Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What 56 and Overweight Really Looks Like

There's been a lot of kerfuffle in the media lately about women and how they look. Apparently, people have been picking on Ashley Judd's appearance, and she has commented back, with a very well-written essay about how wrong it is to judge women on their appearance. If you're interested, you can read her article here.

The blogosphere is all aflutter about it too. Bloggers have written blog posts in support of what she said, one by Patty Hicks at Garden of Discovery, which you can read here. Another at Red, White and Grew, here. There may have been more since I first read these a couple of days ago. Here's a third I just found on Pinterest from Jennah's Garden. I also read an interesting article just this morning, and it says some great stuff on the whole "judging women's looks" situation too. You can read it here, it's called Women, Looks and Aging: Is Beauty a Bad Investment?

Anyway, I figured I would write a blog post too too. It's taken me a few days to work out what I want to say, and I'm still not sure I will be able to say it all and get my thoughts organized. So if this post veers off course and gives you whiplash because I'm trying to say too much, well....sorry. Hope you can keep up. It's going to be more personal than political. I think what happened to Ashley Judd was ridiculous. And I don't think anyone, man or woman, should be judged on their looks.

Many of my blogging friends know that since last summer I've been trying to lose weight. I really appreciate all their support for my efforts. I haven't written about it in months (I actually have a second blog called The 40-Pound Chicken Challenge, but I haven't contributed to that since last September. It's called that because my husband told me that when I lose 40 pounds, he will let me get chickens.) Many of you also know that I don't publish a lot of photos of myself on my blog, but I have published a couple, and they are not always flattering. I don't like seeing myself in photos, and whenever I see my husband point the camera at me, I make a face. He usually takes the picture anyway. And then I delete it.

Remember this photo of me from last summer, holding a chicken?

For those who are interested, I have lost a little more weight, I just haven't written about it. But it's been a slow slog. I thought I could update people on my progress, and say something about being judged on appearances at the same time.

Why have I been trying to lose weight? Partly for health reasons, but also, to be honest, because I want to look better. I don't think I will ever stand out as a beauty, but I do want to live longer, and I think there is a little part of me that is trying to recapture my youth.

Me in a towel turban and no makeup, looking like a film star -- on second thought, I don't really look much like Liz Taylor, do I?

Oh my. My first reaction on seeing this photo? Look at those crooked teeth. Blotchy skin. Little piggy eyes. Tell me your reaction, quick! The first thing you thought when you saw this picture.

The last time I wore makeup was a little over 5 years ago, for my 25th wedding anniversary. I was about 20 pounds thinner then than I am right now.

What's your reaction to this?

 My one concession to vanity and getting old is that I get my hair colored at a salon, every 6 weeks. It would be white otherwise. Lately I've been thinking of growing it out, and letting it go natural. I have a friend back east who has done that, and she looks wonderful, with a somewhat wild, white mane of distinctive hair.

I've always had a kind of love/hate relationship with standing out. I'd love to dress to stand out, but then I feel self-conscious. I think one reason I remain overweight is that I think it tends to make me invisible (I know that doesn't make sense), but I do think it's true that people tend to dismiss and/or overlook fat people. I would love to be one of those women who wears her white hair proudly. What do you think? Would a long mane of white hair make me stand out?

After all, I'm never going to look 12 again.

I might as well embrace my age.


  1. Alison, thank you for writing this post. I will be checking out your links as I've missed a few of these articles/blog posts. I've been very interested in the Ashley Judd story and thought her response was brilliant. I can relate to this post of yours on many, many levels. I really appreciate that you wrote this. I think beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and white hair is awesome. Just get your chickens already because you want them! :) Cheers, Jenni

  2. Alison, You've written a heartfelt and honest post and I want to say thanks...I also get my hair colored and love it! gail

  3. Alison...I loved your post. You are so cute. When I looked at your eyes I just saw how they just smiled right along with your mouth. I love that in people..smiley eyes. I can appreciate the hair color thing and think you would look fabulous in white hair, but maybe that's because I would love to have it myself as I have always thought it to be most beautiful of all hair colors. And thank you for joining us in our expose on beauty. You are fabulous!

