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Aging with grace and gusto

I’ve always been ambivalent about the phrase “a woman of a certain age.” On one hand, it has a gentle ambiguity that coquettishly skirts the obvious. On the other hand, if you are a woman of a certain age you are almost certainly old or almost there, so why not embrace it?

It’s no secret that older women in today’s culture are valued relatively on par with a well-worn pair of sensible shoes—appreciated for their sturdiness and comfort, every nick and scuff a memorial to some life event or adventure. But, let’s face it, broken-in footwear is generally tucked away somewhere in the murky depths of the closet.

I vowed early on that I would never lie about my age, that I would wear my years and experience with pride. I knew that getting old wouldn’t be easy. Losing looks, losing fitness, losing your mind—or at least random bits of your short-term memory—is part of a natural progression, so why bother lying? And honestly, even if I did want to lie about my age, the power of the Internet has made this a fool’s errand.

Truth be told, I probably fall somewhere in the middle of the age-obsession spectrum, halfway between no cares given and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. A small but noticeable percentage of my disposable income goes to anti-aging beauty products. Retinol skin cream is a non-negotiable necessity, as is high-quality sunscreen, which I purchase in bulk. I also invest in laser facials, though not the kind that makes you look like a burn victim. I go for the less-aggressive version that gives you a healthy glow while encouraging your lazy collagen cells to get back to work.

And then there’s Botox. For many years my motto was “bangs not botox.” I kept that up until people, both strangers and friends alike, started asking me with uncomfortable regularity: “Are you mad at me?” I was developing an unrelenting case of Resting Bitch Face. Some people call them The Elevens, those two deep, indelible lines between your eyes that make even the most benign expression look like a scowl or a rebuke. I wanted them gone.

So I shot my forehead full of poison.

It’s medical grade, purified, scientifically calibrated poison, but poison nonetheless. Let me tell you, my Elevens are history. If a soupçon of toxin is what it takes, so be it. I still have horizontal lines across my forehead, like tiny tracks for mouse races. I consider the web of laugh lines around my eyes (yes, I know they’re actually crow’s feet, but humor me) a sign of my general state of happiness. I don’t mind looking old, I just hated looking constantly pissed off. So the Botox ban was lifted. Problem solved.

If you had asked me at 24 how I might be spending my time at 64, visions of rocking chairs, gardening, grandchildren and strolls along the beach might have sprung to mind. Well,  I have news for 24-year-old Candace. I may be the oldest person working in social media today, but I’m still working—every damn day. Retirement? I don’t think so.

I work out at CrossFit four or five days a week, I belong to two other gyms where I do boot camps and spin classes. Last year I became a certified senior fitness instructor and started teaching fitness drumming. I run, I bike, I hike, I kayak and I’m starting to get comfortable on a stand-up paddleboard. Basically, I’m an old lady who, by virtue of persistence, tenacity and sheer cussedness, can probably kick your butt.

I could spend my time obsessing about the alarming deterioration of my neck—Nora Ephron was right about that one—or the fact that I’m developing incipient Bingo Wings, a.k.a Hi Betty’s. Or I can marvel that I’ve never been fitter or felt better about my life.

Age has given me balance, focus and patience, qualities that serve me well both in my professional and personal life. The qualities that age has diminished—speed, stamina, cat-like reflexes and a perky rack—I’ve developed work-arounds for them all.

My advice to those of you not yet old: Don’t fear aging, fear giving up, fear giving in.

Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at www.candacekaru.com.

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