When I first moved to Southern California, I found myself transplanted into a youth-obsessed world in which women spent the equivalent of my monthly income on facial injections and remained on a first-name basis with their yoga instructors. As an aging women floating in a sea of silicone and size 2s, I felt overwhelmed and wondered if I should RSVP to my latest Botox party invitation.
I watched these women fight aging with every last penny, literally, desperate to keep their husbands' eyes from shifting to someone younger and more attractive—an easy thing to do in California where fame-hungry, stunning starlets arrive in droves every day. I understood these women's plight and often felt the exact same way—loathing the stranger who greeted me in the mirror each morning.
But without my financial future completely secure, I couldn't afford to spend thousands on weekly fillers and facials. But I also didn't like growing older either, so I devised an unorthodox plan. Rather than fight Father Time the traditional skin deep way, I tested out a different aging combatant—I became a student again. No, I didn't register at the local university; instead, I signed up for classes that taught fun, diverse subjects to keep my body—and especially my soul—alive.
The first class I chose was swing dancing—my regular cardio workouts grew mundane and I needed an exercise pick-me-up. On my first day, I discovered not only was I the oldest participant, but the tallest. (I stand at six feet, barefoot.) In partner dancing, height isn't a desirable quality for a woman; unfortunately, we switched partners often and every guy winced when their turn with me arrived. But rather than feel sorry for my genetic bad luck, I smiled and grabbed each man's hand with the confidence of a "Dancing With the Stars" pro.
I sparkled and felt effervescent Lindy-hopping around the floor, and the men's anxiety about dancing with a taller woman eventually waned. The instructor used me several times to demonstrate my "sexy arm styling," and sexy was never a word used to describe anything about me.
Often I noticed women sneaking a peek at me and then trying to emulate my movements, raising my self-esteem and providing me such a high it took three hours to come down from it after every class.
Next, I moved on to beach volleyball classes and once again, was the most senior of the students by a decade. One would think that at my height I could already play, but one would be wrong. My hand-eye coordination never developed and the only word out of my mouth during the first class was "sorry." After each attempt to hit, spike or bump the ball, I would yell "sorry" to my classmates. Weeks later, I learned to ignore the bruises that more easily formed on my body than anyone else's (darn you, age!) and started to hit the ball without spewing apologies.
Over the years, I registered for improv comedy, stand-up comedy, synchronized swimming and beach yoga—each class more difficult than the next and every one of them stretching my abilities to levels I never imagined possible.
I felt younger and more vibrant, unearthing a zest for life and unleashing a woman of strength and fearlessness. Sure, my wrinkles never disappeared. In fact, now there's more of them from my days playing beach volleyball in the warm California sunshine. But I don't mind them as much. The stranger in the mirror is now even more of a stranger. Who is this person looking back at me? She's someone pretty amazing.