Esther Kane on Embracing Aging

Our latest interviewee is writing a book on Embracing Aging! She is looking for women 40+ who want to help women age with self-love!

She writes: “I’m looking for women to provide their experiences (positive and negative) with turning: 40, 50, and 60 (all contributors will remain anonymous) for an upcoming book on helping women feel empowered about midlife and to embrace ‘fearless aging’ in a youth-obsessed culture. Please answer some or hopefully, ALL of the following questions in your reply:

How did you feel about turning 40 (50) or (60)?

How did you celebrate this milestone birthday?

What were your hopes and dreams for this age (i.e. What did you hope to accomplish by this age?)

What was difficult about reaching this milestone?

What was wonderful about reaching this milestone?

What do you think about our youth-obsessed culture and the constant pressure to look younger than we are? How do you feel about cosmetic surgery? If you’ve undergone such treatments, please share your experiences.

Thank you so much!”

You can send answers via e-mail to: esther@estherkane.com

Esther Kane, MSW, (www.estherkane.com) is a psychotherapist, author and women’s emotional well-being expert. As a respected speaker on women’s issues, she has written and published three self-help books for women including What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years; Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve, and It’s Not About The Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies. The book and audioprogram is available to order online at http://www.itsnotaboutthefood.net

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I´m grateful to be in my forties

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

In my twenties, I think I took my beauty for granted. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought. Who needs to when your skin is glowing, your boobs are chin-height, and everyone tells you how beautiful you are? I definitely had my insecurities and in fact, feel like my 20-something body and face were somehow ‘wasted’ on me because I didn’t appreciate them back then. When it came to how I looked, I was incessantly critical and hard on myself for being too short, too dark, too curvy, and the list went on. When I look back at pictures of myself in my twenties now, I feel sad that I didn’t appreciate how lovely and beautiful I actually was. Now I truly understand what George Bernard Shaw meant when he proclaimed, “Youth is wasted on the young”.

Also, in my twenties, I was engrossed in university studies and managed to obtain two degrees during those years. I like the fact that my looks didn’t help me in any way with getting good grades or becoming a good therapist. In fact, I had to rely on my brain more than anything and that, in retrospect, is a very good thing. I learned at a very young age that I was first and foremost, intelligent and being smart and using my abilities to think critically was what was most encouraged in my family. I’m glad my family had those values, otherwise I would have been in deep trouble. I feel so much for those young women out there who are valued mostly for how they look, not for who they are. Models and pop singers come to mind. I always look at them and think, “What’s going to happen to your self-concept and self-worth when your looks are gone and you’re no longer considered “hot”?”

What does beauty mean to you now? If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

My concept of beauty has definitely changed over the years, especially since I turned forty recently. As I said before, I was always considered attractive, even beautiful, by some, so I didn’t obsess over my looks too much. I just thought they would ‘do’ and went on with my life. However, once I reached 35, I started to notice huge changes in the way my body and face looked, and for the first time in my life, really had to face how I felt about looks and the ageing process. Having recently turned 40, however, I have some extra body image concerns to add:

* graying hair

* wrinkling skin

* downward pointing breasts

* unexpected weight gain

All of these have come as a major shock as somehow, I guess I had thought I would be immune to all of the side effects of ageing. But no, Mother Nature would have me learn otherwise. And while I am working really hard at growing older without plastic surgery, botox, or other toxic attempts to extend my youthful appearance, the weight gain has been a real doozy.

However, I have managed to lose most of that weight over the past year and a bit through common sense eating and regular exercise. But my size and shape are definitely different from when I was in my twenties- a fact of life that I have resigned myself to as it’s better than the alternative- having no body at all.

I guess I’m becoming a more spiritual person as a result of facing these facts about my body and the ageing process, which in my opinion, is a good thing. I mean, who couldn’t use a bit more spirituality in their life? Plus, I’m starting to change my view of what is considered “beautiful” which is providing a great sense of peace and well-being. I’m really starting to appreciate the beauty in women who are 40+. I’m starting to realize that confidence, wisdom gained through life experience, and knowing oneself, is incredibly beautiful, and even sexy!

