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Women, Aging and the Badges of Midlife

05/12/2015 11:44 am ET | Updated May 12, 2016
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I didn't intentionally embark on a path of reflection as I plopped down behind my desk into my comfy swivel chair and began to work at my computer. In life, as with most things, it just sort of happened. As my fingers glided effortlessly across the keyboard, almost with a will of their own, I looked down at my 51-year-old hands and became instantly rooted in the moment. "My veins are angry," I thought, their blueish-green tinted pathways bulging under caramel skin that I think belongs to my mother, not to me. But these hands are mine.

These are the hands that reach out to trace the contours of my husband's pallid, slightly freckled face. These are the hands that plunge into the depths of warm, soapy dish water, gently scrubbing away the remnants of a long ago meal. These are the hands that come together in reverent prayer each night before sleep claims my entire being. These hands speak for me when I cannot utter a word. They tell me I am getting older.
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So much has been made about women and the manner in which some of us lash out against the demon we know to be aging. Our culture is one of anti-aging. Present ourselves to a critical and judgmental world actually looking our age? Oh hell no. We arm ourselves with an array of accoutrements from our arsenal and prepare to enter into battle. We lavishly smear thick, creamy emollients on skin ravaged by an evil scythe-wielding Father Time. We frolic about in pants too tight (displaying camel toes at an embarrassingly alarming rate), skirts so short that bending over simply is not an option and slide seductively into blouses cut so low, baring breasts unnaturally round and far too perky, that they totally bypass the titillating come hither suggestion and screech head-first into look at me, touch me, suck me territory.
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All of this because our bodies are following the path set by nature: We're getting older. Aging is about change. We know this to be an inevitable downward slope, yet we frantically dig our perfectly manicured nails in and hang on tight. We may not be able to go backwards, but we'll put up a damn good fight to make time stand still.

Our energy, which we seem to have so little of now that we are women of a certain age, is squandered on attempts to turn back the hands of a clock that should only move forward. We will never again see 25 (and, seriously, why would we want to?). Happily, 30 is in our gray-tinged rearview mirrors. And our 40s? Yes, they were mostly wonderful, with a few unsavory episodes along the way, but they too have vanished into that murky lake of aging, swallowed whole by the ripples of time.

Is growing old gracefully a misnomer? What the hell does growing old gracefully mean, anyway? Does it entail elegance and regality, poise and posture, beauty and refinement? If this is true, then a mental image comes to mind of an immaculately coifed, stunningly gorgeous woman with high cheekbones daintily perched on the edge of a wingback chair sipping tea, laughing coquettishly and batting impossibly long eyelashes.

This is not me and I'm willing to take a wild guess and say this isn't the majority of you, either. Am I knocking myself? Hell no... merely residing in reality. An artificial society-fueled Stepford Wife existence doesn't even come close to my idea of living.

When do we stop coveting the body of our youth and becoming comfortable in the skin that we're in?

When do we cease pitting ourselves against women 20, 25, 30 years our junior?

When do we come out from behind the shadow of the young maiden?
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It's time for a cultural shift, one which alters the "50 is the new 30" mentality and gives rise to a more life-affirming, positive perception about growing older and our worth. This is not to say we should not take care of ourselves or not have concerns about the changes that are taking place in our bodies...quite the opposite. Eagerly embracing the essence of who we are as women and everything that goes along with that is essential to loving ourselves. Yes, by all means, go to the gym and get in a workout. Lace up those sneakers and go for a jog or brisk walk. Get your yoga on, girl! And while you're at it, sing the strains of Helen Reddy's I Am Woman loud and proud. Do what feels right for your well-being. Do it for your health. Do it for your sanity. Do it for you.

Welcome to your 50s, ladies. Welcome to this shiny, sparkly place where muscles that we never knew we had ache like hell, waistlines expand at the mere sight of a cupcake and, yes, once smooth hands have become lined with age. But there is a silver lining to this because right along with the bad also comes the not so bad. This is what we have in spades, ladies. Decades of valuable life experience ... celebrate it; more wisdom in our pinky fingers than in a whole cheerleading squad of 20-year-olds ... flaunt it; best of all, we don't give a good hot damn about what people think about us (and if you're not there yet, you will be) ... believe it!

This post was originally published on Midlife-A-Go-Go

These are our distinctive Badges of Midlife. Display them proudly. Wear them with honor. Above all, revel in the wonder that is you, midlife and all.