Tag Archives: getting older

Good News Monday: DGAS, a Benefit of Aging

There may not be a scientific study (yet) but I’m convinced there’s a provable curve between increased age and the condition DGAS (Don’t Give a S***).

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When we’re younger, we obsess over how we’re perceived at work and in our social lives. Do people like us, respect us, take us seriously, etc.? Is that compliment sincere, or does he/she just want to get into our pants? (And are said pants a size or two larger than they ought to be?)

The beauty of getting older is that, frankly, there are very few people whose opinions actually matter to us.  Yeah, we go through the motions and attempt to interact with people we basically can’t stand, but our universe of those we care about is subject to more important criteria than “What can you do for me?” or “Are you hot?”

For those of us who are shy about making new acquaintances, this might translate as: You seem nice and it might be fun to have lunch or share an activity and see if there’s more of a connection, so I’ll proffer an invite.

If you respond, great. If you don’t, well, life will go on and a year from now I won’t remember your name because, frankly, I can barely remember where I left my car keys.

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By this age, I have no patience for anyone who is faking it, on the make, or desperately lonely.  But I’m really excited to make friends with people with whom I share common interests, philosophies, or enthusiasm for 1) good food, 2) good wine, or 3) nice handbags.

Do we become more intolerant as we get older? Or do we become more discerning? I’d like to think it’s the latter. Or maybe it’s the same thing.

What do YOU think, dear readers?

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Quiz-ical

The other day I took an online Jungian personality quiz three times until I got the personality that felt the most accurate. (If you guessed “obsessive”, you are correct!!)

I’ve been obsessed with quizzes as long as I can remember: “Which Beatle is your soul mate?” “Is your boyfriend cheating on you?” “What’s the most flattering hair style for your face?” “Are you doing everything you can for perfect skin?”

I loved magazines – still do – and the quizzes were some of my favorite features. Nowadays, online quizzes serve a similar function, and challenge my ever-weakening memory: “How many of these 90’s movie scenes can you identify?” (I was so excited to get 100% until I realized everyone gets 100% regardless of their answers.) “Only geniuses will answer this math quiz correctly.” (Not on the first try, because I’m sure there are at least two correct answers. Creativity and math don’t usually go together.)

Quizzes are mini wake-up calls, reassurances that we’re in step with the zeitgeist the way we think we are, ways to bond with other members of our “tribe” (“Your score indicates that you are a Problem Solver!”) and reminders to take stock of things we might otherwise neglect (“Do you take your spouse for granted?”).

They’re often a quick way to learn something new, too. “Can you identify the 5 leading causes of depression?” Or, “Do you know why sugar’s bad for you?”

Back in school, I always did better on multiple-choice tests, vs. an essay test where you had to remember the information without any hints. Even if I had only a vague memory of the chapter we’d studied, once I saw the answer sitting in front of me it would trigger some deep sense of familiarity and I would seize on it like a drowning person reaching for an outstretched log.

My mind is a steel trap when it comes to arcane facts about minor celebrities, fashion trends and other trivia. It’s a sieve regarding most items of significance. I suspect this is because I can only process small pieces of (usually useless) information at a time. Then they rattle around in the back of my brain until shaken loose. Facts about my own life experiences, however, often elude me.

I couldn’t tell you who taught my freshman French class if someone put a gun to my head. Or the names of my kids’ teachers. Or pretty much anything that has to do with geography. Never could.

But show me a list of possible options and I might stumble onto the right choice.

So the next time I can’t remember what the new neighbor does for a living, give me a quiz: It’s either a) doorman, b) Chippendale’s dancer, c) surgeon or d) chef. God help me if the answer is, “None of the above”.

 

 

Baking New Friends

When you’re a kid, you can become best friends with someone simply because you both hate school lunches or gym class. It’s not much more sophisticated when you’re an adult: Chances are, you’ll bond with someone at work when you discover you both loathe your boss, love French films, or nodded off in the same boring meeting. Or you’ll meet a mom in playgroup who shares your opinion that the neighbor’s “perfect” child is a spoiled brat.

I’ve found it gets a lot harder once those natural opportunities are behind you. It’s even tougher if you move to a new town, retire, work from home or become divorced, widowed or remarried.

For me, baking has become one way to connect and enrich budding friendships. This dates back to my childhood.

V lived a few streets away. I don’t remember what prompted it, but one afternoon when I was playing at her house – we must have been about 10 – we got the idea to bake something. I’m going to guess it was cookies, because what kid doesn’t like cookies? V, who was always more confident than I was, knew exactly how to start the oven. I quote: “You turn on the gas, wait awhile, and then light it.” Which is what we did.

