You didn’t care. And when the swing slowed, didn’t you pump as hard as you could to keep aloft?
Now take that feeling, not the image, the feeling of pure delight, and tuck it somewhere easily accessible (your heart, your brain, your purse—whatever you’re likely to open fastest.)
Done? Are you sure you can grab it at a moment’s notice?
Now each and every week, you must make a play date with yourself, or someone else—as long as it takes you to experience that feeling of delight. So whether it’s a kite, a karaoke machine, a kiln or a kayak, unearth your inner little girl and carpe play!
“It’s the end of the beginning.”
As our life expectancy increases, fifty, long considered “solidly middle aged” may well be earning that spot legitimately. There was a time, not even that long ago, when it was pretty clear that despite being referred to as middle age, fifty was considered the spot that marked the downhill approach to the finish line. Expecting to make it to seventy-five wasn’t an unreasonable presumption if you took good care of yourself, but your best years were, without doubt, long gone—part of the past for you to remember fondly.
But that was then.
Now, all it takes is a look at the exponential growth in the number of centennial birthday announcements made on the Today Show (by Willard Scott and continue after his recent retirement) to let us know that living to 100 and beyond is not as much of an anomaly as it was a scant ten or fifteen years ago. So– thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, as you hit the half century mark, for the first time in recorded human history, (not counting Methuselah and other Biblical ancients) at fifty, you may really, truly, be in middle age…how about that?
And once you’re there, whaddaya do? I strongly suggest your next step is to get a firm grip on what that really means, and in order to do that, you need to take a good, hard, honest look at yourself. No, you don’t need the mirror, or your reading glasses for this particular examination, so relax.
One of the greatest benefits of having made it through more than a few decades of living, is the gift of perspective. And lucky us, perspective is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. When we put down childish things and begin our journey toward adulthood we don’t know that perspective even exists. We live our lives in the present and the future and we have little, if any, ability (or need) to see the “Big Picture” through the lens of past experience.
When we were young(er), like countless generations before us (and countless ones yet to come), despite what parents and elders tried to prepare us for, and caution us against, we ignored the helpful warnings and sage advice and plunged ahead hell-bent on whatever goal we were pursuing. We ignored roadblocks or assumed they were meant for someone else…certainly not “me.” Blindly we stumbled along, bumping into the stuff along our pathway to wherever it was we were going. Sometimes we ran into the obstacles head first, fully expecting that the desire to get where we wanted to go, combined with the sheer force of thrust and our determination, would move the impediment out of our way. Sometimes we were right. More often than not, we were wrong. (Which, by the way, is how our novel Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which is about young people who think they have all the answers, came to be!)
Fortunately, the injuries we receive from collisions with these roadblocks and deterrents are usually minor–not serious enough to cause any permanent disability. After all, when they take place, we are young, resilient, fearless and last but not least, clueless. We are, as were those who went before us, living, breathing object lessons for why phrases like “youth is wasted on the young” and “if I knew then what I know now” will never become obsolete. And when you when you hear these words uttered by a head-shaking, know-it-all solidly grown-ass man or woman in response to someone younger making a mistake, you can be pretty sure they have conveniently forgotten to remember their own rocky, pothole-filled path to their current place of wisdom and insight. Because while the gift perspective affords us a view of the whole picture, it can also make micro memories of the dumb stuff we all did.
A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend, a man who was in his late sixties who would hate being described that way, but he’d hate it even more if I used his name! In the twenty plus years I’ve known him, he never has a conversation with me when he didn’t find a reason to reference the good old 70s. These were the years when, according to him, life was great-nearly perfect in fact. But in that chat he said, “I’ve been thinking. And you know how I hate to do that—much less admit that I’m wrong about anything. But…I’ve finally realized that the past wasn’t better.” He took a sip of scotch before he continued. “I was just younger. My life is much better now, way, way better than I wanted to remember it was back then.” He actually looked relieved once he said it out loud, like he was giving himself, permission, finally to let go and live now. His self-revelation did not lost long however and in short order he was back to complainingabout the present and exalting the past.
Getting older is not the time not to either lament or glorify the good old days. It is the time for an affirmation of who we are now, in this moment, and what is yet to come—which, believe it or not, might just possibly be even greater than our youth. Victor Hugo said, “Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age.”
