Posted by: drrozkaplan | December 16, 2009

Blinded by the Light

I’m having one of those days when I don’t like how I look.  First of all, my husband installed ecologically correct, longlasting, low-energy-consumption lightbulbs in the bathroom.  Whoever invented these bulbs forgot to put the soft-white coating on them.  In my bathroom mirror I look jaundice yellow, except for the contrasting blue shadows under my eyes.  Every wrinkle is accentuated.  I have aged overnight.

As I step out of the shower, I catch the reflection of a middle-aged woman who is considerably heavier than I am.  Who is she??? Oh my God! That’s me! How did that happen? I didn’t look like that yesterday morning!

Half an hour, one black outfit, and a layer of carefully applied concealer later, I am ready to face the world.  Not pleased, but ready.  I’m running through my options:  Botox, Restylane, Plastic Surgery,  starvation diet, Nazi Exercise Boot Camp…

Or how about I do something productive and stop beating up on myself?  Because this little episode of negative body image will pass.  Paying it more attention than it deserves would be a big mistake, and any drastic response (like shots into my face or inflicting physical pain on myself) would be a much bigger mistake.  It makes much more sense to figure out, if I can, what is really bothering me.

Today, what is really bothering me, I think, has to do with the fact that 4 of my close friends are having surgery this month.  They will all be fine.  But each is suffering from evidence of wear and tear on their bodies, and it is making me think about how we are aging.  And this aging is what is making me focus on my appearance and its possible deterioration.

All the botox and liposuction in the world is not going to make me any younger.  In fact, I’m not really sure I want to be any younger.  My life is good now- I don’t want to earlier stages of parenting, and I really don’t want to go back to medical training, and I MOST CERTAINLY don’t want to go back to adolescence!  Midlife has given me some perspective and maybe even a tiny bit of wisdom.  Sure, I’d like to look 22 again, but that’s really only because our society puts such high value on youthful female beauty, and makes women feel that they are all washed up by 5o.  (Men, on the other hand, continue to be perceived as attractive when they are gray at the temples and have wrinkles, and in some other cultures, older women are seen as having sexual power).

Honestly, though, it matters a lot more how I feel than how I look, and I am actually healthier now, at almost 50, than I was in my 30’s.  I was battling hepatitis C then, and that’ been over for more than a decade now. You can read about that in my book when it comes out.   I used to get all the viral illnesses that my kids had when they were young, also.  Colds, flu, gastroenteritis.   I can’t remember the last cold I had now.  When my kids were young, and I was building my career, and I was struggling with chronic illness, I was frequently too tired to exercise, so I was never in the kind of physical condition I wanted to be in.  Now I exercise at least 5 days out of the week and can easily manage a strenuous day hike or long bike ride.  Sure, I have some aches and pains, but nothing that stops my activities.  I feel tremendously lucky to feel good most of the time.

I’m not going to have any plastic surgery.  No botox.  No Restylane.   I don’t judge anyone who chooses plastic surgery or other enhancements.  They’re just not for me, at least not now.  Everyone draws their line somewhere.  For me, it’s there.  I am happy to succumb to makeup and hair dye and good fashion advice.  As far as diet and exercise, there will be nothing extreme for the purpose of keeping myself ‘skinny’.  Instead, I’ll keep trying to do what’s healthy and what I can sustain in the long term.

I know the exercise matters.  I see that my patients who exercise age better than those who don’t.  They stay more active and have better mobility and balance when they get older.  The downside of exercise?  Wear and tear on joints and possible injuries.  But personally, I’d rather chance an injury that can be repaired than let myself get weak and deconditioned.

So rather than complain about what I see in the mirror, I need to revel in what my body is able to do for me. And instead of focusing on what I could do to make it look better, I need to remember what I should do to keep it working well.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll ask my husband to change the lightbulbs in the bathroom.



  1. Great morning wakeup article.
    Stretching,not feeling so stretched is a beautiful thing.

  2. So relevant, and wise peppered with wit, honesty and an earthiness that is refreshing!

    Loved it!


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