Week #9 – AGING
I work out at a barre studio in the SFV of LA. If you’re a valley local, you’ve probably been there at least once, maybe after purchasing a Groupon, or on January 1st having just resolved to get in shape. My friend, Kirsten, took me for the first time 13 years ago when the studio was still relatively new and filled with young women (many of them dancers), plus a smattering of ladies, like me, who were inching their way towards 40. Despite being in decent shape, the class kicked my butt. I gasped through plies and battements, a million leg lifts and endless crunches. By the end of the hour, I was dripping from sweat and my thighs were shaking like Thanksgiving jelly. It was a great workout –no, a phenomenal workout– but I didn’t go back, not for the next eight years. It took a health crisis, and doctors insisting I be sedentary for 18 months (yup, they basically told me to sit on the couch and grow cellulite), to get me back to the barre and that grueling routine.
For four years I religiously showed up at that studio. I got strong and overhauled my health. I raised my glutes by a couple of inches. I saw teachers and clients come and go. I learned about the hierarchy, the politics, the cliques. And though I kept to myself, and observed from the sidelines, I was a devotee, just like every other middle-aged disciple, desperate to get that ballerina body, or, at least, slow down the effects of gravity.
At some point, after hundreds of classes with the same women, I realized, despite the youthful playlists and endless double-time tendus, we were all aging. Together. No matter how hard we worked out, no matter how many get-out-of-jail cards we thought we got for showing up, we couldn’t stop the clock. Looking around at my peers, I observed varied responses to this sobering fact: some proudly flew the flag of their years; some drew the line at 35 –nipping, tucking and plumping to keep the dream real; some had an apparent direct line to Tinkerbell and her magic fairy dust; and some, well, they remained so expressionless from Botulinum, who knows what they were thinking. Bottom line, everyone, in their own way, was wrestling with the reality of aging, and I was no exception.
I had, up until that point, thought that regular exercise and a reasonable diet might be enough to get me to the finish line. But aging, it turns out, is a little more complicated. There are options and decisions necessary to stave off disease, to look and feel more youthful: botox, filler and lasers for your face; bio-identicals for your hormones; supplements for your nutrition; functional doctors for underlying causes, paleo diets, vegan diets, cardio workouts for your heart, tai-chi for your stress, weight training for your bones, vaginal rejuvenation for your sex life, cold plunges for inflammation, body scans and gene sequencing for preventative care, colonoscopies because you’re 50, meditation because it’s overwhelming. I never thought about this stuff at 40. Then again, at 40, I never thought I’d be 51. And now, at 51, I can’t imagine being 60. But apparently, if I’m lucky, that will happen, and what I choose today will impact how I feel tomorrow and ten years from now. Aging, like my workout, is a butt-kicker.
I don’t go to my class very often anymore –my schedule and priorities have changed. I’ve started pilates, and I’m running again. But when I do visit, I look around the room at the different versions of aging, and I return to one woman who seems to do it best. She’s a little hunched over from osteoporosis and has a head of white curls that probably get rolled every night. She’s an octogenarian, by far the oldest gal in the group. Wearing her yoga pants and white socks and baggy t-shirt, she shows up again and again, year after year, doing what she can, staying in the game, amused, I imagine, by the anxiety she observes in the rest of us desperate to hold back time. I tell my kids about her, how she is a beacon of independence and the most beautiful woman in class. I tell them how she raises the barre for all of us. I tell them, that’s how I want to age; I want to be like her one day.