BOOM! Both of us were knocked backwards, the smell of burnt hair everywhere. My bangs were reduced to an inch of frizz and I no longer had eyebrows. I think V was relatively unscathed except for a burned arm. Our mothers were seriously pissed off and our respective punishments forged a shared bond along with our battle scars.

Undeterred — and still liking cookies — I’ve continued to bake. And I’ve discovered that the alchemy of turning flour, sugar and butter into something delicious is not unlike turning ordinary experiences into the basis of a lasting friendship, don’t you agree?

This leads me to Baking Friend #2. T is a real baker, by which I mean that she knows enough not to improvise the way I do, has actually done it professionally, and posts very beautiful photos of all her discoveries on her wonderful blog, The Cook”s Tour.  I, on the other hand, have more of a hit or miss success rate and can make the same recipe 20 times and get it wrong the 21st. Yes, it’s a gift.

From sharing recipes, T and I have branched out to sharing details of our lives, political observations and inspirations for future travel. After knowing her for only a couple of years I am delighted to consider her a friend, even though we communicate almost entirely by e-mail.

Most recently, my neighbor H and I embarked on a baking adventure at her house. She is a woman I admire greatly, but we are both a bit shy and take a long time getting to know people. Friendship #3 is like the long, slow proofing of bread that tastes its best because you take your time making it.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to bake bagels, using a recipe I love that is usually foolproof. This time, however, lacking the necessary food processor, we opted to wing it and use the stand mixer. Since the dough was too dry to come together, we added more water. And then a little more. And a little more. (See? Winging it.) By the time we made our bagels, they had ballooned to the size of small pillows and while they weren’t what I’d call horrible, they were definitely not New York bagels either.

Still, even a relatively unsuccessful result can lead to a lot of laughter and a stronger connection. Which is ultimately a more important measure of success.

Eventually, we all figure out who’s toxic and whom we want as our friends. We may have fewer but hopefully each will be special. If I can get through life burning more cookies than I burn bridges, I’ll be very happy!

Hype and Hypochondria

Are you starting to wonder if every ache and pain is an indication of something more serious? I blame the evening news.

As if climate change, screeching political candidates, the ricocheting stock market, and dwindling honeybees aren’t troubling enough, within the space of an hour’s broadcast you’ll see at least a dozen dramatic commercials for symptoms you might have, symptoms you probably have, or diseases with cute initials you’d never heard of but are now sure you definitely have.

It’s enough to give anyone chronic constipation or diarrhea or at least a migraine.

I’m not really a hypochondriac; I’m more the Queen of De’Nile type, blindly optimistic that my test results will turn out fine. My husband, on the other hand, is easily persuaded that anything “off” is symptomatic of something dire and dangerous.

Bear in mind, he’s an empathetic guy. But these days he identifies a little too closely with the suffering actors on TV. When he wakes up with elbow pain does he think, “That’s because I slept with my arm sticking over the headboard” or “Too much time at the driving range”? Nope, he’s positive it’s elbow cancer. Could his back pain have any connection to lack of exercise or an overly-soft mattress? Nah. Can’t find his keys? Don’t blame his messy desk. Must be early onset Alzheimer’s.

I don’t mean to be flip; all too often, warning signs are ignored and illnesses that could have been caught early are allowed to progress. But maybe we’ve all become a little too educated and need to find a happy and healthy balance between sticking our heads in the sand (as in, ignoring a mole that’s changing) and paranoia that every minor ailment is life-threatening.

Here are the commercials that got him hyperventilating last night:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Toenail fungus
  • Laxatives
  • ED
  • RA
  • Circadian Rhythm Disorder (no, I did not make that up!)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • COPD
  • IBS
  • Joint pain
  • Psoriasis
  • Dry eyes
  • Memory loss
  • High BP
  • Depends

I swear, a Midol ad could probably convince him that his post-burrito bellyache was menstrual cramps.

Hypochondria must be a modern development. After all, ancient civilizations had bigger fish to fry– like worrying about pestilence, famine and rampant body odor.

Consider the original Paleo Diet. Who had time to fret about high cholesterol when your dinner might eat YOU first? Did cave mamas make sure everyone ate five servings a day of ferns and cattails to stay regular? I think not.

Fun fact: When ancient Vikings failed to attract the ladies they didn’t yammer on about erectile dysfunction; they bleached their hair and beards blonde with strong, lye-based soap so they’d look hot. As a bonus, this also helped kill off head lice. Win-win!

And I’ll bet that if you lived through the Inquisition, a little memory loss helped you sleep better at night.

