Monday, August 15, 2011


Dr. Lynn Kirby, guest author for today, writes:
I just got an email from a friend who said, in passing, that it is recommended that one go up one size when buying a bathing suit. And the rest of this email is my reflections on that. Maybe you don't have the same issues I do, but here goes.

I agree that it's hard enough to want to buy the sizes that fit me now, but having to size UP for such things as bathing suits (and jeans?) is hard for me. Then looking in the mirror while wearing them—well all I can say is that I'm glad the bodies of the women in my water exercise class have the same sorts of indications of aging as I do. I'm not alone.

I never thought my grandmothers' figures should have been anything other than what they were. Their bodies were just what held those women. As I look at pictures of them, now, I know that their shapes were those of older women, but to me, they were shaped exactly right. That was how they were. The same is true for other older women I meet now—I accept their physical appearance as part of the people I know. Even with women I knew when they were younger and had more nubile bodies, I accept their current shapes as the slowly aged shell of the person inside, with the form of the ageing based on their genetics and life experiences. The body is just a container, after all.

But when it comes to myself, I have a harder time accepting my re-shaped body. I try to accept it. I believe I should accept it, and know that not doing so is pointless. I am grateful that it still works as well as it does, and that I am as healthy as I am (which isn't as healthy as I was, but it's still good.) But knowing that I don't have the shape I had as a young woman engenders a kind of shame in me. I am aware every day of the fact that my body is not what it once was, nor does it look the same. And to add to that shame, I feel shame for the vanity that makes me ashamed of my current shape. I remind myself all the time that people who know me now don't care, and that Bill still finds me attractive (sweetheart that he is), but I can't completely forgive or accept my current appearance.

I don't work as hard anymore at trying to enhance my appearance. I don't dye my hair or wear makeup. I will never have a face lift—there are much more auspicious ways to spend my money. I watch my diet and exercise, but mostly for health purposes—I don't think I'm going to lose a lot of weight, and even if I do, nobody is going to think I am gorgeous. A woman I know (94) still colors her hair and wears makeup. She works hard at being attractive. This seems kind of pathetic to me, because the color of her hair or her cheeks doesn't make one bit of difference in how likeable she is.

I want to be neat, I like clothes that are becoming to me, I wear jewelry sometimes, but if a little bit of product on my face makes people like me better, such people will probably not enhance my life much, anyway. Instead, I think what I need to work on is my ability to make other people feel interesting or important, not try to make them admire my looks. As we age, we can learn new things, develop new skills, become more appreciative and admiring of other people, more generous with our time and love. But no matter what we do to our appearance, as time goes by, it will inevitably deteriorate. (What I mean is that it will deteriorate if your standard of beauty is that of youth.) So why spend a lot of time worrying about it?

Acceptance of what is, according to Buddhist thought, is the road to happiness. Which leads me back to my own aging. Yes, I think I am reasonably okay with aging, but I still don't like having to buy these giant sizes. I detect a need in myself for further work in the acceptance department.

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