Back when I was growing up, a waif-like model named Twiggy burst onto the scene. A body replete with skin and bones and a short haircut was uncharacteristic of the times, yet as a super-model in England in the 1960’s, her influence on teenaged girls was instantaneous.
Back then, skinny was everything. We equated over-thinness with beauty and health, in priority order. I recall making sure that my hip bones were prominent when I laid on the beach. The more pronounced they were, the more attractive I believed I was.
In college, I fell victim to a protein and water only diet called the Stillman Diet, which included lean beef, veal, chicken, turkey and fish. Tea, coffee, and non-caloric soft drinks could be had, in addition to required eight daily glasses of water. There were many days when I did not drink the 32 ounces of water throughout the day, so I stood up at the end of the evening virtually chugging water until I gagged. I lost weight consistently on the diet. I wonder how many years I deleted from my lifespan, considering the lack of balance and vitamins.
I may have let go of my self-absorption with my appearance and symbols of beauty when I began to have children at age 30. There were so many other issues to focus on – keeping children alive, going to work, trying to sleep, attempting to snatch a few moments of enjoyment from life.
Skinny was no longer the most important goal of my life, but I transitioned to health and vitality, for survival’s sake. I probably didn’t really look at too many icons of beauty at that time, because my life was in another direction and my priorities demanded that I look at career books or parenting guides.
Fast forward to my 60’s and I am in the throes of challenging what body image is for my age group. I am continually crestfallen by the number of fellow seniors who do not exercise at all, and whose physique is crumbling as a result. I think I’m realistic about what I can expect at this age, and I am convinced that I can stave off the ravages of aging for a little while, at least.
Which is why recent news from my doctors about my cataracts (both eyes) and osteoarthritis (both knees) was devastating. My body image does not incorporate such “old people” maladies.
Twiggy is 66 years old (1 year older than me) and has launched a line of clothing in England. She is an animal rights activist and a grandmother. She has aged elegantly and is comfortable with who she is.
Perhaps she has cataracts and osteoarthritis. It doesn’t matter, I guess, because she is moving on and living life.
And that’s the body image and life philosophy I plan to espouse: move on and live life, regardless.