He was right. This is just the end of the beginning. Relax and enjoy getting to the good part.
If you are a journal keeper:
- Find an old one and pick half a dozen entries you made when you were younger–during your twenties or thirties.
- Read, from your older perspective, about the things that were rocking your world. The stuff that was going on in your life that was so monumental as to make worthy of a page or several in your diary. Because let’s face it, pre-Oprah and her “Gratitude Journals” most of us (and many still do) used our journals as a place to vent. We did not use them as a place for saying “Thanks Universe for the good things and for the lessons I’ve learned from the not-so-good things.” Our journals were a place to hold our very own “bitch until it feels better” fests so that we could face the next day relieved of a little bit of our frustration with parents, lovers, jobs, bosses, school, co-workers, friends who “didn’t get it” and the like.
- Now, as your aged, wiser, reading glasses wearing eyes gaze upon these pages, digest them, and ask yourself how much of what you were so worried/hung up/angry/stressed out about then, matters now. My guess is probably not much.
- Think about how much SHE didn’t know, that YOU now do. Remember how easily SHE was consumed by self-doubt. SHE survived all the stuff SHE thought SHE would never live through.
- Smile at her.
- Smile for her. She’s become lower case now because she knows what’s important—and that it’s not all about her.
- Close the book.
If you are not a journaler:
- Grab your high school or college yearbook from the bookshelf, or the box in the basement. (It’s not still at your parents’ house is it? If it is, it’s time to bring it home!) Find your senior picture. OK. Try to look past the wardrobe and hair—it won’t be easy, but you won’t be able to see “you” in there if you don’t ignore your unfortunate fashion faux pas and questionable coiffure choices.
- Look at HER. Think about how much SHE didn’t know, that YOU now do. Remember how easily SHE was consumed by self-doubt. SHE survived all the stuff SHE thought SHE would never live through.
- Smile at her.
- Smile for her. She’s become lower case now because she knows what’s important—and that it’s not all about her.
- Close the book.
Several of you have asked why the blog background/header image is red lipstick. The image has changed from time to time but it’s always some version of red lipstick. The answer is two words…My Mother!
My mom, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 89, wasn’t a fancy society lady who lunched at swank restaurants with other fancy society ladies. Juanita made us pressed ham or tuna sandwiches on Wonder Bread for lunch-which we ate at our kitchen table. (In those days kids actually went HOME from school for lunch!) Sometimes, when were out of school and Mom was feeling a bit on the fancy side, she would make us “Eggs ala Goldenrod” for lunch–chopped hard boiled eggs served in a cream sauce over toast points, and my sister, and maybe even my brother, and I would eat in the dining room and feel a little fancy too. But Mom didn’t get facials or manicures or have other fancy beauty rituals.
Juanita was a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a school teacher, a singer, a friend– who lived her entire life never believing she was attractive—she said it often…not in a way that was a sneaky plea for compliments, or a statement to be protested, but simply as a matter-of-fact personal observation about herself. And I didn’t grow up feeling pretty—or being told that pretty should be my goal—being kind, getting good grades, laughing often—these were the things I grew up thinking important-the things that were rewarded.
But despite Mom’s self-assessment as “plain,” Juanita was seriously dedicated to the idea that Cute Counts. And Mom was CUTE! Please remember the CUTE I’m writing about in this blog is much more about attitude than pulchritude. The CUTE I’m writing about is found by keeping the girl you used to be (or wished you were) alive and kicking! Other than lipstick she didn’t wear makeup until later in her life and even then it was just a swipe of drug store eyeliner pencil and the faintest brush of blush. She didn’t spend much time in front of the mirror, but LIPSTICK WAS HER GO-TO—and her hair was always done. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I mentioned earlier (LESSON 5 – Mirror Mirror) that when my mom was in her early 80’s some fairly debilitating health issues finally slowed her down. But even after months of being house or hospital bound—she rolled her hair every night (but was NEVER seen outside of the house in said rollers) and put on her good robe and lipstick every day because she never stopped being concerned about her appearance.
