Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change

Archive for February 2011

CHAPTER 58: IN THE COMPOSITOR’S LANGUAGE – THAT’S THIRTY

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This final chapter has been months in the making, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but maybe I didn’t want this to end.

Writing a personal blog becomes a creature all its own, taking on a life, even after it has served its purpose

When I started this in September 2009, a month before my 65th birthday, the intent was to get fit and healthy enough to be able to walk the 18 holes of a hilly golf course in the height of summer’s heat without being too exhausted at the end to raise a glass at the 19th hole. Okay, so nobody’s that tired, but you get the idea.

There were other considerations, of course. The desire to look good in my clothing without having to hide bits and pieces under strategically folded jackets or overblouses, a dressing strategy employed by my late mother. I never realized how much I had picked up from her subtle clothing cues until the notion hit me that it was not a sin to tuck in a shirt or wear a belt. In my mother’s defense, she had a rather startling embonpoint, as the French say. It was an attempt to hide her curves that cause her to favour untucked clothes.

(I am always reminded of a party I had in Grade 9, at a time when one’s parents were mandatory chaperones. My parents met the guests at the door and when one of my friends came downstairs, eyes wide as only a testosterone-laced 14-year-old boy’s can be, he wanted to know: “Who’s the babe at the front door in the blue dress?” I was affronted by his attraction as he was startled to discover it was my mother. Amazing what conversations one can remember verbatim for more than 50 years.)

Once I realized I could tuck in my shirts, I then, of course, managed to lose my waist. It’s a feeling not unfamiliar to a lot of post-menopausal women, who pull out a perfectly good pair of shorts from the bottom drawer, only to find they fit everywhere except the waist. How did that happen? And don’t even mention strapless dresses and bathing suits.

Just over a year ago, I wrote: “My goals are simple: To spend the next year, until October, 2010, trying to reconcile the 65-year-old body with the 18-year-old who still looks out through my eyes, amazed at what she sees. When did my skin forget where it belonged? Who owns that turkey neck? Where did that cellulite come from? And, most importantly, why on earth does any of this matter?’

Along the way, as this blog became more personal – because just writing about dieting and exercising would have put me into a self-induced coma —so much of myself has sometimes unwittingly been uncovered. But it has had the effect of encouraging a whole let of other women to share their stories with me, and much more introspection than I expected of myself.

That’s not always a good thing — the introspection. People like me, who can blithely ignore self-examination even as we pry into other people and their personal lives, at some point have to stop and take out our own copybook and flip through the pages of memory.

Memoir, as Neil Genzlinger wrote in the New York Times book review section a couple of weeks ago, has been overtaken by “our current age of oversharing.” Just because you believe your life is fascinating, doesn’t make it so. Ever so often, people — who have made an entire career our of chronicling other people’s lives and adventures, who were paid to have an opinion on things from war to feminism (don’t think they aren’t related) — need to stop and, as Genzlinger writes, remember “the lost art of shutting up.”

The flood of pointless and uninteresting memoirs needs to stop, he writes. “We don’t have that many trees left.”

The Internet, free as it is from the need for trees and the physicality of paper, has ushered in a whole new era of vanity self-publishing. It has been culpable in unleashing the tsunami of would-be writers who have never met an editor and never believed the world wasn’t interested in their thoughts and beliefs. Their parents always told them they were special, therefore they must be.

In an earlier time, there were boundaries between the personal and the public. The entire world did not want to be on a television reality show. People understood there were subjects taboo in polite conversation — when there actually was a concept of polite conversation that was not riddled with vulgarities and obscenities. (And I am probably as culpable as the next loudmouth.)

So, like all “books,” this needs to come to an end.

But it also needs resolution.

I also wrote a year ago: “Where to start? What to aim for? Why am I doing this?

“The last is the easiest question to answer: I want my body to reflect how I feel about myself. I want to face my senior years fit and healthy.

“Aging is insidious for women. We are judged more harshly than men on our appearance and our age, the double whammy. Men get ‘distinguished.’ Women get ‘old.’ Yet we are not our grandmothers, even if we are, ourselves, grandmothers.”

On the surface, my plan has been a success. I am considerably healthier — notwithstanding the heart medication I must take — and much more fit, a combination of walking regularly and being weekly attendees at core fitness classes. Joining in the Calgary Herald’s first Health Club certainly helped.

But the best physical result is having kept off the weight I lost a few years ago, a considerable change from every other time in my life that I’ve lost 50 pounds only to put it back on — and then some — within two years. Maybe the psychological reason for dong this blog was to keep me alert to the fact that it has happened more times than I care to remember.

In the bargain, I’ve lost another 10 pounds, but alas, still not found my waist. My solution to this is simple: Give away all the clothes that no longer fit.

For those who have never struggled with their weight and lost a million battles, the idea that someone can wake up one day and be 60 pounds heavier is absurd. How can this possibly happen? How do you not notice that your wardrobe is getting larger and larger?

Trust me, self-delusion is an art unto itself. At least knowing that and paying attention helps considerably, as does the questionable habit of standing on the bathroom scales every morning, an action no weight counselor advises. But I’m a grown-up, capable of making my own rules. If I want to stand on my husband’s “doctor’s office” scales every morning, I will.

And I do. And I will.

And maybe having written thousands upon thousands of words in the past 18 months, having enjoyed the comments of friends and strangers, I’ll take on another blog.

I’m open to suggestions.

Until then, as the title of this final chapter says, and as old-fashioned typesetters and journalists wrote at the end of their copy:

-30-

Written by Catherine Ford

February 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized