Smashed-flat Comfort or Perky Discomfort?
I was standing in a changing room trying on a dress. Under it I was wearing a seamless bra, the one the dog had chewed a little chunk out of but which was, I thought, still serviceable. But in the cute, slightly clingy dress, I had that smashed uni-boob look, and it wasn’t appealing. I thought I looked like a blob.
I was reminded of the sales clerk in the bra shop recently who had said to me, when I said I couldn’t take underwires anymore, that she thought all middle-aged women and older should wear underwires. And I thought, I’ll be damned if I’ll package my breasts so they’re acceptable to her or anyone.
But now I stand in the dressing room wondering if she’s right. And I hate it that I’m even considering it.
Is this what it’s come to at age fifty-six? Boob management?
It’s true—they’re sagging. When I lie in bed at night on my back, they fall to the sides, and I’m thankful they aren’t ample enough to puddle in my armpits. When I turn onto my side, they flatten out against one another like pancakes. I understand a bit more my friend who says she’s more comfortable sleeping in a sports bra.
What to do? Go for smashed-flat comfort or perky discomfort?
And there are other things. The way I feel about the extra flesh around my middle, the added bulk on my thighs. The general lack of tautness, smoothness and elasticity of skin that left along with my estrogen. I don’t want to dislike my body, to fight against it, but I have to admit I struggle against what aging is doing to my body and my view of it.
When I complain about bras my fifteen-year-old son says, Wearing bras is a social construct. And I think, yeah, he’s right. Along with all sorts of other ideas of beauty that are handed to women. So there’s that.
But there’s also the part of me that likes to look nice, to be reasonably attractive and put together in the world. When my body is in good shape, I feel better, sleep better, am happier with myself.
Having lived in a body that was mostly pleasing to me until now, the changes are hard to take. It’s downhill from here purely due to the effects of aging. I can stay healthy, maintain a reasonable weight, take good care of my skin and all that jazz, but the reality is, none of me will ever be thirty again. In some respects, that’s okay. I’m relatively wiser and I like that. But the outsides are beginning to show the wear of the years.
Sometimes I look at the anniversary announcements in the paper and see wedding photos of couples next to their photos now—forty, fifty, sixty years later. They all, of course, look older. And sometimes they just look old. Weight has been gained, hair has grayed, skin has wrinkled. And every time, I think, wow, it’s inevitable, isn’t it? We’re all walking down that road. We’re all going to get old. There’s no stopping it.
I don’t feel fifty-six inside. I still feel twenty. So when I look in the mirror and see a fifty-six-year-old face looking at me or a fifty-six year old body, I am taken aback. When and how did that happen?
I’m trying to learn to go gracefully into the realities of aging. I’m trying to learn to love my wrinkles, my no-longer-flat-stomach, the general softening, the way my skin doesn’t cling tightly to the muscle anymore, the increasingly gray hair. To accept the losses that come with the passage of time—some parts of me aren’t as pretty or as strong or as fast or as smooth.
But some parts of me are better. I learn more, every day, about being a person in this world. About being a better spouse and mother and human. I let go of things more easily, am less easily offended or provoked, am more flexible. I’ve got more wisdom and perspective. Is that worth sagging skin and a rounder middle?
I wish I could answer that with a resounding yes and tell you I’ve arrived at some tidy conclusions to this conundrum but I can’t. My acceptance of these changes is a work in progress. I suppose that’s true for most of us.
Here’s what I do know: I want to continue to let go of the concerns of what’s on the outside and pursue the satisfaction of inner gains; to start letting the vanities of youth slide away and let who I am shine from within. Honestly, it would be a relief to stop caring so much about how I look to the world and spend my energy on how I am in the world.
So some days you will find me in a sports or seamless bra that smashes everything flat. Some days it’ll still be an underwire that lifts things up.