January 21, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Writing

This week’s beauty is Lynne Spreen who is 56-years-old. Lynne is in the middle of writing her second book and also has a blog called Any Shiny Thing. She is a retired HR manager and a new grandmother. I love what she has to share about growing older.

I Refuse to Play

As older people, we know that looks shouldnt matter, and yet they do. Dr. Vivian Diller calls this the beauty paradox in her book called Face It: What Women Really Feel When Their Looks Change. A few years ago, I paid a price for this confusion: I fell under the spell of a well-meaning aesthetician, a doctor of anesthesiology who had a beauty business on the side and gave me a free injection of Juvederm.  

Why did I do it? I already have big lips, so I wasnt trying to be Angelina Jolie, but I've got a couple of crevices around my mouth. The doctor said a collagen injection would smooth them out. The result? 

I looked like Daisy Duck! I almost cried on the way out of the office. I had an appointment with my hair stylist after that and I could hardly speak clearly. Sitting in front of his mirror, I held a magazine in front of my mouth and mumbled my instructions. I was so humiliated. 

 The doctor had reassured me that the swelling would go down, and that turned out to be true, but it didn't happen quickly. For maybe four or five weeks I looked like a fish, and then after that, I looked like well, not me. I hated the way I looked and felt, like a sellout. Like someone who was telling the world she didnt value her inner worth, and would go to such extremes to try to meet our stupid, commercial definitions of beauty. 

I have ranted on my own blog, Any Shiny Thing, about the way we older women sell ourselves short when we suffer to look younger, or bemoan the fact that we "can't compete" with younger women. Probably the reason I feel so strongly about this is because I tried it myself and felt so traumatized.  

Every woman has to decide for herself how much beauty matters. I wear makeup and get my hair done, watch my figure and get mani/pedis. I want to look as good as I can, but heres the difference: I am perfectly happy to look my age.   

There was a line in an old movie, War Games, where the Pentagon's supercomputers launched world-annihilation simulations. At the end of the simulation, the frustrated bank of computers gave up and concluded that the only way to win is not to play." That's my approach to trying to look younger. I can't and I won't try.  

In the years since that debacle I have had two abdominal surgeries, the latter of which appeared to be (but wasnt) ovarian cancer, a disease which killed two of my aunts. Getting ready for the surgery was sobering and sad, and it taught me something really important: that I didnt care what I looked like as much as I cared about living! Just to be well and strong seems like such a gift, and it cant hold a candle to a few canyons etched in my face. 

Ive never told anyone this story before, and I appreciate Louise and her blog, Lines of Beauty, for giving me a chance to talk about it in a constructive way. 

Thank you Lynne.


  1. "The only way to win is not to play." I couldn't possibly love that anymore.

    And THANK YOU!!! for telling the truth about how horrible cosmetic procedures can be. I am so tired about people speaking about them as if they are no different than a hair cut. They can be deeply emotionally damaging and, at worst, life threatening. Nothing is so empowering as telling the truth!

  2. I know isn't that great CF? The only way to win IS not to play. There are so many areas of all of our lives that can we apply this to. For one- think of all the soccer mom gossip or all the negative chatter that goes on at office water coolers etc. There are so many areas where we can all take our boxing gloves off.

    Lynne thank you again, and thank you for being so courageous.

  3. In refusing to play, there's something deeper we connect to...each other:) Fantastic post, Lynne and Louise!

  4. Lynne,

    I applaud your honesty. Even though, you know I swing both ways on the subject, you send a important message to those who are afraid of the aging process or feel the peer pressure of looking forever young. The sad part is many times after these procedures, people look ridiculous instead younger. To me, that is scarier than aging naturally.

    Stick to your guns, girl, you're doing fine. :)

  5. So true, so sad. I think the worst part of all this is the pressure we feel to look younger than we are. There's a strong sense that a woman over 50 shouldn't even think about applying for a job these days, unless she's "had work done." And forget showing up with gray or white hair.

    Lynne, What a horrible experience to look in the mirror and realize that you "looked like Daisy Duck!" I hope that--by sharing our stories--we can stop the pressure to fight aging and concentrate on living the rest of our lives to the fullest.