Girl balancing
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

I have colored my hair for the last time. But wait, there's more.

This may sound like a rant. Well, okay, maybe it is. But first, let's have some fun poking fun at this writer.

The name of my hair color is "Age Defy." That's a laugh. I used it right after coming home from Africa in 2020, not because I didn't like my greying hair (for crying out loud, I am seventy in a few months) but because the attitude towards older folks in America due to Covid had gone murderous. It was in every single way a survival issue. Grey hairs were suddenly, all of us, carriers. So, color.

But Age Defy? What a laugh. I colored it one more time before meeting up with my ex in Denver. Truth? I looked ridiculous. The darker hair against skin that looks much better with my own natural color made me clownish. While you could legitimately argue that there are better colors- of course there are- being tied to a bottle that stinks of ammonia is just, well. I'm done.

Besides, I am genuinely curious to see what happens when I let Mama Nature do her thing. She has a far better paintbrush than I have.

Further hilarity. In 2020, I flipped my car outside Twin Falls, and did myself some terrible damage. The culprit was a kidney stone, and what ensued was a desperate attempt to get the awful things under control. I dropped twenty-five pounds damned near overnight, which is a horrible, horrible thing to do to an aging body.

Any body for that matter, but mine was 67 at the time.

It's not just that our organs suffer, it's that a goodly bit of skin elasticity is already lost to age, usually beginning in early middle age. While there is a great deal we can do with diet, exercise and hydration, there really isn't much to be done with the drapery that you and I are bequeathed if we drop that kind of weight virtually overnight, especially this late in life.

Suddenly I had wrinkles on top of wrinkles. I filled out a bit when I regained some of what I'd lost, but the damage was done.

Short of skin surgery, what tautness I might have otherwise had from eating a good diet and a regular and dedicated exercise program went bye-bye in 2020. Yesterday I got a chance to see precisely that.

Here in Calama, Chile, where in a few hours I am off to ride horses for a week, I went shopping for a long-sleeved, high SPF shirt to deal with the brutal sun. Being slim to begin with and now enjoying the loss of the little love handles which had set up pup tents on my hips, I strode into the dressing room with shirt in hand.

A quick backdrop: about six weeks ago I'd started a one meal a day (OMAD) program not only for my gut health but also because there were about ten pounds that I genuinely didn't want. They had begun to very slowly melt away, mostly from my middle. But wait a sec here. I'm going to digress.

Before anyone leaps up to say "we just get fat as we get older," NOPE.

What happens as we get older is that if we slow down, if we have a poor diet, suffer from stress and a whole smorgasbord of other factors, we will likely gain weight, lose tone and the body will have a great deal to say about the abuse. All of those are manageable, but not if we default to age as an excuse. Some of this may be hormonal, but I would argue far more strenuously that life choices have more to do with it than anything else.

Okay. Back to the dressing room.

I was delighted to drop the extra few pounds. I'm not sure I was quite prepared to see the end result. I suspect it's the same for many of us who are accustomed to an athletic, toned, responsive body. If and when the skin finally, spectacularly loses its elasticity, well then.

There were two reactions. First, I now have a new Halloween costume. Take out my dentures AND pull up my shirt. I get to keep the candy. Great timing, with Halloween just eight days away. YAY!

Second, I burst out laughing. I mean, really. Shy of immediately booking a date with the plastic surgeon, what other choice is there?

I didn't sign up for the car accident, and I most assuredly didn't set out to have the extraordinary physical stress that followed. Then as we struggled to find the right diet, that effort cost me 18% of my bodyweight in just a few weeks. You simply have to accept the consequences.

So one takeaway is, please do NOT try to drop huge amounts of body weight fast, especially later in life, unless you are willing to deal with the loose skin. If you do see loose skin and don't like it (me neither)  this article gives you some strategies:

How to tighten loose skin: 6 tips
There are many causes of loose, sagging skin, including aging, rapid weight loss, and pregnancy. Learn about ways to prevent and tighten loose skin here.

Loose skin is hardly a health hazard. Nor is it a liability, other than to the delicate ego. Since all of us have delicate egos in one way or another, this is where we're vulnerable to the (patently fake) promise of anti-aging.

The massive anti-aging industry is exploding. Gotta be the biggest lie in history. More on that in a sec.

Nothing stops the clock on your body, face, all of it. Obsessing about aging most assuredly speeds up the process.

These days I am increasingly curious about my body rather than angry at it as it does what it does. I am still incredibly strong, my endurance is legendary, and even after multiple surgeries since 2018 I can still schlep great huge chunks of wood, big fat boxes of my belongings and lift weights that people a quarter my age can't touch.

Lately having just recovered from hand surgery I went from twenty men's pushups back to sixty in the course of three days. I can't speak for you but first, that's not bragging. I still have forty to get back to my standard.

