"You know," a dear friend said to me recently about her mother. "Every time I talk to her she's on some new program or diet. It's always about the last 10 with her."
The last 10 pounds, that is. Her mother is 80 and by no stretch overweight. True, her mom -- like most of us after a certain age -- no longer has her girlish figure. But she's still chasing it. I'm all about living until you die, but really? Is the desire to drop those last few pounds a lifelong obsession that never cries uncle? Are we women wired to use our last breaths still trying to fit into that size 6 Little Black Dress?
This got me thinking about my own last 10. To be honest, I'm thinking about it a lot (read: constantly) these days. And, frankly, I'm sick of the lyrics constantly playing in my head. Have you heard the same song? No? For many of us, it's a chart-topper. It goes something like this (to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"):
You're too heavy, you're too fat. Tell me what you think of that.
What happened to that waist so slight? Now your jeans are way too tight.
Stop the eating. Stop the sweets. Life is more than that next treat.
Avoid the mirror, shun the beach. Listen to the yogis preach.
You have back fat and a muffin top. After this last chip, I promise I'll stop.
Sound familiar? (There's another song on aging I'd like to share but, for now, I need to stay on point.)
In our sanest moments, we know that losing 10 pounds isn't going to make our bank accounts fuller or our marriages more loving. But we're not always sane. The fashion and beauty industries remind us on the daily that we need to be thin. We must vanquish every extra ounce because only then will we be attractive and worthy members of society.
We're also victims of our images of younger selves. We gaze into the mirror and wonder where that girl has gone. We still feel like her on the inside, so what's with the exterior mismatch? And then the games begin. Because we don't just want to feel like that young woman, we want to look like her, too. And we did once, so why stop trying? We can surely find our way back to her. Right?
If all this sounds crazy to you, I'm both happy for you and envious. Perhaps you're that rare woman imbued with so much self-esteem you're able to block out the insanity. Maybe you don't waste countless irreplaceable brain cells and moments worrying about cellulite. What can I say? I wish I was you. But I'm not. And neither is she or she or she or she.
In maturity, we really know how quickly time passes. We've packed so many memories, living spaces and belongings into our lives we can't keep them straight anymore. We peer at old photographs silently begging them to remind us of the circumstances behind the frozen smiles. Was that the trip to Disney when JJ lost his first tooth? Did we buy that blue Jeep after we got married or before? And what happened to all that crappy artwork we hung in our first apartment? Did we give it away? Toss it in a dumpster? We didn't sell it on Craigslist because there was no Craigslist then.
And before we know it, these years will become just like those. We'll be 80 if we're lucky, sorting through our memories and asking ourselves and each other where the years went. By then, we'll also be wondering how much time we have left to live. Will our legacy be that we never stopped worrying about those last 10? Or that we lived life fully and happily, showing the younger women in our orbits that all the worry about weight weighs a whole lot of nothing when most of life is in the rearview.
So, I'm making an effort on behalf of my future 80-year-old self. I'm going to try to shut off the broken record and embrace the most beautiful music of all: a healthy and mindful life lived with self-acceptance and the occasional guilt-free sundae. It won't be easy. Like most women, my list of self-criticisms is a country-mile long. I'll keep at it, however, knowing it's not really over until, well, you know, that lady sings.
For more by Abby Rodman, LICSW, click here.
For more on aging, click here.