Sunday, August 26, 2012

i'm 50!!!!!

my 50 year old face
can i really be 50???

let's take a look at my face again:

me. unretouched.
does it look 50?  hmm...maybe in this picture it looks more like 50 feet high!  the difficulty with evaluating my face is that the face, by itself, is rarely up for solo evaluation.  it is, rather, generally seen as part and parcel of the rest of me, i.e. my arms, legs, chest, stomach.  you get the idea.  it is my belief that when people make an assessment of my age, they take into account an "average" of the ages that they assign to my various parts (face: 42, legs: 30, stomach: 28, etc.).  perhaps.  i suspect that this is a lightning fast process.  but here, at the top of this post, i am presenting the task of just looking at my face, as a separate and isolated representative of "me".

when i look at the pictures of my face above, i think that it looks like the face of a man who may be 36-44 years old, with the given that the picture was taken on a morning when the "subject" was "tired".  i notice things in the picture that i don't always notice when i look at myself in the mirror, namely, my wrinkles.  but i don't think that this is the face of what i would think a 50 year old man would look like.

good news, i suppose, if my goal is to look younger than i actually am.

check this guy out:
i googled "50 year old man", and this picture came up.  does he look older than i do?
i must look younger than he does!

in truth, i don't know that looking younger is my goal.  i come to this conclusion based on the fact that i NEVER lie about my age.  never.  and i could!  so if i wanted to look younger, it is interesting that i willingly deflate that illusion with the truth about my age.  i think that what i prefer is to look like a healthy person who happens to be 50.  i think that healthy people are attractive no matter what their age is.

check our this picture of leroy bell, a 60 year old recent contestant on x factor:

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of course, he is a freak of nature, but i love that he looks like this in real life, as he was not a celebrity when he entered the show.

not surprisingly, even healthy people get wrinkles as they age.  i did not expect to get to the age of 50 without having a wrinkle or two.  in fact, i "like" my wrinkles, since they speak to the fact that i have lived some life--50 years of life, to be exact.  i know of many people here in los angeles, including men, who inject all kinds of things into their faces in order to get rid of the wrinkles.  though i might look "better" if i were to engage in one of these procedures, i would never do it.  this is because, as stated earlier, my goal is not to look younger.  i have no shame about being 50, just a bit of confusion, but confusion is not shame!

just for fun, i played around with the "retouch" feature of my photo software, and i smoothed out my face.  this is what i came up with:

my 50 year old face, retouched
i smoothed out my forehead and took away the lines and circles under my eyes, and i generally smoothed out my skin.  presto!  when i look at this picture, i notice right away that i look "fresher", especially around the eyes.  i do look younger, but i am torn about whether i look "better".  you decide!


regardless, i do feel that i am holding up pretty well.  this is due to genetics, but also my dedication to "moderation" across the board.  not too much of anything, not too little of anything.  basically, i do what my body, as an animal, needs in order to be strong and healthy.  i eat good food and exercise vigorously.  not much of a secret to share there.  it really is that simple.  and the good news is that when you commit to moderation, there is not really anything that you have to "give up"!  (granted, i stay away from junk foods and never drink soda, but then who wants to eat and drink those things when real food and beverage taste so damn much better?)

speaking of the body, i admit that it is unfair that i have not allowed you the opportunity to include the "rest of me" in the assessment.  this is because the "rest of me" is somewhat ridiculous in its youthfulness.  lacking the thin skin of the face, the other parts have fared quite well, despite years of early sun damage.  let's take a look:

my 50 year old chest
this is my chest.  not too big, not too small, it has not yet succumb to "drooping", thankfully.  people like it, i like it.  pretty simple.  for me, a strong and attractive chest has always been important, but i don't think that this is just me.  the chest symbolizes strength and masculinity, and there is really nothing worse for a man than to be accused of having "moobs".  one of my favorite positions "post-relations" has always been to have a guy rest his head on my chest.  i could just lay like this until my limbs go numb.

my 50 year old arm
this is my left arm in a bicep pose.  that is not a tan line, but a shadow, i think.  i have always had these crazy biceps--for as long as i can remember.  (that is the genetics part.)  but i don't take them for granted.  i make these suckers curl 80 lb barbells at least once or twice a week.  my family used to joke that i had tennis balls in my arms.  ha ha!  funny!  well, nobody is joking now!

my arms have done a boatload of work during my lifetime.  i would venture to say that my arms have done 2 or 3 boatloads of work during my lifetime.  to date, they continue to work tirelessly for me:  lifting boxes at work, steering my bicycle, endlessly supporting typing hands, carrying, pushing, opening, balancing, you name it.  except for some recent elbow soreness and a tender wrist joint, both of which i am monitoring and caring for, they continue to do their job without protest.  when i was a dancer, many years ago, their job was to create beauty in movement; to counter a balance, to lift a partner, to punctuate an emotion.  as a therapist, their job is more neutral:  to remain in an open position in order to signify, well, openness.  occasionally, when the situation calls for it, they are front and center in the act of providing a hug--their role being to sort of "contain pain", or sometimes merely to keep someone from collapsing.  as strong as they are, they are at their best when doing gentle, beautiful work.

