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Leaving Behind the Fountain of Youth
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's:

This Saturday night, families will be stuffing warm sweaters underneath Cinderella costumes and Superman capes as they go door to door taking candy from strangers. Personally, I’m not a big Hallowe’en fan. I love the mini chocolate bars, but I’ve never liked walking around in the cold, especially since it seems to rain on Hallowe’en about 98% of the time.

But dressing up is a time-honoured tradition, and my daughters were never content unless they had make-up caked on their faces so they could look pretty.

Fast forward twenty or thirty years and it’s not really so different. Many adult women go to great pains to try to look pretty, too. I’m a big fan of lipstick, and moisturizer does wonders. A while back I bought a special “moisturizer for men” for Keith to use when he did all that snow shovelling—I figured that was the least I could do, since I certainly wasn’t about to go out there and help him—but he refused to wear it. Turns out he likes wrinkles. He thinks they make him look distinguished, like his father.

It’s acceptable for a man to age. It’s a sin for a woman to. Our glory days are supposedly in our youth, and it’s all downhill from there, according to magazine covers and our entertainment culture. What tripe. I’m a whole lot happier at just-a-few-months-to-forty than I was right before I hit nineteen. And I’m a whole lot more awake than I was just before I hit thirty, when my children were in the rock around the clock baby stage. I love much of what has already happened in my life. I loved my babies, I loved dating my husband, and I loved my university friends. But I wasn’t necessarily able to enjoy those days well.

Either I was worried about what was ahead—would I find the right guy? Would I do well in school? Would I have children?—or I was too busy to enjoy it. Sure it’s exciting when your life is a blank slate before you, but it’s stressful, too. And relationships aren’t as easy-going as the media likes to paint them, either. The best friendships we have with other women tend to come later in life. When we’re younger, we’re often more competitive, catty, and sensitive. In later life, you chalk it up to hormones or peri-menopause or hot flashes and you move on.

As you age, too, you become far more comfortable in your own skin. You’ve come to terms with that cellulite that mortified you at 28. And you come to terms with the rest of your disappointments, too. You know life does not always go as planned, but you learn to recover. You become stronger for it. You gain perspective. You stop sweating the small stuff. Even the sex is better as you age, according to studies. Those in long term, committed relationships tend to be far more satisfied than the young singles who “hook up”, no matter what Paris Hilton may want you to believe.

It’s time we stopped idolizing youth and start idolizing aging. Youth really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, with its insecurities and stresses and questions. When we age, we forgive ourselves. We focus our priorities and figure out what really matters. And that, I think, makes life richer, even if we do have disappointments and unachieved dreams. Life isn’t going downhill; it’s getting better. One day those under 30 will realize that the perfect life isn’t young Cinderella; it’s her middle aged neighbour who has survived all that drama and now gets to write her own story. And trust me, it’s going to be a good one.

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At 11:07 AM , Blogger LAURA said…

Sheila, I loved this!!


At 1:25 PM , Blogger Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said…

I remember years ago, magazines like Time, etc., predicted that age would be revered as the baby-boomers, who shaped society because there were so many of us, aged. They even predicted such fictitious products as "Age Quake" makeup, that helped you to look like you had wrinkles, to bee like the aged baby-boomers, and also that food would be scarce and that people would be wearing bottles of A-1 Steak Sauce on chains around their necks as decorative jewelry.

What happened??? Why aren't the cosmetics companies offering things to make everyone look older -- to look like us aging baby-boomers???

We may be wearing food products as jewelry as if the economy continues to plummet, though. Ha-ha!


At 4:10 PM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

I like this post. I would like to speculate that your enjoyment of life is not necessarily related to your age, however, but to the degree of contentment you have learned to emulate. I am 27, and I am comfortable with my stretched, post-babies body, I appreciate the fleetingness of everyday moments, and I don't expect the world to hand me life on a silver platter. My relationships - even with other women - are mellow, and I realize I don't know nearly everything. Life is good. :)

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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