Pictures of my mom early in her life—before she was a mom, and after,
tell the story. She didn’t go to work, the super market, the drug store, the dry cleaners, choir rehearsal…anywhere without lipstick! She wore red until she was somewhere in her 70’s. Then she switched to a deep rose color.
I remember being a kid (we all got home from school at roughly the same time) and watching Mom, somewhere between 4:30 and 5, before my dad got home from work, run a comb through her hair and refresh her lipstick. There was no lip liner or brush or gloss. Just a swipe from
the Helena Rubenstein or Coty tube (Most often without a mirror-which totally fascinated me!)
It all took less than one minute.
At the time I wasn’t really aware what that simple one minute act represented.
Honestly, I was in my early 30’s before I understood, that my mom, had not, like many other moms I knew, surrendered whatever “Cute” she possessed to motherhood. I had not understood until my early 30’s that my parents had a relationship, between the two of them, that had absolutely NOTHING to do with being Mommy and Daddy to my brother, sister and I. I had not understood that my mother cared about her appearance—not just for my dad, but for herself. I had not understood that my mother was aware that PRESENCE was important. I had not understood that perhaps lipstick was her way of countering the kind of invisibility women in general and Black women in particular were so easily subject to in those days (and perhaps still in these days.) I had not understood when I watched our neighborhood White pharmacist and White shoe repair man, call her “Mrs. DeBerry,” apologize if the prescription or heel replacement wasn’t ready, tell her thank you and to have a nice day- how different that was. I had not understood that my mom’s self-care and the personal dignity that behavior manifested, made people treat her with respect. I had not understood that she was teaching me, by example, (which we all know is the best way to teach anything) that it doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a big difference. It can be something as simple as combing your hair and putting on a little red lipstick.
NO ‘LESSON’ HERE – JUST A LITTLE STORY:
2 years ago the doctor told me to stop eating sugar and “white” foods for my health-I was “pre-pre-diabetic.” I’m not a “SWEETS” person -give me salty every time. But sugar is hidden in so many things that it was really hard in the beginning- but eventually I got used to it because I had ZERO intention of becoming a diabetic if I could help it. Yes I’ve cheated every now and then. But my health is now great…all threats of diabetes gone AND I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds-which I can’t always see. But here are pics from then–the journey and NOW…
I posted this on Facebook yesterday and received dozens and dozens of positive comments, support and encouragement
I am grateful for the positive changes in my health–even though when I went to the doc two years ago, I was feeling well–it was a routine checkup. Diabetes is, as you all know, no joke. Type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects African-Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Pacific Islanders–all us brown folks.
My doc told me I’d be surprised by what contained added sugar and likely surprised by the weight loss, since my body was producing too much insulin because I was not metabolizing the excess sugar. He said it would start about 3-4 months in and be slow but steady and he was right. He also said I could have vodka or red wine on occasion- so I was good to go! And while I’ve cheated a few times, over the past 2 years-for me it’s ice cream, it’s never been a big or long transgression and I return to my new habits instanty. I’ve learned to ALWAYS read the nutrition labels.
My grandmother had diabetes and I remember when I was about 8 years old, she had her leg amputated. I can see, clear as day, her sitting on the side of the bed “wrapping” her “stump” with an ace bandage before attaching her artificial limb. I did not want that to be me–especially if I could do something about it! And now, thanks to a pretty simple (relatively speaking) change, I AM WELL!
I have literally been up and down the “scales” for most of my adult life. I never felt sick or tired. I didn’t feel disillusioned or dis-enfranchised. I didn’t feel unattractive. I didn’t feel unsexy. I didn’t feel lots of the things you’re supposed to feel if you’re a big girl. I ate pretty healthily (no fast or processed foods, rarely sweets, no sugar laden “mocha-machiatto-caramel” lattes, maybe a bagel or donut once or twice a year). I did my time on the treadmill and kept on stepping-believing that my weight just was what it was -15lbs up, 15lbs down was just my regular fluctuation. I didn’t think much about weight or size–I NEVER have. It never inhibited me, kept me from looking my best, doing my best and having a full, rich life.
So this weight loss, (and I am by no means skinny-just lighter than I was), which no doubt adds to my current positive health, from simply watching my sugar intake has been a lovely and wonderful extra added benefit!