Sure, I really appreciate the smooth skin and gorgeous physiques of women in their twenties, but instead of comparing myself to them, I silently say “bless you sister-it’s your turn now” and make a mental list of reasons I’m grateful to be in my forties. This always helps me feel better and centers me back into myself and the reality of the wonderful life I have now. It’s definitely not the same life I had when I was in my twenties, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that I like the life I have now SO MUCH MORE…

 

Esther Kane, MSW, (www.estherkane.com) is a psychotherapist, author and women’s emotional well-being expert. As a respected speaker on women’s issues, she has written and published three self-help books for women including What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years; Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve, and It’s Not About The Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies. The book and audioprogram is available to order online at http://www.itsnotaboutthefood.net

 

Women on the Caravan of Love…

I am in transition between stages of project and stages of life. In the meantime, this space will continue to hold snippets on women who inspire, who make us think or make us smile. Feel free to send any recommendations!

make-over from the inside

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s, and what does it mean to you now?

It’s been interesting to think about your questions—thank you for asking—it’s been a process.  I began by thinking of the subject in a psychological context (of course), because a woman’s appearance is based on myriad influences:  genetic, socio-economic, her parents’ love and values, the quality of her life in terms of physical and mental health, and surely personal happiness. These are all part of our ideas about ourselves and beauty—so it’s a huge and complex subject.

My ideas about feminine beauty originated in my upbringing—my appearance was closely scrutinized daily, and always found flawed.  American culture in the 1940s, -50s and -60s was a secondary influence, though I do remember studying magazines to look like Audrey Hepburn, so maybe I underestimate those influences.  My mother put a lot of emphasis on how I looked and on how the house, my father, and she looked—maybe characteristic of that era.  I carried these ideas with me into my twenties and thirties as a young mother and in my first marriage.  Now in my sixties, I still enjoy a touch of style and good design, but I give a minimal maintenance effort to the appearance of the house and myself; I’m not much into shopping, TV or magazines.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

Things began to change in my early forties.  I had been seeing a therapist for depression and a first failed marriage.  After several years of therapy the emphasis on superficial appearances began to shift.  I  began looking more deeply into my feelings and the meaning of things.  As I came into my own, I wanted and went after whatever offered more interest, challenge and gratification.  Without therapy I would probably have been trapped in an empty box, looking outside myself instead of within for what might make me happy.

Because of this experience, now when I think about women of any age that I consider beautiful, it has a different meaning than when I was younger.  I look beneath the surface to see her soul—how she treats herself, how she treats others, ways she finds of doing good in the world, ways she lives her life, and her sense of well-being.  I look for qualities like courage, kindness, and commitment to something outside herself.  Her religion (or not), her political views, her home and personal appearance seem like the wrapping around her soul.

An example is that I have a small collection of photos clipped from the newspaper of women who have raised other people’s children—a daughter’s or a sister’s child, say, maybe the biological mother lost to AIDS or drugs.  I am touched by this.  If she has been a loving and faithful parent, I cannot imagine anyone more beautiful.

 

I came to believe that if we are not in touch with our feelings and with deeper parts of ourselves, we can become too preoccupied with how we look (and with how we feel physically).  White hair, wrinkles, and yellow teeth (and even our ailments) don’t matter when we can offer others a warm smile and interest in learning about them. Just as your virtual smile and interest in what I think make me feel good, I admire you for the passion and care you bring to this project.

Passion and care are what I hope matters most in the years I have remaining.  I am lucky to have a husband who likes me as I am, but even without him, I am at peace with myself and not quite as self-critical as I once was. How we look and make ourselves appear is an expression of how we feel about ourselves.  I chose to address my make-over from the inside.   That is where all the augmentation took place.

Terryl, 67,

Chicago area, October 2010

“That’s what I want…”

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

I was very aware of my appearance, and I’ve been in theater. I grew up being an only child, and I was never happy with that. I spent hours in my bedroom creating situations. I had lots of clothes. I would dress up by the mirror, and I would be all these different people.

I was always very conscious of how I looked. I was very insecure as a young woman. I always wanted to be 6 feet tall, red hair and this svelte woman because I love design and clothing. Well, I’m this short, stumpy person, and some of the clothes are certainly not fitting. But my sense of that has always been with me, and I try to get as close to that as possible. A lot of my appearance in clothing were kind of tailored. I loved wool and tweeds. I came from Chicago where it was very cold. So I loved that clothing.

