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Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors and Retirees

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Episode 083  Does retirement call for a dermatologist?

Last week my wife and I went to a dermatologist for a skin scan. A friend of ours who has had skin cancers removed for over thirty years insisted that we do this. He claimed that it went with retirement. The dermatologist found us cancer free, but at the same time opened the lid to a vat of liquid nitrogen and dipped a cotton swab into it. Without a word he started pressing this super cold swab against our faces: a dot here and a dot there. He must have hit a dozen spots. He said they were “precancerous colorations” and he was just being cautious. He said they would turn red, perhaps blister and then peal off in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t make one look like a model. Years ago it would have been of real concern. But, retired and older, it doesn’t seem to matter. It is just another step in the process of life. I like to think of them as “beauty marks”.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

“Beautiful people” dominate our advertisement and entertainment industry. We see the million dollar smile everywhere – right along with coffered hair, sculpted bodies, and the latest styles – fashion stuff. We spend years of our lives on this quest for beauty. Getting older has this one giant benefit over youth. We are wiser, or at least we should be. The concept of beauty migrates from being all physical to character and inner attributes.

My wife used to cruise the department stores and fashion boutiques looking for something magical that would send a message to the world. She doesn’t do that any more. It is rare that she wanders the aisle shifting hangers from left to right examining all of the latest styles and colors. I’d say she has moved to a higher level. Most of her clothing now comes from recreational sporting stores, or from birthday or Christmas gifts.

This obsession with physical beauty starts young and runs long. We like to dress our children and grandchildren in pretty little clothes. We shower them with “new” stuff. I can never understand it when I see all of these stores with used clothing. I keep thinking that the kids don’t really care nor know the difference between new and used. Is it any wonder that be the time they hit junior high they are looking for the latest colors or fashion?  By high school the desire is all-consuming. I remember having “hand-me-downs” given to me that were in perfectly good condition. Except --- except they were out of style. Thus they were unacceptable.

Then there was the mirror. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” It is a wonder that mirrors don’t wear out. Hours spent staring at oneself.  I can only assume it is universal. The nose is too long, short, flat, or wide. The hair is too thin, thick, long, short, black or blond. The skin is too fair, dark, or swarthy. You’re too short, tall, skinny, or fat. The list is endless. I think it is the advertisers whose goal is to make us uncomfortable with how we look so that we will buy something else. There's money to be made.

Probably the most important aspect of this obsession with 'looking good’ is the self concept that is created. One becomes self-assured or lacking in self-esteem based entirely on physical appearance. We have all seen this myth shattered. We learn that there is more to a person than 'looking good'. Getting older seems to offer this huge advantage to life. We can see past the nose on our face – and others.

I remember seeing the painting of Peter Paul Rubens and the rotund women that he painted. Today we would call them heavy or fat. Society does not think of them as being beautiful. But they were in his day. In an anthropology class I learned of huge women considered having the most beautiful body type on some islands in the South Pacific. Experiencing life helps refocus our minds on what we considered beautiful.

Basing life on physical beauty has its own built-in flaw. The more one values and cherishes their youthful appearance, the more disappointing the later days of life must become. Age is a great equalizer: the wrinkles come; the posture changes – gravity wins; the hair thins; skin looses elasticity. Other physical changes are impossible to halt. Oh, some people try with cosmetic surgery, toupees, injections, etc. They may help some – for a short time. But for most of us – we accept age and the 'look' that comes with it.

Those that age gracefully are those that still smile and have a sense of self and where they are in the total picture. They radiate life and a positive view of all the days of their lives. They are at home in new clothes or old. They are at home – period. They have learned to accept the truth of inner beauty. Their eye still has a sparkle; a certain zest. They probably have had this sense of life being interesting from very early on. They are inquisitive and still able to marvel at the world. The clothes, the nose, the skin, and the teeth become secondary to the heart or mind.

 

This is retirement talk.