When I read Patti Davis’s recent article in More magazine, where she “bares all” at 58, I was poised in my seat, prepared to feel inspired.
My body, like hers, has been built from scratch. I too have a chemically-laden past from which I’ve broken free. I too found my physical strength later in life and now surf in competitions in addition to being a recommended black belt in Taekwondo. I love exercise. I love competition.
Then why did I feel irked by her article instead?
Perhaps the media play-up was annoying: “Oh my god. Can you believe she’s posing nude at 58?” Is that really what we find so incredulous in this day and age? What did you think she had going on underneath those fine designer clothes of hers? Dusty skeletal remains? She’s 58, not 402.
Or maybe it was the “Yeah, if I worked with a team of personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs, I’d look pretty damn good too” voice playing in this jaded middle class head of mine. Money can obviously buy you a toned body, whether it’s real or manufactured or both. So she writes check well?
And finally, where is the victory in showing another woman with an uber-fit body? Doesn’t the real problem lie with the rest of the bodies that we don’t find acceptable? Namely, the other 95% of the female populace? The message remains the same: look like you're 20-something and you win. Eternal youthfulness is the unrealistic gold standard by which we all must dutifully adhere.
Then it was her elbow comment; Patti Davis doesn’t like them apparently. They look old to her. This is when I feel considerably less inspired. That never-ending magnifying and micro-managing that most women do with their bodies has reduced us to such petty creatures. So she’s got a smoking hot bod at 58, but those elbows of hers keep haunting her. (Elbows shouldn’t haunt you. Just as a rule.)
Last week, I had a young man in my outdoor shower (a long but beautifully sordid story). He pushed the wet hair back from my forehead. I saw him examining the gray hairs that I’ve let grow in as of late. The painful self-consciousness I felt was overwhelming. I turned away from him, feeling once again flawed, wrong.
Yet an equal part of me wanted to turn around and shout: “Yes, they’re fucking gray hairs. I’m 44 years old. If you don’t like them, go find someone else who has the energy to fight the tide of time better than me!”
God, who can keep up? Who wants to?
Ultimately, Patti Davis is still an inspiration. (And I still had amazing sex in the shower, in spite of my "glaring imperfections.") She has a good, healthy take on her body and what it means to her. I’m not discounting that. I do admire her.
But the messaging underneath remains insidious and tedious: look young at all costs. Society will give you props for turning back time. Thing is, time only has one direction. For all of us. (Shhh...don't tell anyone. It's a secret.)