Frugal Scholar wrote, in a comment re yesterday's post, "My question: how do we decide what's OK and what's not? Many years ago, Emily Toth--who writes as Ms. Mentor in the Chronicle of Higher Education--told me that after 50, I would stop caring if my stomach stuck out, etc."
My short answer: when you decide it's time. Not Emily.
I remember riding the bus when I was in my 20s and noticing that the 'old ladies' wore support stockings and those rectangular shoes. I used to wonder, What happened to their shoes? When did they give up their sassy heels? Why? I, of course, would never get 'like that'.
Guess who now wears support hose? Well, only the black ones that look like tights.
There comes a time in every life, if we get that far, when the years are evident. Greta Garbo commented once that "every 6 or 7 years, a hand passes over your face, and you look older." Sometimes you will see it in a friend's, but not yours; the phenomenon is not synchronized.
Or you don't see someone for eight or ten years, and think, "Oh! They look so much older."
We can control the physical effects of aging somewhat, accelerating by hard living, slowing by more careful habits, or through interventions. But eventually too much youth-chasing results in an unnatural, soulless face. I've often quoted Bobbi Brown, who said, "You don't look like an young person, you look like an old person with plastic surgery."
When is it time to be less concerned with youthful physical markers like a flat stomach or glossy hair colour? When you feel pressured or fatigued by the effort, or simply not yourself.
Over and over, I heard Weight Watchers leaders say "You don't have to weigh at 60 what you weighed at 22"; this notion was abhorrent to some women.
Sometimes I get a shock: "What happened to my arms, I seem to remember they were OK last year", I thought awhile ago, when I put on the first sleeveless dress of the summer. In the back of my mind, I planned more hours at the gym. I thought of my friend A., who met me at a restaurant, blinking back tears of pain, encased in compression bandages after arm lipo.
But then I figured, this is as good as it gets. I told myself, Wear the damn dress or get one with sleeves, because you're doing other things.
Holding on and letting go is not a duality. A woman might relax in certain areas and maintain her regime in others. I no longer run long distances, but am sure, through near-daily yoga practice, to use my full range of motion. Can't stand shoving myself into shapewear, but colour my hair.
Giving yourself a pass on grooming is sometimes a symptom of depression. If lack of interest extends to other areas of life, please confide in someone you trust, and address this immediately.
A sense of humour will help you grapple with your gradually gravity-afflicted face and figure. June Callwood wrote that her little granddaughter looked at her naked, and after some thought said, "I see that at seventy, your nipples point to your toes."
Where are you holding on, where are you letting go?