If I knew then, what I know now, about aging…I would’ve gotten a jump-start on doing it gracefully.  Or maybe I did.

That I was raised by a family who valued form over substance, just may have contributed (OK, it did) to the conflicted and often clumsy approach I had to growing older. “Had” isn’t exactly accurate: although I continue to grow a lot more comfortable in my own skin, I can still freak out and become obsessed with altering my appearance.  Only these days, the attacks at my self-confidence are infinitely less frequent and last a matter of minutes, rather than the weeks, months and even years they used to hold me in their vice-like grip.

You see, in our family, fortunes were spent and serious pain was endured—all in pursuit of eternal youth, beauty and someone else’s approval. Yet, they were never—and I mean NEVER—happy with themselves , no matter how many collagen shots, facelifts, eye jobs, tummy tucks, boob and butt lifts, hair plugs, fad diets and diet pills, exercise equipment and even anti-exercising contraptions they invested in. This made my early years both interesting and scary: interesting, because my parental units were early adopters, so I was exposed to some seriously weird shit at a young age; and scary, because I was exposed to some seriously weird shit at a young age.


For example, when I was 13, a machine was delivered to us that “exercised” muscles, while passively sitting around watching TV or reading. I don’t remember the name of this diabolical instrument of torture, but I do remember having electrodes attached to my thighs, belly and upper arms, while electricity was zapped into my still developing muscles…then watching as those muscles involuntarily twitched, without any cue from me. Oh, the stuff I’ve seen!!

It was then and there I decided to put significant effort into developing my inner-self; to focus on something lasting and real, that would actually improve with age, and that my family couldn’t pass judgement on, or even see for that matter:  they were too busy looking in the mirror. Somehow I  instinctively knew that If I couldn’t be happy with the person I was becoming on the inside, no amount of altering my outsides was going to solve anything in the long run.

While I’ve never altered my looks surgically, and likely never will, I’m not anti nip and tuck—so long as it’s done well and for the right reasons. In the elusive quest for perfection, I have seen too many attractive people—family members included—jeopardize their looks in a desperate attempt for other people’s approval. I have seen surgery become addictive, and I have seen surgeons shamelessly manipulate their patients with the elusive promise of eternal youth.

Whenever some random comment sets me off, like last week, when a younger friend came over and saw a picture of me from 20 years ago, and said “I never would have known that was you,” my instant reaction was panic. I was right back home with the family–my brain racing toward thoughts of plastic surgery.  So I did what I’ve learned to do over the years when this happens: I took a few deep breaths, looked in the mirror, pulled my skin so far back that my face was wrinkle and line free, and asked myself;  “Does this make you happy…more talented…smarter…kinder…more compassionate. Are you a better person?”

When the answer is yes to any of these questions, I’ll look into getting a facelift.

How do you approach the aging process?

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Nancy Mendelson

Nancy is an award-winning producer/director; has had numerous articles published in trade and mainstream media; is a member of the Writers Guild of America, The Players; serves as an Adjunct Professor at NYU, and is an experienced speech writer and media coach. Having lived an incredibly diverse life, she is passionate about sharing her experience and life lessons with others.

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