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I said, “I’ve Never Felt More Attractive.” He said, “I Don’t Believe You.”

aging gracefully

While both of these women are astonishing beauties, it’s Judi I find most attractive.

In my writer’s group recently I shared a piece I was working on called Dancing the Fifty Fandango about turning 50 this June and how I’ve never felt more curious, ambitious and even attractive in my life.

I awaited my notes and am used to having to trash pieces and start all over. So I was surprised at how chafed I became when one of my middle-aged, male compatriots said he thought the piece was a bit forced and that he wasn’t really buying it, especially the bit about me believing I’m “at the apex of my juiciness.”

Instantly my un-Botox-ed brow furrowed deeply and I felt compelled to ask whether or not he was at the apex of his juiciness and then thought I should break into his home, find his Viagra and shove it up his flaccid orifices.

None of which I did. Because I’m certain his orifices are as tight as a gymnast’s ass and it was about this time I realized I was angry because his comment made me feel ashamed of myself.

There I was, yet again scribbling about my attractiveness. Didn’t I have anything else to write about? And who am I to declare I’ve never felt more attractive looking down the muzzle of fifty? Is Beauty all I value? Am I coming across as an older woman desperately clinging to her youth? (For the record, you couldn’t give me 100 Boden dresses to be 20 again.)

I wanted to trash Dancing The Fifty Fandango and felt put in my place.

But as days unfurled my shame diminished and was replaced by less infantile pique and more Helen Reddy style-indignity.

I know my friend wasn’t trying to shame me. He was simply letting me know his personal response to what I’d written. But I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t a man’s place to call into question whether a woman actually feels as attractive as she says she does or is simply trying to bolster her flagging confidence.

Thousands of times every day advertisers tell women, both young and old, that they are failing to be attractive and/or beautiful, while simultaneously telling women that being attractive and beautiful are the only conduits to pleasure and happiness.

So when a woman tremulously writes or forthrightly proclaims “I am at the apex of my juiciness,” men, you gotta let us own it or fake it till we make it.

Because on any given day we’re told that we’re not enough. And sometimes, even if it’s simply giving ourselves a pep talk, we need to say out loud, “I am beautiful enough. I am attractive enough. I am enough just as I am in this moment on this day in this body and in this life.”

And while beauty isn’t the gold standard for happiness — having a purpose in life outside of ourselves is my choice — there is a sense of joy that bubbles up when we feel beautiful and juicy. And I suspect that holds true for men as well.

So I didn’t chuck the piece after all. It’s no literary watershed, but it’s about being in the half-full phase of life. I hope it inspires:

I turn fifty in June. Fifty. I have no idea how that’s going to feel when it actually happens. But I do know that right now, at age forty-nine and eight months, I’ve never felt more attractive.

When I stand before the mirror I see the crow’s feet at the corner of my eyes. I see the soft folds that are forming on my neck. I see the roundness in my formerly flat stomach and the various dents and scars from a life actively lived.

But what I also see is a woman at the apex of her juiciness.

Part of this is because I exercise regularly, see a dermatologist who has peeled off the damage of eons in the Southern California sun, have finally learned what to do with my masses of coarse, unruly, Danny Partridge hair and have a husband who adores me.

But it’s also because I’m grabbing Life by the balls and squeezing for all I’m worth.

This year I’m doing all of the things I’ve wanted to do, but have been too busy, bothered and bewitched by “have-to’s” to try.

I’ve decided to launch my relationship expert business to help people who are still struggling to find the Love they want, which means I’m building my own website, creating my own video course; which includes lighting, set design, speaking, video-taping and editing, and I’ve gone back to school to learn how to design a marketing plan.

I’m not doing any of it well yet. But I don’t care.

I used to be intimidated by successful professionals because I believed they were smarter and better educated than me.

But at my age I’m realizing that’s not true, they’re simply more entitled. They don’t doubt themselves and their worth, and if they do, they take action anyway, so why not me?

At the same time I’ve started ballroom dance lessons, which I’ve wanted to do since my husband and I took lessons for our wedding fourteen years ago. I loved them. My husband, not so much.

I’d decided I shouldn’t take lessons without my spouse, in case my instructor was Maksim Chmerkovskiy and we simply couldn’t resist each other (because that could happen), so I closed the door on that dream.

But with an encouraging spouse and fifty fast-approaching I’ve realized time is just too short to equivocate.

Before class I get into the spirit of things by applying 1950s bombshell make-up and wearing elegant, fitted sheaths and kid heels that won’t fly off during a mambo or tango.

It’s been a revelation to, for once in my life, allow a man to lead.

And I’ve been inspired by the women taking lessons alongside me. There’s the mid-70s former Moulin Rouge chorus girl in her black cigarette slacks and red stilettos. There’s the youthful octogenarian mobster’s moll, who tends toward vintage (from her own closet?) flapper dresses and mule heels.

And last week, a woman arrived to class wearing a one-piece black pantsuit a la Diana Rigg in The Avengers. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Her body was still as slender and lithe as any 16-year-old’s, her face and hair flawless. I thought she was roughly my age.

As she moved with élan around the ballroom floor with her partner my instructor informed me she was Shelby Chong (wife of Mary Jane aficionado,Tommy) and that she’s pushing seventy.

My mouth literally sagged open. In her case, seventy is the new thirty-five, and while I doubt that will be true for me (I love chocolate and wine too much), I was absolutely inspired.

So my goal on the night that fifty comes to call, is to open the door well-coiffured, wearing a deep red lipstick, a good bra, my fandango skirt and castanets with a hungry, curious mind as my corsage.

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11 comments

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  1. Junebug
    Junebug 19 March, 2015, 13:46

    Brava! Dance on, gorgeous, unstoppable Butterfly! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  2. Junebug
    Junebug 19 March, 2015, 13:49

    In the words of an old Country Song……”I hope you dance,” long and with much elan!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 March, 2015, 21:55

      Hey my Junebug! I just went dancing tonight and it was so much fun! And Shelby Chong was there in a little black dress split up the back and she was fabulous!

      Reply this comment
  3. Shannon
    Shannon 23 March, 2015, 20:57

    Shannon, you have the best attitude. I have a lot of catch up work to do in order to have the same attitude when I turn 50 in just a few short years so I better get on it! 😉 I’ve been wanting to take dance lessons for I don’t know how long so think I’ll get started!

    Reply this comment
  4. KymberlyFunFit
    KymberlyFunFit 23 March, 2015, 21:34

    For the record, your hair is perfect and just like you – Beautiful, fluid, with a little kink and unpredictability. I promise to vote for you when you are on Dancing WIth the Stars.

    Reply this comment
  5. Penny White
    Penny White 24 March, 2015, 08:28

    Hey, Shannon. I do believe that you feel juicier and more beautiful than you ever have – because I felt the same way in my late 40’s. I felt and believe I was sexier than I’d ever been. Now I’m in my 50’s, and being sexy feels about as useful to me as being able to play the accordion: I’m sure some people enjoy it, but I have no use for it. At age 53, I now walk one mile a day instead of two (cuz I could spend that other 20 minutes goofing off). I no longer turn down dessert. If an outfit isn’t comfy, I’m not wearing it (this eliminates all “sexy” clothing). I wear my hair short because it’s easy. I still wear lipstick, but have quit the mascara (too much work). I have never felt more beautiful or loved. But “juicy”? Gack! More like fizzy. And who wants to be juicy when you can be fizzy? Juice is sticky and heavy and healthy.Soda pop is light and sparkling and wicked and refreshing and FREE! My wish for you is that you, too, escape the sticky bonds of “juiciness” and graduate into post-menopausal zest. It’s heaven – and what the boys think will be the last thing on your mind. Take care.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 March, 2015, 12:07

      Penny you are adorable. And oh how I’d love to be unleashed from my desire to be desirable. It’s that damned Shelby Chong and her incredible sexiness at 68! But I suspect I won’t want to work at it quite that hard. xo

      Reply this comment
  6. GB
    GB 25 March, 2015, 11:56

    Shannon – I want to know why the hyperlink for the reference about your husband adoring you goes to an ad for a trip to Fiji? He must really adore you:)
    Great piece – welcome to 50, it’s awesome and you ARE juicy.
    George

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 25 March, 2015, 15:54

      Hey GB — I have some in-text ads that are run by an ad company. I’ve asked them to remove them because they don’t earn enough revenue to be worth the reader irritation but no one write me back! Ack! But you can tell Miguel I’d looove to go to Fiji.

      Reply this comment
  7. Linda
    Linda 31 March, 2015, 08:45

    I turned 50 only two weeks ago, so I can tell you what it feels like: empowering. Truly, amazingly empowering. And, yeah, I think that’s what makes me (also) feel more beautiful now than I did at 40, or 30, and particularly at 20. I finally figured out how to wear my hair to maximize my curls. I’ve taken charge of my fitness and health over the last year. I no longer have the desire to suffer fools, or to waste my time “wishing” for something to happen.

    I recently shared with a friend that, for the first time, I can see my expiration date—and I don’t mean that in a sad, frightened, fatalistic way. I mean that, at 50, I realize I have (if I’m lucky) 35 or 40 years left to live … which is less than the years I have behind me. So with that end date starting to rise on the horizon, I live my life more fully, more consciously, and with more juicyness than I ever have.

    My forties were fabulous … but I feel like my fifties are going to be the start of the best part of my life. And I can’t wait for you to fully experience that in June.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 31 March, 2015, 15:12

      Linda I love this so much. I feel exactly as you do that time isn’t stretching out endlessly before me, so why not do new things? Why not stretch and learn and be kinder to ourselves. It’s funny, I’m hearing a new voice in my head lately that’s become so much kinder to me. Usually at the end of each day I might feel disappointed in all I didn’t manage to get done, instead of congratulating myself for how hard I work and all I have gotten done. I actually gave myself a “good for you, look how hard you’ve worked today” pep talk that surprised and delighted me. Anyhow, thanks for sharing your joie de vivre here!

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