Holding On and Letting Go

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?


Mrs. Jane Doe said…
Letting go...

coloring my hair years ago! :O)

I don't see this as letting myself go in this area. To me, it is an attitude that I can carry off my peppery looking hair (which resembles more gray than pepper). It does not bother me one bit and instead of fighting it...I work with it.

As you said about the dress, you can work with what you have and find another solution instead of fretting over it. I am finding that there are certain styles I can no longer wear in my 40s as I once did when I was in my 30s.

I think there comes a point where one must decide to be okay with where they are - physically speaking - and love where they are at. I don't mean this in a settling for something but loving who you are at this point and time in your life. Once we do that, there is a certain confidence that comes through and then...there is no question or doubt about one's shape or size...It just is. :O)

I do enjoy your posts. I hope you don't mind me stopping by. You add so much more to the usual - thank you!

Carol said…
Just discovered your blog & enjoyed today's post! I laughed at the "nipples at seventy" story! As of now, I holding on to hair color and letting go of tucking my shirt in.
Susan B said…
I was thinking about that Bobbi Brown quote after your post yesterday. And to borrow from Will Rogers, "it's not a crime to look old, but it might as well be," at least according to the beauty and fashion industries.

I'll work to keep my body at a certain size because I feel better(though not quite as thin as I was periodically in my 20's) but know that a toned-and-taut look requires much more time and effort than I'm willing to expend. I'll continue to color my hair and get the semi-annual mild glycolic peel from a facialist, but have no plans for botox or anything requiring scalpels, or a post-treatment dose of Darvocet. I may invest in some porcelain veneers in a few years, but we'll see how the financial winds blow.

I'd rather expend my energy and money on looking *stylish* than looking younger. In the long run, it's not such a losing battle.

3/4 sleeves are my new best friends.
mette said…
I´m trying to hold on to my weight,because it makes me feel comfortable. My hair is turning slowly grey but I add some brownish highlights ( started this just 1/2 year ago ). I´m not letting go on my real jewelry, as a matter of fact, I am letting go on all the fakes.
materfamilias said…
I'm okay with never seeing my pre-50 weight again, but have a clear limit for the weight I'll let myself be at (for now, at least) -- so I do Pilates twice a week, run when my joints allow it and walk lots otherwise. I see my hair stylist every 6 weeks for cut-and-colour, but would never (never say never?)do Botox or blade. Still hanging on to heels but not so much to sleeveless (altho' in the summer when it's hot enough, I do reserve the right to bare arms!). Tweeze every one of those hairs that spring up in the most inconvenient and visible places -- tweeze them as fast as I spot them -- and I marvel at women not so much older than I am who somehow haven't noticed the three prominent ones on their chin. But with your post in mind, now I'll see if I can spot the balance: if they're letting go of the hair-tweezing, what do they still hold onto. Good post, Duchesse.
TryingHard said…
Please ladies don't stop coloring your hair. I let mine go and all it took was one trip to Naples FL and I came back and colored it. Gray hair only works on a few very beautiful women with good skin. I agree no botox or scalpel. One thing I notice about older women is their posture. I am conscious of how I stand, walk with purpose, tighten the stomach muscles while standing and walking and especially DON'T slump over the shopping cart! Yes we may not get the admiring looks we used to get but I sure don't want the looks of "Yikes someday I'll look like that!"
Darla said…
I'm pretty sure I'm older than the rest of you, decades older than some of you. I love my life at this point and I think that allows me to love myself as well. Yes, I have wrinkles and saggy bits but I'm also told I have a beautiful smile and am a good listener.

Fashion interests me but I'm selective about wearing trendy things. I enjoy watching styles come and go.

My beauty routine is minimal, combined with the blessing of good health it is enough.

I really enjoy your various fashion blogs, thanks for the effort you put into this on Duchess.

Duchesse said…
Mrs Jane; Delighted to have you stop by!

Carol: My belts are actually dusty!

Pseu: Like your strategy! And 3/4 sleeves, solid gold.

metscan: Real, too! The costume I really like is so expensive I just hold out for real.

materfamilias: Maybe they need new glasses :)

Linda H: Your point about posture is very important, thanks!

