04/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

FACE IT: Must Boomer Babes Face An Empty Next?

There are a striking number of similarities between adolescence and middle age: you would be surprised how 50 has become the new 15. The biggest difference, however, in these key transitional life periods is that when we get past the acne, peer pressure, and insecurity issues of the first one, there is much to look forward to. Freedom! A career! Making a family! Did I mention freedom?

But as we move into middle age--where the pimples may have been replaced by sunspots but the insecurity is right up there in intensity--there seems a big Empty Next up ahead. The kids are leaving the house, the grandparents now need tending, the career may be winding down, the hormones have gone south. And just maybe you have let yourself go. No wonder this low grade depression that so many women are feeling sets in.

"As you become a mother, it's easy to find time to pay more attention to your child than to yourself. You justify the shift because you have a new, more important purpose," explains Dr. Vivian Diller, author of FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change." (Hay House) "Then as the empty nest approaches and you lose that role, new questions arise; What is my purpose now? And why don't I look like the woman I used to be?"

You know how fast our children grow up: one day they are crawling into your arms and saying "hold you me" and the next they are shutting their doors, and then they are gone. Well, unfortunately, WE did not stay in one place physically, and 18 years have necessarily taken their toll. We may still be working hard and we may even have managed to stay fit and look damn good--for our age. But if attention has not been paid physically, the key is to find ways to get some of that old self back. No, not with liposuction or facelifts, though they may turn out to be thoughtful choices if all else fails. But with a newfound workout ethic, and an understanding that the goal is not to look like you did, but to look as good as you can. And to embrace what has been accomplished and find a way to see the next chapter as potentially a great read too.

Granted, the future for us Boomer Babes doesn't always look rosy. While our adolescent comrades in fear and confusion move into exciting new possibilities, we face decreasing choices. Teenage girls are challenged by the role beauty will play in their lives while for us, physical attributes are exiting the equation. (At least of the natural variety) Looking back on how we handled the "crises" of our adolescence, and how we found the courage to move on to a scary new stage, can actually help us predict how we will handle the seismic shifts this time around."Regardless of how successful we are, when it comes to insecurity over changing looks, we fall into old patterns," says Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick. "And the truth is, no one is exempt from the feelings of loss and the changes that come with age."

I rarely think, ah to be 15 again. But ah, to be 60 and look as I did 20 years ago. Ah, to not have the aches and pains. Ah, to have the libido, now that I finally have the time. But there is positive spin here. It is a kick to be told "you couldn't be!" It is great to have so many products available so I can (pretend to) look as good as I feel. In one way, it's a relief, as Meryl Streep said recently, to let go of all that emphasis on glamour expected of younger women. Susan Sarandon once told me, laughing, "I think my Goddess days are over." And who would argue that she is an admirable pinup for us Boomer Babes?

"Although our choices may narrow at 50--no, we cannot, or should not, wear our daughter's clothes-- where they expanded at 15, our definition of beauty can widen," adds Dr. Diller. "We can relax and enjoy how we look without trying so hard to fit into a prescribed mold. The challenge is to continue to fill the mold with aspects of ourselves that are ageless."

FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change by Vivian Diller, Ph.D, with Jill Muir-Sukenick, Ph.D. and edited by Michele Willens is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As models turned psychotherapists, Diller and Sukenick have had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. This unique perspective helped them develop a six-step program that begins with recognizing "uh-oh" moments that reveal the reality of changing looks, and goes on to identify the masks used to cover deeper issues and define the role beauty plays in a woman's life, and ends with bidding adieu to old definitions of beauty, so women can enjoy their appearance--at any age!

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