I think I am in denial. Not about my weight cos I KNOW I cannot be 40-50kgs overweight and not look huge – even if I don’t completely admit it to myself. I am instead in denial about the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken… And a few things have intersected over these past couple of weeks to bring it into my consciousness.
It started as I finished up in my old workplace. Over an informal, slightly boozey and very gossipy farewell lunch, some of my colleagues discussed the leaders in our agency. I was horrified to learn that three very senior people in that organisation were, in fact, younger than me. I mean, WTF? I suspected they were ‘around’ my age, but I gave myself a few years as a buffer so as not to feel I was an under-achiever in comparison. But, as they were all men, it was less a vanity thing and more of a ‘why am I wallowing in middle management when I have as much experience as them’ type thing.
Then this past week I started my new job and, as a result, have spent the week meeting new colleagues and felt a tad ‘on show’. I’d bitten the bullet and purchased some new Size 24 clothes (rather than waiting to lose weight and get into my old clothes) to get me through the working week in an environment which is a tad more formal than my old workplace. Fortunately it’s possible to buy some interesting and funky fat clothes nowadays, so I didn’t feel too frumpy. But… I lost count of the number of times that I was made to feel every bit of my 43 years – and sometimes more!
I am replacing someone who was controversially put into the role: it is a fairly key role in this agency and my predecessor, although intelligent and confident, was young (mid-late 20s) and inexperienced. So, the comparisons started there. People who disagreed with her appointment welcomed my maturity and experience with open arms. And… they happily advised me of this a number of times. Happily. This in itself was confronting for me who (inexplicably) thinks of myself as a ‘young up and coming’ type.
Then, one of the agency’s leaders – in a discussion about the organisation leveraging off social media – made a comment to me about ‘our’ generation. I kept the smile on my face, but was mortified. I mean, THIS WOMAN HAS GRANDKIDS. And I, well I am still hoping to have a child of my own. Sometime. Soon. Hopefully. Perhaps my face gave me away a little as she then clarified her comment a bit saying, “Oh, I realise you are quite a bit younger as I’m in my 50s, but what I mean is….” But, alas, the damage was done.
Then last night I was watching television. An advertisement came on featuring two young women. They were laughing and giggling and I was suddenly struck that I was no longer a ‘young’ woman by society’s terms. I am (approaching) middle age, if not there already. I don’t feel it and I can’t believe it has snuck up on me like this. One minute I am in my late teens heading to University and imagining my life: falling in love, having a family, a career of some sort. Then in my 20s with the same dream. Then in my 30s – the same aspirations, with some financial security thrown in. There was still hope that I would meet the man of my dreams, we would fall in love, have a family and (of course) I would have some sort of fulfilling job and achieve perfect work/life balance. This, however, was all predicated on my losing massive amounts of weight (although I had a lot less to lose in those days!) and becoming vaguely attractive to the opposite sex. None of that has happened.
It occurs to me that for the last 5 – 7 years I have been in denial about the fact that I am ‘getting on’. When I was about 37 years old I was selected as a ‘future leader’ in my then-organisation, and I was invited to attend this Generation Y seminar which was actually for those 35 years and under. At the time I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted that I wasn’t seen to be sufficiently senior to already be considered a leader; or honoured that I looked a few years younger than I was.
In fact I have been fortunate that I have always had looked younger than I actually am. But it seems I can no longer remain in denial over the fact that I pretty much look my age now. Careless living – unhealthy food, too much alcohol, sun damage, lack of exercise etc – means that I probably look every bit of my 43 years. This past week I have spent most days looking into the face of my 27 year old predecessor at work. Instead of focussing on handover issues, I have found myself examining her clear unwrinkled skin, lack of puffiness around the eyes, her lack of jowls. She is essentially bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Whereas I look haggard. It is becoming more and more obvious to me that I have to admit this to myself and do something about it.
I started an 8-week challenge at my pilates studio on Tuesday. Of course I assumed that just signing up would ensure that my motivation clicked in and would happily forsake carbohydrates and alcohol for the 8 weeks as planned. Sadly this hasn’t been the case. But I have found myself making a ‘few’ healthier decisions. I need to build on this and not let myself get overcome with despondency (over how much weight I have to lose and how long it will take me) or depression (over having to deny myself WHAT I BLOODY WELL WANT TO EAT). I need to accept a few home truths.
Denial – a great place to visit, but a bad place to live.