One happy consequence of aging without surgical help is that you cease to be visible. As in, men no longer see you on the street, which frankly, is a relief. No more catcalling, leering comments, or just stupid come-ons. Sometimes young women are quick to dismiss you too, because “you’ve had your time.” What everyone fails to realize is how powerful this dismissal makes us.
Despite this purported irrelevance, we are still under constant pressure to look younger than our age. In the name of anti-aging remedies, we are being courted everywhere by Botox, fillers, face lifts, neck lifts, and knee lifts. And for those of us who don’t like needles and scars, there are the rejuvenating powers of sperm facials and vaginal steaming. Social media is relentless: My own Instagram feed is filled with ads for all sorts of shapewear, miracle probiotics, and lately, post-menopause solutions for vaginal atrophy. Really, Zuckerberg?
Then again, who can blame the miracle-peddlers? In a youth-oriented society, jaw jowls are a downer. (And yes, I have found myself looking in the mirror and pinching my cheeks upwards to see if I would look better. I decided I would not.)
This week one of my closest friends had a stroke. She was not even 60. She will recover, but just a couple of weeks ago, she was telling me how much she liked this moment in time: on the other side of a painful divorce, freshly moved to the city and fully vaxxed, and looking forward to sharing the world with her daughters. And then two blood clots gave her the finger. And rendered her left hand useless for now.
Post-menopausal women are in a strange spot. We are older -- but not the “older old.” We are stuck between the obsessed-with-fitness, peri-menopausal crowd (I once was that person), and the cute little old ladies that everyone oohs and aahs over because, look, they can bust a move! They can sing! They can flip on a gymnastic beam! My 22-year old daughter always smiles when she says, “old people are so cute.” In our Western cycle of life, we go from “baby cute” to “old lady cute” -- with a lot of nasty name-calling in between.
And yes, past 60, your body aches, your boobs point ways that defy gravity, and your ass … well, let’s say I am delighted I can’t see how it’s spreading, regardless of how many back-dancing, seat-lifting exercises I do.
Body woes aside, we, as post-menopausal women, have attained a certain freedom: to be ourselves. We are no longer sex objects (if we ever were), no longer reproductive machine potential. We are simply human beings. Free to be in business, start a new career in the arts, or travel the world (once this pandemic is truly under control worldwide, of course). Sure, ageism and misogyny still rear their ugly heads. But we have learned to flick them off as you would a flea on a dog; to move forward with our wants, goals, and passions. We can slay dragons while telling idiots to buzz off. We can live our lives free of judgment -- our own judgment, that so often got in the way when we were younger.
We may not be able to get off the floor without grunting, or as fast as we used to, but get up we do. Oh, we understand biology’s wicked sense of humor: Our bodies could fail us at any time. So could our minds. We know we have no time to waste. That is a lesson that aging affords us. One I am grateful for every day.
Sylvie Sadarnac is an actor, writer, and photographer of daily life, searching for specs of joy in every day’s small adventures. www.imdb.me/sylvie.sadarnac.