I don’t often comment on celebrity styles, but the flap about Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson’s “roundness,” reported on AOL today struck a nerve. The article, by Ashley Neglia of That’s Fit.com referred to a New York Times blog accusing the actresses of looking a little round. Neglia’s point had to do more with whether or not their weight was appropriate, but I don’t think that’s what we were seeing. Here’s why I say that. About 10 years ago, I noticed my normally toned and thin arms and shoulders becoming… round. I had not gained weight – still came in between 115 and 120 (and when you’re 5’5″, that’s not too bad), yet my body was doing something new without first consulting me. It was maturing. Courteney and Jennifer and Kate are just getting older. Courteney was born in 1964, Jennifer in 1969 and Kate in 1979. Time happens.
As we move into the 40’s and 50’s, fat moves into neighborhoods we never thought it would find. When it happened to me, I didn’t like the shape and even more than that, I didn’t like the loss of control. What was the big idea, changing the shape of my arms? Who asked for this new roundness? Not me. Over the last ten years, I’ve been struggling with appreciating the Old Me, the new adventures of Old Angela. The hardest part is that I don’t feel old inside; I feel the same way I did when at 30 or so, most of the time. Occasionally there’s a little stiffness after sitting for a long time, but it’s not much. Walking off, it feels like I’m leaving my bottom three feet behind me because my body doesn’t straighten up all the way as quickly as it used to; I need a few steps before I’m back on balance. My mind flashes to my mother walking in the grocery store pushing a cart. Her bottom was way behind her because she walked on a forward slant, not quite upright. Am I like that now? Maybe so. I’m shocked when I happen upon a mirror and see this grandmotherly person staring back. Young Angela had a pencil-thin shape. Old Angela has hips. Young Angela had black hair that sometimes looked brownish in the sun. Old Angela has silver gray and white hair framing her face that makes her look like grandma in the sun. Young Angela had a flat, well-defined stomach. Old Angela has a less defined abdomen and a sag at the bikini line – testament to the birth of her two splendid sons, but also testament to the breakdown of tissue that holds up the fat that is now trying to get to my toes no matter how many crunches I do. I could dye my hair (but I’m too lazy and don’t really want to), and I could develop a fondness for oversized shirts. But I’d rather battle with growing old gracefully. Next winter I will be 60. Let’s face it: I am old. And that’s a good thing.
My husband of two years looks at me with a puzzled expression when I talk about my “old body.” To him, what I am now is new and he likes it. I explain that what he’s seeing now is “south;” everything I have has gone south. But to him, it doesn’t look saggy at all. He doesn’t have the Young Angela to contrast with; he doesn’t really know the way I was before I started being old, except for one picture taken on The Last Summer That I Will Ever Wear a Bikini, about five years ago. The fact that he loves what is rather than what used to be helps. Even as I say this, I know that his opinion ultimately isn’t the one that matters. It’s mine. I have to love this body I’m now in; some days, I do. I look at movies featuring the actress Anne Archer, who is one of my favorites, and try to be inspired by her metamorphosis. In Fatal Attraction (1987) she is young and lean and kind of zippy-sexy; in Clear and Present Danger (1994) she has matured. She still is a lovely, sexy woman, but she’s definitely not the same. She’s kind of smoldering, quietly vibrant. She seems to know how to do this aging thing. My mother used to describe women who don’t know how to age as being “old miss young.” I live in terror of that.
Many years ago, either Time or Newsweek did an article about the Japanese understanding of feminine beauty, and how there were two words for it; one for young women, the other for mature women. It would be good if we could develop another word, too…and I don’t mean the re-tooling of the innocent word, cougar…but another mindset that included the reality that youth is temporary, like all of mortal life, and it isn’t necessarily the zenith of our experience. I wish we could learn to appreciate the joy of moving into each new stage in our lives, emotionally, physically, spiritually. It’s not simply that we grow “nearer my God to thee” with each passing birthday; it’s that we grow in our understanding of life. And that includes the reality that we change. Our bodies change. And when the bodily changes stop — we really are finished with this existence. For Christians, life is changed, not ended. God is always saying to us, “behold, I am doing a new thing.” May we learn to bless the new when it comes.