my 50 year old stomach, slightly blurry
this is my stomach, with just the flintiest bit of underwear band showing.  i must say, i am proud of this stomach, cuz this is a bitch to keep.  it has been better, it has been worse. but when i look at this i do not see a 50 year old stomach.  by the way, just the other night i ate a quarter gallon of ice cream--but i don't do that everyday!  for me the best thing about having this stomach is that i get to wear the pants that i like to wear, and i get to take my shirt off whenever i am able.  i like fitted pants and shirts, and i can only wear them if i keep my stomach looking like this.  totally worth it!

for some reason, my memory of coming out to my mother is tied to my stomach.  that is because what i remember about that night, 23 years ago, is that when my mother asked me if i was a homosexual, i immediately felt like i was going to throw up.  my stomach turned inside out, but it also felt as though it had just suffered a severe blow.  either way, my 17 year old self nearly doubled over with shame and horror at what my mother had just asked, and through my tear-blurred vision i looked at her and did the only thing i knew that would protect my mother: i lied...

...but not for long.

they say that the stomach, or solar plexus region, is the core of a body's strength, and i believe it.  for me, all i need to see of a person is their stomach, and i can tell you right away what kind of shape they are in.  i keep my stomach flat for the reasons mentioned above, but there is a more base objective that i don't talk about as much, and that is so that i am ready for whatever comes at me.

my 50 year old legs
these are, well, my legs.  again, genetics.  mom was swedish and was tall and slender like me, so fortunately i got the swedish legs in the genetic lottery.  but boy do i work these suckers in the gym.  plus, i bike an average of 10 miles a day in my commuting.  these legs are strong and long, and i plan on having them serve me for many years to come, and this is why i take such good care of them.  but beyond that, there is a vanity aspect to my intention.  it seems that so many men spend the majority of their time in the gym working chests and arms, and very little time working legs.  i often see beautiful upper bodies and underdeveloped legs.  ugh.  being the type of person who likes to stand out in the crowd, i work my legs, and i do it in these shorts.  no baggy knee length jams for me!

it wasn't until i was in college for the first time, at the age of 18, that i discovered what my legs could do, beyond attracting college men.  i was at the naval academy in annapolis, md., and i had joined the crew team in an effort to offset the rumors that were developing around me possibly being "different".  you see, crew team members are like royalty on the east coast, more than football players.  it is as if football players are movie stars, but rowers are the real actors.  most people have the impression that rowing is a matter of back and arm strength, but they are mistaken.  rowing is about leg strength, something that i discovered i had in spades.  i was so strong, in fact, that i was assigned the position of "stroke" (no jokes, please!), which is the guy who sits right in back of the coxswain (please, no jokes!!), and sets the tempo of the rowing for the team in the boat.  it was heaven for me.  i went from being a sensitive brainy geek in high school to being a respected and admired athlete at an ivy league military academy.  all because of my legs!

i only stayed at the academy for two years, though, as i did not see a future for me in either engineering, or in the service, and so in the summer of 1982 i came home from maryland and that very summer i enrolled in another leg-punishing discipline:  ballet class.  for the next 20 years i would work as a dancer of ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theater, performing jumps, turns, arabesques, kicks, and on and on across stages all over the country.

as a bike commuter, my legs continue to answer to my demands, albeit with a different set of muscles being engaged.  perhaps more than any other body part, i owe a debt of gratitude to my legs.  it boggles my mind that most legs are used primarily to walk to cars or walk into elevators.  it is like having a powerful, wild stallion, and limiting it to giving kiddie rides.  seems like such a waste...


so what do you get when you add up the parts?  36?  41?  47?  does it matter?  not to me, so much.  i think it mattered more before i turned 50, but now, one week in, not so much.  what does matter to me is that i am still alive, and that i still have a face, chest, arms, stomach, and legs that work for me.  there are other "parts" of me that feel retired at the moment, but that is for another blog, another day!  what i am aware of is that the "age assessment" may have different meaning in san francisco than it does here in los angeles.  i am looking forward to seeing if i am considered "hot in san francisco".  i am tired of being considered the "guy who looks really good for 50".  how about just the guy who looks good?  perhaps location is everything.  but far be it for me to complain about a compliment!

and so we end up back where we started--at the face.  the face, unlike the legs or the stomach, show some mileage, but that is okay, because when i look at the pictures, they eyes still show me.  me, lived.  maybe that is why i don't lie about my age, because beyond the shock of seeing people realize that i am older than they think i am, there is the satisfaction of claiming the years that i have lived, proudly.

i am 50.

i am 50.

I AM 50!!

the new "dignified" me