Oprah was right! 50 is going to be awesome. You're too old to be a young fool and you're too young to be in Depends.
(50 is also a good time to start wearing vintage Esther Williams swimwear.)
In my teens and 20s I never felt beautiful enough. I thought I was too skinny, too flat-chested, too pointy-chinned, too hairy-thighed and I had no idea what to do with my thick, frizzy, Irish thatch-roof hair.
Having been raised Mormon I also had no idea the lady garden could be manicured, hence I could've repopulated the entire rainforest with my pubic foliage.
There was also the small matter of being attracted to philanderers. For the longest time I thought they cheated because I wasn't beautiful enough.
Two words. Halle. Berry.
Men who cheat do so because they're cheaters not because we're not beautiful enough.
In my 30s I was pregnant twice which meant I felt fat and invisible. I coined the name THE WOMAN FORMERLY KNOWN AS BEAUTIFUL when I was 7-months pregnant with my second child, standing in line at the meat counter at Bristol Farms in Beverly Hills.
Five butchers (count 'em ... five!) were helping a young, non-pregnant Pussycat Doll select a pound of cackle while I festered swollenly nearby trying to order one freaking carne asada!
Eventually I passed out from hypoglycemia due to a LACK OF RED MEAT and when the paramedics arrived they forgot to collect my 50-lbs.-up limp form off the ground because they were too busy helping the Pussycat Doll carry her boneless, skinless chicken cutlets to her car.
Now here I am pushing 50. I've got a loving, faithful husband, kids who are pretty self-sufficient and I've accepted the last 10 lbs. of the pregnancy weight as mine for keeps.
So here are some of the things I know about Beauty at 50.
1. DON'T WEAR LOW-RISE JEANS:
They're just not for 50-year-olds. I've spent more money trying to find shapewear that will keep my muffin top from spilling over my low-rise jeans like gak from a pre-schooler's fist than I can afford. Which leads me to this...
2. DON'T WEAR SHAPE-WEAR UNDER YOUR LOW-RISE JEANS:
You're going to feel like you're in a hot, sweaty body cast when nothing is actually broken.
3. DO NOT CUT YOUR HAIR SHORT:
My hair is massive in every way. It's thick and coarse and explodes around my head like a nuclear mushroom and it hangs halfway down my back. And for the first time in my life I freaking love it! Perhaps I'm just happy I still have hair.
A dear friend I'll call Beth cut her usually waist-length hair short after she had children to make her life easier. Then, when her kids were tweens, she developed breast cancer. The chemo took all of her hair. She was bald for the better part of a decade as she fought her cancer.
By the time she was 50 she'd stopped relapsing and losing hair, and began to let it grow. And grow. And grow. She told me she just didn't have the heart to cut it again when it had been gone for so long.
Now, at almost 60, Beth's hair is waist-length. And guess what? Her long, lush hair looks beautiful and she looks beautiful with it. Age-appropriateness be damned.
4. YOU LOOK BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU DO:
I spent the years after giving birth missing my formerly slender frame instead of appreciating my newfound voluptuousness. I actually had breasts for the first time!
But instead I worried I was too fat. I fixated on the afore-mentioned muffin top, what I perceived to be neck flesh you could pack the contents of an overnight valise in and the concern that my nose was getting longer.
So I did something radical, I posed for nude photos at age 46 and the kicker? I posed in the exact same positions I'd done at age 26. No, I'm not a professional stripper named Santana, but I had body image issues in my 20s and the nudes I took back then helped me see myself with gentler eyes.
When I saw this round of nudes I thought my plan had backfired. I was mortified by what appeared to be a broad-flanked crone (my nose definitely seemed longer).
But in the words of Kenneth Alton, a lovely man who commented on my nudes on The Huffington Post--
"I have often considered it a trifle foolish the way that shallow youth is considered inherently beautiful. There is such a terrible beauty which only age brings, a depth of power that only deepens the sense of mystery that utterly, completely, captivates."
Feeling beautiful in your body is one part maintenance, one part acceptance.
5. HAVE PLASTIC SURGERY IF YOU WANT TO:
There's no shame in it. I woke up one day and noticed my eyelids were heading for the border with a chalupa in each fold. I had a brow lift/blaphorestomy and I love it. I'm me, but perkier.
6. DON'T HAVE TOO MUCH PLASTIC SURGERY:
See Carrot Top.
Forget about losing weight. Just move. It doesn't matter if it's walking around the block with your dog or doing a mini-triathalon. It could even be just making love in a challenging position. (Humpbacked Bridge anyone?)
This is the time to inhabit your body fully, to thank it for taking you this far, to breathe into it and feel all of its furthest reaches. Just move. If you don't like it at first, do it anyway. Eventually moving your body will feel like coming home.
8. TRY SOMETHING NEW:
I've started taking ballroom dance lessons and practicing my Cuban motion on a daily basis. Although my oldest daughter has begged me to stop practicing the Merengue in the bleachers during her softball games. She's young and self-conscious, I'm old and incorrigible, which is so much more fun.
9. KEEP LEARNING:
When my kids were little I was in the trenches. There really wasn't time to learn news things because I was just trying to stay ahead of the onslaught of needs, crying, pooping, barfing, keeping them alive and not sleeping.
But now my kids are 11 and 13, and developing their own unique interests. So I've been learning html coding, building a new website and getting my life coach certificate. Because I also seem to be wise! Who knew? I can feel my atrophying brain coming alive again.
"Exuberance is Beauty" -- Roland Barthes
10. GIVE YOUR LOVER A PROPER KISS ONCE A DAY:
That means no "make it quick" little pats on his back. It means standing toe-to-toe with him. Wrapping your arms around his back. Running your hands through his hair (if he has any). Pressing your cheek to his, so you can feel his stubble, smell his skin. Looking him in the eye, even if it frightens him a little, and then, to paraphrase Barthes again, pressing your lips to his so that through your mouth your soul can pass into his.
Now that is beautiful!
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Earlier on Huff/Post50: