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