"Gigi" - Summer Stock Performance

The lipstick always had to match what I was wearing. I remember I had an American Beauty red coat, and I had that lipstick. At that time, that was a very popular shade, kind of a fuchsia. My rouge had to match. Everything had to match. One thing I remember was that you never wore a gold ring with silver earrings. You always matched. And then of course, I loved hats. And we always wore hats. No it’s kind of extinct. I still wear them, but not as much.

I came from the era when you wore the gloves and the shoes. It was a whole picture. A whole outfit, and I liked that.

I moved to California in 1976, and very funny, from the moment I moved here, I stopped wearing a girdle. And I haven’t worn a girdle since. I don’t even wear a bra. I haven’t worn one in years, which I think is funny because I used to wear a girdle. I was nothing there. I was flat. I wore zipped up garment. I haven’t worn anything since I’ve been here. So I don’t know if they call that laid back, but I’m much happier this way.

There were times when I felt pretty. And there were times when I didn’t feel pretty.

What does beauty mean to you now?

I have mixed feelings. I once saw a photograph of an old woman…just lines all over her face. And I looked at that and I thought, That’s probably one of the most beautiful pictures that I’ve ever seen. And yet I don’t want to look like that.

"The Miracle Worker" - Summer Stock Performance

But then there’s another part of me that will not go gray. And I am affected by the fact that I look older. Sometimes I feel good about that. But I think where it really matters is not really anymore in my physical presence as much as it is in my mind. It’s my thinking that’s much more important. And what I’ve learned and realized is that thinking in a youthful manner – and I think it’s my spirit – makes people think you’re younger than you are. It’s all mental. It has nothing to do with my physical appearance. But consequently, I think it does affect your physical appearance because you radiate what you are, what you feel.

Why have you had that change of focus (about your ideas of beauty)?

I think it’s necessary for the person that I am. I don’t think it could have been anything else because my uppermost important feature as a human being is to be healthy, mentally healthy. And I have striven for that. I haven’t always made it, but that’s my ultimate goal.

"The Happiest Millionaire" - Summer Stock Performance

I have three sons, and I’ve said to them, “I’m going to get older, and as I get older, I’m gonna get a little crazy. So you have to ignore me.” And they’re listening (she laughs).

I came from a very neurotic mother and sometimes the tendency for the neurosis does seep in. And I hear myself and think that’s the most frightening thing in the world because you don’t even realize what has seeped in and what you have to block. So you have to be very strong and really want to change and really want to grow. And that’s what I want.

Sarah, 80

San Francisco, October 2010

Bobby socks and a pink satin ribbon

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

A lot of my personal ideas of beauty came from my mother…not that she was really a beautiful lady but she had a lot of sense of fashion. Even though we didn’t have any money because they were immigrants from Mexico, she was so clever. She would go to second hand stores and buy me all these little French wool suits…all these beautiful little clothes so I would look well groomed. So grooming is what I consider what it means to be attractive. As I grew up and was in my 20s, I started to work (at 20) so I always dressed in the style of the ‘50s. That was suits, hats, white gloves, purses and heels to go to work. Everything was important.

I never wore a lot of make-up because my parents were very strict. I always had to look decent like the other ladies. That was my introduction to beauty, and I still carry that even at this age.

Hairstyles were simple. When I was in my teens, I had long black hair which I used to wear in a ponytail with a ribbon. It was bangs, a ponytail with ribbons, and typically, full skirts with bobby socks. If you were lucky enough to own a cashmere sweater, that was part of the look.

At the age of 16, one of the things I was able to do with my first job for the post office during the Christmas holidays, I saved enough money to buy a cashmere sweater. So I had my cashmere sweater for Christmas. That felt pretty good. It was pink, and my mother made me a full skirt in lavender. So I wore that with a pink satin ribbon in my hair, and white buckskin shoes with white bobby socks. I thought I looked pretty good.

For work I wore white gloves and gabardine suits. The brand name that every young woman wanted to own was the RosenBlum Gabardine Suit. You could get those in the Emporium, which was a wonderful department store here in town, or Macy’s. All the good stores carried Rosenblums. They were just tailored suits with straight skirts.

As I started to work and was able to buy my own clothing, I would save money and be able to buy something. In those days, it wasn’t really credit cards, it was lay-away. If you put $1 or $2 away on a suit, eventually you’d own it. That’s how my mother used to buy me clothes. She used to make a lot of my things, but if she saw something when I was a little girl, she’d say “Let’s buy you that coat. It’s a Shirley Temple original.” She would put a dollar away or $.50 until I had it.