My conclusion: Stay informed, watch the news if it doesn’t give you indigestion, and remember to toss your sweaty socks in the laundry bin so your toes don’t rot. But just in case you’re currently in good health (knock wood) keep your fingers crossed, say a kinehora to ward off the evil eye and turn to the right when you sneeze. You can never be too careful.

Aging Gratefully

Lately I’ve been hearing more and more people—and you know who you are—complain, however humorously, about being “old”. This may seem benign, but it encourages a mindset that dwells on the negative and that’s never healthy.

So I’m dedicating this post to my delightful, vibrant and beautiful cousin Helen (shown above), who is 93 years young. Helen has had her share of challenges in life, but she faces every day with energy, enthusiasm and passion. She still lives in Manhattan, where she traipses about the city to museums, lectures and the symphony; she also works and travels the world for the UN, raising awareness of the needs and contributions of the elderly. Check out this inspiring video.

I’m not in denial about the passage of time, but here’s the thing: We may be grayer, wider, gassier and slower, but don’t think for a minute that our best years are behind us! Kiss that rosy glow of nostalgia goodbye and do a happy dance that these (and more) are in the past:

  • Gym class
  • Tie-dye anything
  • Canned spaghetti
  • “Second base” in the back of a Chevy
  • Ironing our hair
  • Avocado and harvest gold appliances
  • Hot pants
  • Ripple, Boone’s Farm, Cold Duck, Thunderbird and Wild Irish Rose
  • Learning to parallel-park
  • Songs like “Feelings”, “I Honestly Love You” and “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”
  • First job jitters
  • Paisley shirts, especially on men
  • The Thighmaster

And let’s look ahead to what the future holds:

  • Legalized pot across the U.S. —who’d a thunk it??
  • Retirement, a.k.a. time to read War and Peace, learn new languages or binge-watch every episode of The Real Housewives
  • Space travel (Can I book a one-way ticket for my ex?)
  • The Rolling Stones’ 75th Anniversary tour
  • Seaweed that tastes like bacon
  • Your daughter acknowledging how hard motherhood is
  • Finally being considered “wise”

Of course we’ve all got stuff to worry about, but it’s easier to cope if we keep reminding ourselves of everything good in our lives: friends, family (well, perhaps not all of them), pinot noir, music, and the roof over our heads—even if it needs to be painted and maybe leaks a little.

Life wasn’t perfect even in the “good old days”. Besides, if you think you’re old now, just wait another ten years.

 

Hair Apparent

Here’s what I’m obsessing about today:
Why are my eyelashes disappearing but hair is sprouting on my chin? And what’s with that one sharp white eyebrow hair the size of my forearm?

The happy answer: aging. But, as my mother used to say, “Consider the alternative”. As you may have noticed the week before your colorist appointment, gray hair is coarser. So, compared to normal eyebrow hairs, the weird ones are thicker.

(As a side note, can anyone explain why your hair miraculously looks perfect on the day you’ve scheduled a haircut? Is this the same cosmic joke as feeling 100% better the day of a doctor’s appointment?)

Good news: it’s not as bad for women as older men, who seem to grow more hair in their ears, noses, pubes and eyebrows because of testosterone. (Since we have to look at them, now is a good time to teach your guy about “manscaping” – or do it for him — before things gets even worse!)

So far, I’ve been lucky to avoid thinning hair. Forty percent of us have visible hair loss by age 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Not surprisingly, the most common culprit is the loss of estrogen that begins before menopause, though hair loss can result from illness and other factors.

A zig-zag part not only disguises roots but makes hair look thicker. So does parting your hair on the opposite side, since it won’t lie as flat that way. There are tons of thickening products out there and you undoubtedly have your faves. I’m partial to Aveda’s Pure Abundance style-prep because most products weigh my hair down and feel greasy the next day.

If hair loss is serious, your doctor will be your best resource. Hormone adjustments may be recommended, or he/she may suggest Rogaine (minoxidil), the only FDA-approved topical treatment. Remember: it only works if used daily as directed.

Back to brows. The woman who shapes mine also dyes them (they are white-blond and invisible otherwise) and I personally wouldn’t try dyeing them at home although people do. Regardless of trends, thin brows on older women are aging, as are extreme arches. So lay off the tweezers and find someone you trust to groom them for a natural look. As they grow in, you can fill in and cover bald spots with pencil: Bobbi Brown makes a nice one.

For thin, short eyelashes, I’m a fan of Latisse even though it’s eye-wateringly expensive. Your derm can give you a prescription. Like Rogaine, it has to be used consistently. Dyeing lashes also seems to make them thicker. Definitely do NOT try this at home.

And never underestimate the power of a good pair of sunglasses!