|Visiting with a friend's dogs on Christmas Eve|
For me the best part of being middle-aged and overweight is not having to waste time and energy playing the "is he looking at me?" game. I was single and thin until my 40's and I spent a lot of effort trying to catch the attention of other single people (mostly, but not always, men). I fanatically kept my weight down, carefully chose my clothes and constantly looked at myself in mirrors and reflections to make sure I looked pretty and sexy. In the gym I abandoned all modesty and wore tight tops and short shorts. Everywhere, at all times, I glanced into faces to see how many eyes were on me. Is he looking at me? Is he looking at me?
Yes, it showed lack of confidence and low self-esteem, but so it was. Even when I wasn't actively looking for romance, I needed to know that my face and/or body had everyone's attention. Am I pretty enough? Am I sexy enough? The disadvantage was that I constantly felt vulnerable to the attentions of men. Whenever someone gave me attention I didn't want, I felt helpless, scared, like I wanted to hide. I didn't feel powerful or comfortable in my sexuality, but I thought it was all I had that kept me from being invisible.
That was my life in my 20s and 30s. I'm 46 now and no longer carry that air of loneliness, desperation and longing for approval. My need for people to notice my physical beauty must have been as clear as a neon sign for decades, but I've turned that sign off. No more searching faces to see if my body is being appreciated, no more sucking in my gut when I walk by someone, no more straining to check my appearance in every reflective surface.
I am settling into my middle-age. My face no longer appears 30-years-old-or younger, so I no longer appeal to men who scope out 30-years-old-or younger women. Does this make me feel sad? No! It makes me feel relieved that I can be myself without trying to meet anyone's standards of beauty and sexiness. Also, to be physically admired feels good, but beauty can also be distracting. Beautiful young women aren't always taken seriously. People make assumptions about women and men who are extremely attractive and those assumptions aren't always positive. Being beautiful means having some degree of social caché, but it doesn't always lead in the direction you want to go and it's a very limited "skill." The bottom line is that young women don't hold a lot of power in American society, but when beauty and sexiness don't get them where they want to go, thank goodness middle age comes along and gives them a chance to develop real skills and power.
I am content to have moved out of the demographic of "pretty young women." It was fun while it lasted, but pretty young women are also a targeted population and I felt unease about that all the time. That fear is finally fading as I outgrow my youthful physical appearance. At age 46, I can now have an exchange with a man and know that our attention is on the conversation, not on sizing each other up for possible further contact. I love being able to talk to neighbors, co-workers and complete strangers without that mental buzzing concert of either "Does he think I'm pretty? Could this interaction go somewhere?" Or "Does he find me sexually attractive? Because I don't feel that way about him. How do I scrape him off?"
Yes, I burned a lot of valuable energy on that whole attractiveness thing, but without the narrow waist and young boobs to distract people (including me, since I felt self-conscious about my body), I can have free and relaxed interactions and it feels great. I'm learning that there is so much more to life than being pretty! There's stuff like:
- Self-esteem that's based on who I am on the inside, not the outside.
- Ability to take care of my emotional needs (includes friendships, support groups, knowing when to rest and when to get moving, and being in tune with my moods).
- Valuable tools to get me through daily challenges and crises (includes Emotional Freedom Technique).
- Being comfortable in my body.
- Less concern about what others think of me.
- Forty-six years of experience, wisdom and creativity to calmly face whatever might be ahead.
- Knowing what's necessary, what isn't necessary and what I'm really better off without.
- Love and acceptance of myself. It's been a long time coming.
The title of this post includes the word "fat" because my weight gain in the past couple of months has taught me that being 5 foot 2 inches and 155 pounds feels quite different from 5'2" and 130 pounds. Being overweight moves me even further from the kind of body that hungry American male eyes constantly seek. Being overweight has its drawbacks (limited movement, more odd aches and pains), but I've discovered a big advantage: it makes me feel even safer in a world where young women are vulnerable and preyed on.
Middle aged women are powerful. The Emotional Freedom Technique Meetup (tapping circle) I started last summer is coming into its own. A group of us meets each week to release fear, guilt and anger and to celebrate when we achieve goals and reach new levels of freedom from limitation. It's no coincidence that the majority of our core group is women over the age of 45. Unhampered by the frantic life-building that often characterizes the younger years, we're discovering strengths and tools to heal ourselves more deeply than ever. We're not afraid to dive into burning emotions and painful memories. As a group we are working through emotional blocks and individually we are improving our ability to take care of ourselves. The EFT Tapping Circle is a priceless resource for me and is just one example of how powerful women become when we're no longer using major brain power for attracting and mating. (NOTE: all are welcome to join us in our tapping circle any Saturday morning on the north side of Chicago!)
In my late 20s, filled with fear and insecurity, I said to myself, "I'll bet everything will be better by the time I'm 45. Yeah, I'm going to look forward to 45. Come on, 45!" It turns out, I was right. My 20s and 30s were filled with awful struggles with my own inner demons, but on the other side of those struggles were my 40s and they feel much happier and more comfortable. Being fat, middle-aged and confident feels a hundred times better than being young, thin and scared all the time. As a young woman, I knew one day my youthful physical appearance would go away, but no one told me that by the time I got there, I wouldn't care!
Be middle-aged with me. The best is right here.