At 18, I remember I did have acne. So I was very careful. I tried to use less and tried to do whatever the doctor would recommend. I didn’t use a lot of make-up, but if things were not too clear on the face, that’s when I discovered what they called pancake make-up. It was in a little jar and creamy. That still have it, but they don’t call it that anymore.

I would try to cover up some of my blemishes. It didn’t really do any good. I didn’t wear eye make-up and I don’t need eyebrow (make-up) because I have thick eyebrows. It was usually lipstick and some sort of make-up on your face. When I started high school, I wore lipstick everyday. The make-up I didn’t wear everyday, only maybe if I was going out on a date.

What does beauty mean to you now?

I love fashion. I can’t help it. I grew up with the way my mother was, making my clothes and then I made my clothes. She insisted I learn how to sew. I started to make my clothes, and I did for my daughters. I still love clothes.

I love hats. I’ve always loved hats. Even when I was working at 20, I wore a hat everyday. I feel incomplete without a hat. I’m lucky that my daughter gives me a lot of her old things. I have a pretty large wardrobe because they’re hand-me-downs. No different from the time I was a child and my mother would go to thrift stores. To this day, if I see something that I think Oh, this will be good for a performance or for a show, I buy it.

Have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

When I was young, I would dress for the office – the professional look. Then I married and became a mom, I was casual. I tended to my children. I wanted them to develop in a certain way, so I was involved in their activities. I was that kind of a mom…Girl Scout leader, whatever it had to be, I was there for them. As I retired and it was just my husband and me, I was very casual again.

But now in the last 10 years, and even more so since I started this dance class (as the teacher), I want to dress up. The image is not because I want to show off. I’m trying to convey that a dance instructor should look a little different. And maybe some of the ladies will be willing to try something different. You know? It’s happening. I see the ladies fixing themselves up more for coming to the Center and my class. They even change their hair-dos. And they’re starting to wear a little lipstick. It’s not vanity for them. Especially with ballroom dancing, you’re pretty elegant. You’re supposed to look that way. It may be a lost art, but I’m sort of continuing that. That’s how I see beauty.

Lupe, 78

San Francisco, October 2010

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

Top Left to Right: Marry, Ria; Bottom Left to Right: Hillie, Anna Elisabeth, Leuntje,Gré

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

My 20s were during World War II and the aftermath. My mother died a year before; the older children of the family, including me,  all worked to contribute to feed and clothe the family.  My eldest sister tried to make “new” clothes from old ones for the family.

There was no luxury/beauty, but we had enough to eat. My dad worked at a farm so we had free milk every day and got flour to bake bread from the farmer.

At the end of the war we got “foodpackets.” One of the articles was Sunlight soap which was our only luxury.

Marriage was something to aspire to. I married when I was 25, and we lived in my dad’s home the first four years. There were no houses available because of the war. I worked as a housekeeper until my first child was born when I was 28.

My husband asked me which days I wanted to work and he would take care of our child, or if I wanted to stay at home as a mum, he would work full-time. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mum.

After four years of living in my dad’s house, we got our own home, two step-children included (15 and 12 years old). Their parents had died, and they needed care. The family asked us to take care of them in their house.

In my 30s, four more children were born. We had no luxury-life but we had enough.

Until the 1960s, I had long hair. Since then I’ve worn it short. It has a natural wave. I’ve never had  a perm or colouring, although sometimes I used rollers. It’s white now and thinning.

I never dieted. In the 50s and 60s I wore a corset to strengthen my back and tuck my tummy in.  I stopped wearing this in the mid sixties, and it feels better.

During the early ’50s, we had some ladies’ magazines with a lot of articles about the household tips to make something new from old, making children’s clothes, questions from readers about bringing up children (which a professor answered), and advertisements about sewing machines, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. There was nothing about fashion or make-up.

Only people with money wore make-up. I never felt the urge to wear make-up.

We didn’t have TV, Internet, or billboards, so there were not so many images about “Beauty”.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now even being so old, you want to look well. I wear comfortable and decent clothes.   My luxury? The hairdresser and pedicurist comes to my house.

I enjoy my children and grand-children. I  enjoy life as it is. I eat well…fresh vegetables and fruit every day. I love to read books, embroider and do crossword-puzzles.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

There is a big difference. Everything has changed during my lifetime. You are able to buy everything you want. There is abundance.

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

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