There is a truth that all women know but many are in denial about; that truth is The Wall. We’re all headed there; some of us have already arrived, have set up camp in its shadow and are sharing war stories around the fire. Most of us, if not all, dread it.
What is The Wall?
There are several posts around the internet explaining The Wall. It can be summed up pretty simply: men age like wine, women age like milk. We don’t stay pretty and fertile for very long, ladies. Men have a slow crawl up and down the hill, women rush it like Olympic sprinters. Nature is so sexist. Somebody pass the Ben & Jerry’s and tissue, please.
“You make the most of it, Nina!”
The best way to explain The Wall, in my opinion, is to offer an example. Recently I was re-watching Black Swan. A favorite of mine, I hadn’t seen it since swallowing The Red Pill and found it to be a very good example of The Wall and what it does to us. Without giving away too much Black Swan is about an up-and-coming ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman), that finds herself in the role of a lifetime. Running just underneath this story is the character Beth (Winona Ryder). Beth was the up-and-coming ballerina, once upon a time, but is now too old to continue in ballet and is being forced into retirement. There are few places in the world that The Wall is so evident as within ballet. No amount of denial can save you from its effects in an environment that rests on peak physical condition. Ballerinas understand The Wall and they know they can’t avoid it. Nina feels for Beth, at one point early in the film expressing how sad she thought the whole thing was and later tearfully exclaiming to Beth that she understands now, she knows how it feels to be under threat of replacement. Throughout the film we see how poorly Beth handles her inevitable fate. This scene is one such example (edited for the clip making it PG vs R)
In this scene you can see Nina’s youth and life’s strain on Beth. It certainly doesn’t help that Beth is in denial, having a heck of a time letting go of the fragments of her youth. The actresses are only about 10 years apart, Natalie Portman was approaching The Wall herself during filming but didn’t run head first into it like many of us do (more on this later). Still; makeup, lighting, and wardrobe made the effects unmistakeable. You can also see how much Beth (the dying swan) resents Nina (the new swan queen) for taking up “her” role.
The Wall is about losing our standing. We’re only young, pretty, and fertile once. It’s gone before we even realized we had it most of the time.
Not All is Lost
Don’t go planning your life with 20 cats and knitting needles just yet, ladies, there is hope! Though we certainly cannot hold on to our youth, to our prime, we are not completely worthless.
This is an amazing thing that our husband’s have. Basically they remember us in our prime (if they were lucky enough to have us in our prime. Another reason marrying young is important for women). When they look at us in our 40s, as long as we haven’t completely let ourselves go and are not shrewing, they see us in our 20s. In my case my husband sees me as 17. “You’ll always be 17 to me.” he says often. Poor guys are delusional but that’s what love does. Our only hope, then, is to keep them loving and adoring us.
There is a huge difference between letting yourself go and taking care of yourself, even (especially!) post-Wall. Let me put it this way- you can either be Sinead O’Connor or Famke Janssen.
Ask any man which one they’d rather make a life with.
There is a lot to aging gracefully but it is also pretty simple. The key is to start now. Right now. Especially if you are still young. Do not put this off! The seeds you plant now concerning your body, mind, and life will decide what sort of plant you are in the future. That future is much closer than you think so don’t for one second think that you can be lax now because you have so much time. You don’t. I can’t stress that bit enough. We don’t have time. Time is so sexist.
Now for some good news, though relatively small in comparison to the downer this post is: this is the beginning of a series. The next three posts will deal with aging gracefully physically, mentally, and socially. We’ll talk about good foods, exercise, keeping your mind fit, staying current, etc. And, hopefully, we’ll be a support system in starting today to age with dignity.