Are These My Hands Now?

 In Your Health
Woman smiling

Rochelle Mucha PhD

Nail salons defy any distinctions between women. Female paradigms crumble as women of every color, shape, age, and fashion orientation intersect while getting manicures and pedicures.

During a manicure you become a captive audience of your hands, monitoring the process to ensure the shape is right and that you don’t get nipped by the cuticle scissors.

The technician works with a strong, unforgiving light guiding their task. Age spots. Wrinkles. Sagging. Dryness. Bulging veins. Prominent joints. Discoloration. Are these my hands now?

Aging has no mercy on our hands.They’re a visible, telltale sign of our age. As my manicurist works her magic, I am undeniably reminded that I am seventy years old.

My monthly trek to the nail salon was one of several mundane experiences that subtlety confronted me with my age and aging body. I became preoccupied with the aging process driven by a yearning for facts and incessant introspection.

I discovered a plethora of literature on Women and Aging. It became clear that not only was it a popular topic, but an important one to talk about and talk through. Questions, challenges, and opportunities emerged.

How do I reconcile the dissonance between the woman I see in my reflection and the woman I feel like? Am I becoming invisible, irrelevant? What does the future hold? What are my options?

I have come to understand that aging isn’t easy on anyone, but data indicates it’s more challenging for women across all walks of life, than men. For many women, the core of feeling old is intimately connected with the loss of attractiveness. Men no longer eye you up and down when you walk in a room, or indulge you with seductive, flirty looks. The sultry feelings innocent coquetry engendered within us grow extinct.

The significance of physical appearance for both genders has always been different. For men, attractiveness is an advantage. For women, it is expected. Men have physiques, implying size, strength, or athleticism. Women have figures, alluding to shapeliness and sexuality.

Grappling with physical changes is challenging. Avoidance impossible. Reflections are everywhere. Elevators. Dressing Rooms, Bathrooms. I catch a brief glance and find myself quickly turning away. The image I see feels surreal, as if gazing at myself from a distance, a woman I know, but not well. I want to embrace her, but it is hard.

There is only way to deal with these unstoppable changes and this is to choose how we age.

We can lament or rejoice, stagnate or grow, submit or prevail. What we think dictates how we feel. If we are to feel more positive about our aging process, we need to think differently about it.

I want to unchain myself from the negative shackles of aging, accept my years to date and welcome the future. I want to quash the aging process from dictating my attitude, aspirations, and confidence. I want to age gracefully with poise, courage, and gratefulness, following my heart and mind, not the mirror.

I realize easier said than done. It began for me with my hair.

Perceptions about hair color may be the deepest and most entrenched double standard that accompanies aging. I colored my hair most of my adult life, graduating from the over the counter peroxide look to fabulously expensive professional highlights. Going natural, releasing myself from the encumbrance of hair color, expense, and anxiety over my appearance was one of the most liberating moments in my life. I felt beautiful. I felt proud.

As we move through life stages and milestones, the way we define ourselves and measure our self-worth must evolve. We can’t continue to learn, thrive, and contribute if we are horrified to look in the mirror. New descriptors are required.

The freedom derived from recognizing that aging is merely another aspect of living, of being human is formidable. Exploring the power of choice is liberating.

Yes, these are my hands now!

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