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Why is JLo sexy at 51? (And other thoughts in this time of uncertainty)

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 30, 2021 4:00 pm

One of my favorite books is the late Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. It’s a humorous and light take on aging and other anecdotes. Aging is serious enough, so why not just laugh it off?

During this pandemic and these tumultuous times, how can one age gracefully or lightheartedly? If there is anything that will truly make us old, it is the present. It may be just because I am home 100% of the time and I watch in horror as recent global and local events unfurl right before my eyes — enough to give me anxiety attacks with matching wrinkles.

Aging gracefully. What does that even mean? More so, what does it mean during a global pandemic and economic downturn? Is it even possible? So how do we navigate and be our best selves during these times of uncertainty? How do we preserve our sanity and remain beautiful inside and out?  In a couple of months, I will be celebrating my second birthday in lockdown. Am I to fester at home forevermore?

Let’s keep positive or else drown, and embrace the aging process with grace and openness, especially during these unique times. Here are my observations about the “passing of time.”

 A wonderful book about aging with humor

When I was growing up, a woman in her 50s was the stereotypical “lola” with white hair or any one of the wacky characters from The Golden Girls. The face of a woman in her 50s now is JLo, aka the va-va-voom, voluptuous beauty Jennifer Lopez. When JLo and Colombian superstar Shakira shook their booties in the halftime show for the 2020 Super Bowl, it changed the perception of women in their 40s and 50s.

They sang while performing complicated choreography, swayed their ample hips, were thrown about by dancers, balanced on a pole (!) — all in shiny, skimpy outfits. What energy! Obviously, they are gorgeous, sexy women and I am proud to be in their age group.  Most importantly, they had this inner vitality that emanated from them. Never lose that vitality.  It is one of the secrets to remain ageless. Vitality makes you glow. Right, JLo?

Speaking of vitality, as you get older, you notice your energy depleting. What was once an abundant source of physical activity now has its limitations. In my 20s, I used to party until 7 a.m., went home to shower, then headed to work. The routine was a late dinner with friends followed by clubbing (disco back then) and capped off with an early-morning breakfast, then home. Repeat. Sometimes my night would start at 12 midnight, like a reverse Cinderella.

Now I hardly would even step out of the house past 6 p.m. (or don’t go out because of COVID, period). I prefer a leisurely lunch or early cocktails with friends, which ends not later than 9 p.m. My energy is more focused during the day. I walk the treadmill for 45 minutes and exercise daily. So yeah, I have stamina but it’s different. When I think of “that girl” who used to stay up all night, I can’t imagine she was me. I get tired just thinking of her.

 In your 50s then: The Golden Girls starring Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty. Photo from Orlando Weekly.

Memory is a peculiar thing. I remember distinctly what happened years ago down to the last detail — the imagery, intense feelings felt, even the smell of a place. Nowadays, I sometimes don’t remember what I did 30 minutes ago. Do you also keep going back to your room or home numerous times thinking you forgot something like lock the door, or turn off an appliance and such?

Names are also forgotten and conversations with friends use references: “That actor who was the kontrabida in that cowboy movie”; “the blonde singer who sang Hit Me Baby One More Time” or “the ditzy girl who kept on failing in high school.”

My friends who watch K-dramas just have code names for the actors since it is just too hard to memorize their real names. We have “Bubuyog,” “Scarface,” “Good Boy,” “Start Up Boy,” “GY,” “LMH,” “HB,” “Irita Girl,” and “Impakta.” The funny thing is we know exactly who is being talked about.

Despite all the tension during this lockdown, there is this freedom when it comes to our choice of clothes. I have never dressed more comfortably. Loose clothing and flats or slippers is my daily uniform and it is so liberating. What is up with all the tight and constricting clothes that were de rigueur in the past?

During my teens, there were pants described as “second skin” and we used to lie down to zip up our jeans. How did we even eat — or we didn’t? Noteworthy is the high-heeled shoes. I have been wearing high heels for ages and can even run in stilettos.  Now I am unsure how it would feel if I slipped on a pair since I haven’t worn any since March of last year. Will I get dizzy from the height?

Eating right at this age is very important physically and even emotionally. I used to love junk food (still do) but can’t eat it all day or as often as I used to. Eating burgers, chips, and sweets on a daily basis hardly even registered on the scale back then.

I savor peace and quiet and get agitated with loud and unnecessary noise. There was a time I thought silence was boring, but now it is an essential and I look forward to times when everything is quiet. I still enjoy good music and put up the volume, especially when I like the song, but I can’t listen to loud music 24/7 anymore. I get headaches.

Eating right at this age is very important physically and even emotionally. I used to love junk food (still do) but can’t eat it all day, or as often as I used to. Eating burgers, chips, and sweets on a daily basis hardly even registered on the scale back then. I used to maniacally check my weight every morning, getting all depressed for gaining even less than a pound. It was a self-inflicting punishment and masochistic behavior.

Even if you eat healthy or have proper meals, you gain weight easily as you get older. Currently, I just eat well-balanced meals and indulge at times — then I am all right.  I stopped weighing myself every day. Therefore, no depression. Your body changes as you get older, so observe and be conscious of what is happening. And accept, accept, accept.

When we were younger, our parents, aunts and uncles kept saying “back in the day,” and that was a definitive sign that one was old. I guess they had more years and experiences to talk about and learn lessons from. My peers are now the ones who say “back in the day,” which makes them sound like they were from the ’50s. My version is “when I was growing up” or “when I was younger,” followed by a low-key lecture. I need to stop myself from doing this. Who would want to hear me dish out the lessons learned from my life? I still go on and do it, though; I can’t help it. “Back in the day” is a drug.

Time truly passes. I didn’t really notice it much during my pre-COVID whirlwind life. As I sit by my window in my lockdown state, I have noticed the changes in nature. I have seen the flame tree in the garden transform from green to beautiful orange in the summer. At the same time, the lovely fuchsia Bougainvilleas bloom and intertwine with it and produce a wonderful burst of colors. It is a spectacle that I cherish.

I have also witnessed the lanzones tree, calamansi, and key lime plants begin to fruit. The birds, some colored but mostly gray, continually flock to the trees and take refuge when it rains. I am fascinated by it all. The slowing of time and this pause have made me accept that change is inevitable and aging makes its way into all of our lives. Life, like nature, is made up of seasons, and each one has its own beauty. Enjoy each season and savor each passing moment — that is how you age gracefully.

Banner and thumbnail caption: The Golden Girls today: JLo and Shakira in the halftime show of the 2020 Super Bowl.