Darla; Thank you; I know there are readers way below 50 and they are welcome- but I am really addressing life after 50. I am going on 61.
Anonymous said…
I think about this often and I waffle just as often. Will be at the colorist every 6-8 weeks and then not for 8 months. Will study fashion news for weeks and then smile distractedly in my constant companion of yoga wear. I generally keep up with yoga and walking but even those I let fall if it is below 60degrees and I have a good book. I have always been ambivalent like this, maybe it was coming of age in the 60s/70s when au natural was in. But I would like to find the line that is comfortable for me. But I will only stick with it as long as it feels right. And that should be evaluated periodically. I know of elderly women who have stuck with their style and have become fossilized and yet there are some who stick with a style and look wonderful for ever-hair and fashion. How do they do that?
Frugal Scholar said…
I don't spend a lot of time on appearance--too lazy and I guess I'm lucky that Mr FS professes not to notice much.

But I do want to have the awful dark circles under my eyes removed--these are genetic and I've had them since childhood. I don't know if I'll ever do it.
Fascinating post and discussion.

I started dying my hair at 22 as I am prematurely grey - started greying at 15. Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has decided to stop dyeing - she says it's because she wants to be more authentic. Afterwards I thought, if you really want to be authentic do you also stop wearing makeup?

I accept that my weight will not be what it was at 20, the maintenance would be too high, but I want to keep my weight healthy, my brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 42 and is now insulin dependent, watching how he has to constantly monitor his blood sugars and inject, and eat etc. with no flexibility or freedom, has made me keenly aware that I need to keep my weight healthy as I never want to go down the diabetes route. He was not overweight either when diagnosed.

I walk into many fashion stores and immediately think 'not enough fabric' and walk out. So much high fashion exposes way too much skin for me. Sure my arms aren't as toned as I'd like, but mid-summer on those stinking hot days, I'll expose them and think who cares!

But the ugly shoe is beyond me - yes I like a comfortable shoe too - but they don't have to be clumpy, clunky and ugly to be comfortable. I do wonder when some people give up and why they give up to such extremes.

I have clients in their 60s and 70s who I shop with, and there is no need to go 'old lady', there are plenty of clothes that are modern, yet modest that will not make you look like Mutton dressed as Lamb (which is why I think so many women stop updating).

I know I'm not post 50, and may have another perspective when I am, but I think my vanity will always be there. I'd like to think when I'm 70 or 80 I'll still dress with some style and flair.
dana said…
Great post. I'm still trying to figure out the balance in maintenance. I remember feeling hot/cold and running to the thermostat continually after Irene was born. Mom told me it was hormones. I said, "do you ever figure them out?!" and she said, "no, because they keep changing." I think self maintenance is probably on that scale, too.

My new plan is when my hair goes totally white to buzz cut it and dye it lavender. I'm mostly kidding. But of course, ask me when I get there!
Anjela's Day said…
I think in this economy I hsve let go of everything LOL I long at times for Aqua de Parma or my other collection of perfumes and beautiful cosmetics and the latest Nature Bisse or La Mer Cream now it has all gone- empty bottles and containers- Pond's Cold Cream has replaced the glitzy things that brought momentary delight to my well oiled and buffed skin. I loved playing with those luxuries- But I have surprised myself with how I have adapted.
It has taken such a mindset to not be able to call up and order the organic flowers- the books from Amazon, new CDs for the store- The joy of giving to a friend- the joy of sending money to a less advantaged relative-the beautiful new items from Eileen Fisher- the Nicole Farhi "Send me this and this" shopping in SOHO at Ghost UK- being benevolent to my family and self- the letting go now of trips to NY when my daughter comes home- she has been amazing about the transition- "It's okay Mum" she says- and we laugh as we buy Cover Girl from CVS and she tells me of this class she took in school last year where they compared the marketing of high end cosmetics and found the same ingredients in many...Hmmmmm but why do I hate putting the $2.50 stuff on me if it is no different. A mindset. A mind shift. The idea of entertaining without having to think how much everything costs-Little gifts that made me happy to give. A new experience. Putting off getting hair done- it's been almost two years. I discovered mascara covers the hair but aging takes over- Amazingly the face with hair unstyled- the clothes that are years old doesn't work at 50+ one becomes invisible to men.
I find with how I now look from a illness coupled with a lack of funds from my no longer working full time at my store- that I am still 'holding' But have also let go. Great post Duchesse, triggered lots of thoughts...
Duchesse said…
Anjela: I chose "Letting Go" instead of "Giving Up" and to me there's the distinction. Easy for me to give up expensive cosmetics, but not hairdresser. One of my friends puts the Ponds in a Chanel jar, and says that works. But when my mother put discount gin in a Gilbeys bottle she never heard the end of it from my appalled brother.
Anonymous said…
I can't do it all, all of the time. I rotate on what's important. Exercise is out. Skin is out. Hair is IN.

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