  4. Alison, congratulations on the weight loss! and enjoyable post.

    You asked what we thought of the photo with you and a turban: as soon as I saw it I thought "that's like me, no makeup". I can't stand to wear it; it bothers my eyes and really, if my husband doesn't mind that I don't wear any, why should anyone else. Quite frankly all this model-anemic-hollywood marketing that has been sold to the public is truly for the birds. Be healthy and good to yourself.

  5. Alison, I have recently lost a lot of weight after being ill and swollen for years. The effects of this illness—as you also know—helped to end my marriage. Though my husband will not admit it, a big part of his leaving has to do with how bad I look physically and what a wreck my body was during these last nine years. Yes, he is an ass, and I get that now that his midlife crisis has hit, but waking up a decade later has been really difficult. I missed nearly 10 years of my life and I too am facing all of these strange issues as I near 40. I have little streaks of grey in my hair and I am curious to see what happens with them, my muscles are flabby, my fingers are crooked from a fall, my skin is really blotchy and I just love all the veins on my cheeks. Thank you for writing this, and I do understand and am so glad at least we live now in an age where we can publicly talk about this stuff.

  6. Alison, I too am trying to lose weight, I used to be able to eat anything but I will be 59 this month and the metabolism is just not the same. I have developed all sorts of bad face things, like hairs on my chin that need to be plucked and I am now not able to overlook the jowls...ugh! I have my hair colored on a regular basis too and will NEVER go without it, I'm much too vain. I put makeup on every day and feel so much better about myself when I do. It is hard to get older and see your youth slip away. Misery loves company...sounds like we are in the same boat, my friend. xo

  7. I love your smile! Why is it that when we look at photos of ourselves we immediately look at what we don't like( I know that I never remember to pull my tummy in!) I don't know if you follow Karen at Quarry gardens but her little story of doing these walking videos is very good and inspiring. I think we are all on the same path and can take inspiration from anywhere we find it.

  8. Wonderfully honest posting Alison. I too turned 56 this year. Started a change of eating habits on the first of the year. I had slowly gotten heavier and it was embarrassing how winded I would get walking with others. I don't dye my hair....too lazy and cheap. Wouldn't it have great to love how we looked at 12, WHEN we were 12?

  9. Alison you have a wonderful inner glow, beautiful. The colour of your hair does not matter, it is not who YOU are. But if you want to let your hair go white I will cheer you on, I have almost pure white hair and it is curly when I let it be that way. Take care, Jen.

  10. Go white! I think it it is a fabulous look and so wonderful to have earned.

    I have to be honest and share that it has bothered me every time you've said your husband will "let you" get chickens when you loose 40 pounds. Now first off I think it's none of my business which is why I've never said anything before. But you've basically opened up the conversation so here goes...get the chickens! Loose the weight if you want to, not because someone is bribing you. If the chickens are a "reward" for reaching a goal great! That is very admirable. But to say he will "let you if" just sounds so controlling and mean, and you deserve better than that.

    1. Oh dear, Loree. I'm afraid I haven't really presented it the way it is meant (and I'm not just making excuses). Nigel really did mean to give me an incentive, and not be controlling and mean. He knows I need to give myself a reward for losing the weight. And to be honest, he does get a say in whether we have chickens, because having the animals will affect him too. Really, it's me who won't let me get chickens till I've reached my goal. I know I probably sound like the typical "little woman" making excuses, but really I'm not.

    2. Thank you Alison, for replying to my comment. No you don't sound like you're making excuses and you made an excellent point about the chickens affecting Nigel too!

  11. you are beautiful! i´m number 80 :)

  12. I hate reading about all that the media does to pick apart womens appearances. I'm more of the letting myself look the way I'm naturally supposed to age type. Having had my youngest at 40 I know I look older than her friends moms, I don't feel old and to me that's the most important part.
    And, when I saw your face in the picture wearing the towel turban, honestly the first thing I noticed was your smile!

  13. I saw the article on Ashley Judd. It might have been your Facebook post, in fact. I was glad you posted it. I say kudos to Ms. Judd for getting society to THINK and quit all this nonsense. Much of it is media-propagated I believe. I don't think "real" people care all that much. So Ms. Judd is a little puffy in the face, who cares? Maybe she's gained a little weight. She could probably use it. She's still gorgeous.

