Friday, August 29, 2008

Body image from Hell

One of the realities of writing a regular blog is that you wind up writing about yourself.

I mean, you really write about yourself.

Take me, for example. My "hobby" is diet and exercise. But the meaning of that topic has evolved for me over the years.
When I was in my teens, twenties, and thirties...hell, even into my forties--my only concern was weight control. All I saw was the number on the scale. If I weighed below 150, that was good (I'm almost 5 foot six); above 160, that was disaster.

Fast forward to the golden milestone of 50, and everything changed.
For once, the scale was not my enemy. Thanks to some alchemy of habit, discipline and possibly pharmaceutical intervention, my weight is under control.

My body is not.

Loose flesh, cellulite run wild, a waistline that curves in only when constrained by a breath-stealing waist-cincher--this is my current reality.

What the hell happened? This is not the way it was supposed to be.

This is the way it was for years: You lose weight, you're happy. You gain, you're unhappy--that's the mantra of the teen-to-forty-somethings.

Come fifty, and all of a sudden, everything changes.

Take your underarms, for example. When did they start waving independently of your hands and lower arms? Oh, the shame of it all.

Then there's cottage-cheese upper thighs. Let's not even talk about that.

In the midst of all this middle-aged decay, there are glimpses of hope.

My breasts, for example, Currently, my boobs are like the eighth wonder of the world. I used to be a size 38DDD. Thanks to the intervention of a talented Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. who removed two pounds of fat and rearranged the support structure. for once in my life I can actually go braless. I haven't gone braless since I hit puberty. That's my one body-joy in life. I also got an eye-lift and some fat grafts--which means they extract some fat from your stomach and inject it into those marionette lines around your nose and lips. That one procedure was responsible for erasing at least five years from the mirror's reflection.

But there are so many areas left to address. Underarms, stomach, upper thighs--I have enough body zones in distress to keep a plastic sugeon busy until retirement. By the time all those are done, I'm sure I'll be ready for a facelift.

Is this a byproduct of the fact that I live in LA? America, please give me your feedback. Are you okay living with body areas that are far less than subpar?

My denouement came recently, when a down-on-her-luck homeless woman started haunting a particular corner in my Southern California seaside village. Okay, overall, she looked terrible. But her arms were way tighter than mine. (Of course, she might have been twenty years younger than me, but only looked sixty).

But the arm thing pissed me off. Where was the justice in that? What did I do to deserve a body from hell?
Is it just me? Does anyone else suffer from middle-age body blues? Aargh!

Any input would be most appreciated.


Betty Hechtman said...

I know about that scale thing, Kathryn. And the arm things and the cellulite, etc. And I am in L.A., too. But somewhere after I turned 50 something really cool happened. I just started accepting myself as is.

I no longer weigh myself. I do go to the gym almost every day and either do kick boxing, indoor cycling, dance cardio or yoga. I enjoy the classes and how they make me feel. And if I don't look perfect, so what.

Terri Thayer said...

A little perspective, please! Meth addicts have good arms. Cancer patients are thin. When near-starved homeless people are our beauty ideal, it's time to take a step back.

Being over fifty for me was learning to accept more imperfection and learning to like myself better. Cellulite and all.

Embrace it all.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Good advice, Betty and Terri! Wish I could learn to love my bod. I know workouts are the key to at least feeling better, if not improving the flabscape.

Sheila Connolly said...

What troubles me since passing that magic (ha!) half-century mark is not that my weight has increased, but that the fat has migrated. It's consolidated itself right up front and it's not going anywhere. I still look much the same from head-on or from the rear, but the side view? Not pretty.

And as a corollary--what's with clothing designers? They definitely are not creating clothes with women "of a certain age" in mind. An elastic waistband is not the solution.

Monica Ferris said...

I, too, had problems at fifty with my body shape collapsing. I thought about plastic surgery, but put it off -- and then I turned sixty. At that point there were so many things gone awry it would have taken a whole-body lift, liposuction, botox, and a raft of other procedures to get me looking . . . like what? A hard-worn forty? Given a choice between Lasik and an eye lift, I took Lasik. As for the rest, well, this is what over sixty looks like, folks.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Well, we don't want to wind up looking scary like Joan Rivers or Priscilla Presley, who looked gorgeous until she had one too many procedures. I guess it's knowing when to stop--which I will, right after I have a tummy tuck (grin).

Camille Minichino said...

It's not that I'm happy, or accepting or embracing of the parts of my body that wave independently, it's just that I'm afraid of knives and anesthesia.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Okay, I'm with Betty, Terri and Monica here. I walk and exercise, sure, but that's more for maintaining my health. I'm not a kid any more, and I feel great that I don't have to obsess over how I look. In fact, I feel great, period, and that's what really counts!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Oh my God, I just read an incredibly tragic story that make all my stupid little body image woes seem so insignificant and ridiculous. Check out John's post at the Kill Zone today.

Anonymous said...

We are never to old to learn and to evolve. Sometimes all it takes is context and a change in perspective. Bravo Kathryn!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Thank you, anonymous. You are a true friend...