The takeaway: Sometimes it’s not the biggest changes that can make the biggest differences in our lives. Sometimes it’s the little things… but you have to DO THE LITTLE THING, not just think or talk about it!
CUTE is attitude. CUTE is healthy. CUTE COUNTS!
“The only alternative to getting older is—you guessed it, so stop watching from the sidelines and get in the game.”
Let’s face it—the only viable alternative to getting older is not one most of us are interested in. Yes, there’s that icy cryogenic thing, but other than megalomaniac nutjobs in the movies, who really wants to get stashed in a freezer with the baby peas and cauliflower? So you can be thawed fifty or a few thousand years later like a flash frozen ice age T-Rex and try to pick up where you left off before you decided to try life as a Popsicle? Not me. And I suspect not you.
So, what are you gonna do when getting older is the only game there is?
You are going to play as though your life depended on winning—because it does.
I’m about to dabble in a sports metaphor and those who know me well will fall out laughing, swear that I know as much about sports as I do about quantum mechanics and wait for me to make a fool of myself. But I think the comparison is apt, so I shall plunge ahead, risking ridicule and derision and hope I do know enough about sports to fake my way through this.
Most athletic games are divided into periods—quarters, innings, sets or the like, which only theoretically correspond to actual time telling devices used by regular people because in sporting matches, they have the miraculous ability to stop time. In real life however, we have no such power and must let the clock run—minutes, hours, days, years flying by—whoosh! Never to be seen again. We have no pause, instant replay or measures of time that hang in the air endlessly awaiting our decision to restart the clock.
The game of life stays in progress and whether you are ready or not, we have to keep on keepin’ on. In addition to the magical “stop action” that occurs in sporting contests, many games also grant the competitors the privilege of a half time. A break right in the middle of the game! It doesn’t matter who’s winning or who’s losing—
everyone gets an intermission. Yep. Just like that, the gift of a time out is yours without even asking for it! So no matter how the game is going half time offers an opportunity to regroup, change strategy, evaluate, assess strengths and weakness—yours and your opponent’s. Back in the locker room the coach uses pep talks, threats, prayers, shame, rants, praise–whatever is necessary for the team to either maintain the lead, or snatch victory from the wide open, hungry jaws of defeat. Half time is the chance for the game to begin anew. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life could be the same way?
That’s what this time of your life is.
Although becoming a centenarian is more and more common these days, I accept that I’m pushing it when I say 50 is the half way mark in the game of life —but since our forties and fifties have long been considered “middle age”, there is plenty of precedent for this argument. So humor me, OK?
I used my late 40’s to assess what I liked and didn’t like about my life, to examine where I was, where I wanted to be, who and what I wanted to keep in my life, what needed to go and most importantly to decide how I wanted to approach living the next half of my life. At 50, I took myself a half-time and so should you.
We don’t have an undo button in life. What we’ve already done, the part of life we have lived already is past. But we certainly can make completely new kinds of choices going forward—you still have the have the rest of your life—however long that is.
You’re in the game.
You need a break.
Take one while you can.
1) Draw a circle—one you will think of as an old fashioned analog clock—you know like the ones we learned to tell time on with the “big hand” and “little hand” before the digital revolution relegated time telling skills to the same “has-been” pile of memories as an abacus and gathering the family around a rotary dial phone to share a “long distance” call. Make your circle big, really big.
2) Then draw a vertical line through the middle as though it were six o’clock. Except I want you to think of six o’clock as 0—where your life began and twelve o’clock as 50.
3) Freely fill in (using any method you choose) the space between zero and fifty (six and twelve)—in other words, fill up the left side of the circle—with what you have done—the significant achievements and happenings that have taken place in your life thus far: school degrees, jobs, marriage, children, moves, even divorce and deaths. It may be pretty crowded or fairly empty—that depends of course on what you have done with the first half of your life.
4) Then look at the wonder of the other half of the circle—the part that goes from 50 to zero (twelve to six). What you have is a huge blank space that you can fill in any way you choose. Using the experience you have gained through the grace of aging and consider carefully, thoughtfully, whimsically what you would like to see take the place of the empty space. And remember—you are free to go outside of the lines!