    I think you look beautiful, Alison. For one thing, being brave enough to post a closeup of yourself sans makeup and hair style takes MUCHO guts! And it's easy to see from all three photos that you've got a killer smile that reflects a kindness and generosity that anyone would do well to emulate.

    Losing weight for health reasons is laudable. I need to do it too. And I think wanting to keep a hold of our youth is normal too. I think it takes time to make peace with out declining physique.

    I had been coloring my hair. I stopped about six months ago. It's a gray and dirty-blonde mix. I think it looks okay. I'm 51. It's time to embrace my age. Either way you go will be fine as long as you keep smiling!!

  14. Alison,
    Every photo I see of you the first thing I think is what a warm, welcoming, and kind smile. I love your smile. It makes me feel good. As for beauty. You always take me and the rest of us with you when you go on these wonderful gardening adventures and that is beautiful and thoughtful. I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out what was physically beautiful. I try to look groomed and decided it was more important telling the young kids I teach what makes them beautiful to me. I would want to spend a day visiting with you then one with a top model. Sorry for the soap box. I just can't figure out why beauty is always looks. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  15. Dear Alison,

    Phew! Where to begin...I think I'll ramble a bit in this "reply"...I hope you don't mind? Okay, the Ashley Judd thing. Yes, she's definitely gained weight and, for someone who has chosen a career in Hollywood, it makes it "matter". Does it matter to me? No. But the movie industry is one based on looks and we get to "know" its participants primarily based on how they sell themselves: beautiful and, let's be real, unattainably thin. We can dislike it, but their images are their stock in trade. It is what it is. It will take a while for people to see her as "Ashley Judd, whatever" instead of "Ashley Judd, "actress who let herself go" because she traded in that currency for years. She was blessed to be able to parlay her looks into the life she wanted, so it is pretty silly of her to call "foul" now that she doesn't want to do so any longer. At least that is my opinion.

    As for hating photos of ourselves, I was right there with you. Completely. If you had looked through years of photos, you would think my children were motherless. Then I began the 52 week project to get ourselves in the photo. Once a week, I had to post a photo of myself on the blog...every week!! Gradually, I came to see that whatever I think I see in the mirror, whatever I think I see in the photos, I am obviously a lovable person because I am surrounded by people who love me and see beauty when they look at me. Am I possessed of universal appeal? Probably not. DOES THAT MATTER? Actually, no. Do you look at your loved ones through a critical lense? Do you only love them because you perceive them to be flawless? Would you love them less if they gained weight, lost an eye, changed their hair color? Of course not. So, then, why do we think the love we are surrounded by is not as great as the love we give?

    Finally, when I saw that picture you asked for our impressions of? My first impression was that you had a playful, almost impish look on your face. I didn't think anything of your age, actually. I think it can be hard to be a woman. From the time we're twelve on, we're faced with an ever changing body. Unlike men, we never seem to have a prolonged "pretty much the same" period of time. We menstruate, we get "figures", we bear children (and, for some, nurse them), and then we head into peri-menopause and menopause. All the while, our bodies are in a state of flux. Just when we think we're familiar with who we are and where we're headed, something new is thrown into the mix. I think it is especially hard in a world where we have allowed looks to be what determines our value? What happened to revered wise women? Why do we denigrate age? What is so bad about becoming calmer and thoughtful and able to build opinions from years of experience and hard-won knowledge? Feminine power isn't limited to the time when we're young enough to bear children, you know?

    As for you not wearing make-up for five years? I don't know. I think make-up is fun. I think it is like coloring on my skin. The days of me wearing it as armor or a shield are gone. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don't. Search The Naked Face Project and read about Molly's 60-day make-up free journey. It was fascinating to share in her journey. Raising a daughter as I approach menopause has made me pause and make sure I'm living what I believe, because I don't want her to think she needs to cover who she really is...ever.

    Anyway, I think you're fabulous and I love learning from you. I'm sorry that you're struggling to redefine yourself as you age, but I have come to think we all struggle to redefine ourselves as we age and that this process is the crux of the "change of life".

    Hugs to you,


  16. Wow Erin I like what you've had to say!


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.