Second, I would vastly prefer to have that kind of functional fitness than the perfect face, perfect body or perfect anything else. That's just me, however.  A moderately attractive face will not save me from a failed parachute. Competence does. Did. Twice.

Hell, these days I've got enough loose skin that all I need to do is take off my shirt and head out the hatch.

It's the curiosity, perhaps, that is saving me. Because as various parts of me declare my age by going grey (and for those desperate enough to color Down There, there's Brown Betty) or simply falling off and rolling under the nearest couch, I find the process fascinating.

And hilarious. I mean really, Mother Nature has one hell of a sense of humor. Who else gives men boobs and women beards as we get older? REALLY MA?

While some of this is manageable- you can invest in all kinds of tools to remove the outdoor rug which has suddenly appeared in your nostrils- some of it isn't. The part that isn't, the very real aspect of aging which is driven by a combination of our due date and our personal commitment to vibrant health, is the part that humor helps with the most.

The scam part is that there is such a thing as "anti-aging" to begin with. The second, which is worse, is that despite that, we are willing to be seriously fleeced to buy products which promise but cannot possibly deliver.

To that then, this smart piece from Vox:

How the anti-aging industry turns you into a customer for life
Anti-aging is the easiest sell in the world.

From Stewart's piece:

According to data from Euromonitor International, the anti-aging market grew from $3.9 billion in 2016 to $4.9 billion in 2021 in the United States alone. The global anti-aging market went from $25 billion to nearly $37 billion during the same period.

One way the psychology works, and it most assuredly does, just look at all the people moaning about turning thirty, is to turn aging into a criminal enterprise.

It's a disease, it's a crime. Not long ago I happened on an article which was nothing more than an attack piece on 1950s sex kitten Brigitte Bardot. The entire short article, which was horrific, eviscerated her for not looking the way she did in her twenties.

The woman is nearly ninety.

You see the point.

As an inveterate people-pleaser and after watching my beautiful mother descend into self-hate as her body widened and wrinkled, I also bought into the awfulness of aging. Not any more. It's interesting how once you get to a Certain Age and realize not only the absolute inevitability of the natural physical process, if we are wise enough, we can also let go of the idiot compulsion to be forever young.

You and I can recapture a youthful attitude any time. But that baby-butt face?

If any one of the thousands of dollars of creams I have used over my seven decades had delivered on even the slightest fraction of the breathless promises, I wouldn't have this face. It's a patchwork of happy wrinkles, mostly from laughing, guffawing at my idiot self, squinting into the sun and wind on a hundred hundred adventures. MY face. MY stories. MINE. Don't like it, don't look.

The crime isn't aging. It's treating age like a criminal offense, and profiting from our collective fear.

Look. What is indeed available to nearly all of us, short of those who are too far gone or badly disabled, is to work on those true methods which work better than any overpriced cream or pill: good food, lots of movement and a genuine sense of humor. Then, finally, surround ourselves with a vast variety of people of all ages, cultures, ideas and backgrounds, all of which serve to keep our brains and attitudes juicy and fun.

Think I'm full of it? That aging is a disease that we can beat? Please see this by Medium writer Robert Roy Britt, who specializes in these topics. And who, by the way, rode sixty miles in the Arizona desert on his sixtieth. That he is now sixty means that he now, like many of the rest of  us, has a different level of skin in the game. Here you go:

Is Aging a Disease?
Unlike life, this flawed argument seems to have no end

Just because I love people who agree with me (yeah, don't we all), Britt writes:

The takeaway: You can’t stop aging, but you can certainly deal with it, even slow it down, and greatly reduce the odds of developing chronic disease or death before your time. The remedies are simple: eat well, get plenty of physical activity and ensure good sleep. Or you can do whatever you want and speed up the process. Either way, someday you’ll die of something, and unlike the Queen of England, odds are pretty good it won’t be just old age.

Believing you can turn back time, roll back the wrinkles or somehow NOT have to deal with the saggy skin or the baggy butt or breaking your dentures in the sink (I did that too, on an adventure trip to Croatia, not making that up, thank GOD for superglue) is a fool's journey.

I'm already a fool, but call me a fool for being far more committed to a joyful journey than looking like a youthful corpse. I already have fake boobs, they will be the best that the crematorium ever burned, but I am returning to stardust one of these days. The fake boobs go with me, albeit those will end up as asteroids.

So will you. Stardust, that is, not an asteroid. Unless you are full of silicone, and some people are.

Save your money. Save your sanity. Enjoy today. It's the youngest you will ever ever be right now. That's a mouthful. And it's true.

Anti-aging is a lie.

Pick your truth, and then bloody well go out and live it.

the author, paragliding in Thailand, 2022 Julia Hubbel

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How the anti-aging industry turns you into a customer for life
Anti-aging is the easiest sell in the world.