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  • Jane Leder

The Secret To Aging

People is not where I'd look to find the secret to aging. Actually, I'm not sure where I'd look but definitely not in the gossip rag about celebrities, their dogs and cats, their miracle weight loss (Hell, anyone can lose weight with a personal chef, physical trainer, and a 24/7 life coach), their marriages/divorces, and, on occasion, a non-celebrity piece about, say, an abducted child who escaped her captor after more than a decade.


So, why was I reading People in the first place? What else would I read while letting the polish on my toenails dry? Sure, I could have continued the book for next month's book club, but sitting in a nail salon surrounded by gurgling pedicure tubs, the chatter of clients and technicians, and the sounds of Spotify pulsating with tunes from the 40s and 50s doesn't meld with anything other than an issue, usually out of date, of People.


I thumbed through the photos of JayLo and her newly-blended family and countless other celebrities having the time of their lives. Bored, I turned to the article about Gloria Steinem who turned 85 this year. Eighty-five? Are you serious? Eighty-five and just as active and sharp and, might I add, beautiful as she was decades earlier.


The last photo in the spread about Steinem was taken at the 2017 Women's March and titled "No Time to Slow Down." Surrounded by Debi Mazur, Amy Schumer, and Madonna, Steinem, with her long, blonde hair parted down the middle and her classic winged glasses, looked every much the icon that she is.




"I tell people on the street that I'm 85 because I'm trying to make myself believe it," Steinem said.


Sound familiar? I mean, I do that all the time. Not 85 yet, but 74. Part of me wants the "Oh, you don't look 74" that, for a fleeting moment or two, makes me feel young and attractive and, well, not an AARP member who gets ads for retirement homes at least once a week. And like Steinem, the other part of me is trying to convince myself that I am in the last quarter of the game but that "It ain't over yet---not by a long shot."


Steinem has a point: many of us don't feel our age and have no intention of slowing down. Sure, we may be officially retired but, in truth, we volunteer, travel, and create. Shuffleboard and rocking chairs are not part of the picture.


Here's the kicker: Steinem continued: "That's the big secret of aging: You're still the same person."


Eureka! I ripped the quote with photo out of the magazine and stuffed it in my purse. I had the secret. In her wisdom, Steinem articulated what I could not. No matter our age--no matter how different we may appear on the outside--inside, where it counts, we are the same person we've always been. I mean, how many times have you or someone you know said something like, "I sure don't feel my age. Someone must have mistakenly transposed the date of my birth. I'm not really 74; I'm 47."


I was at the San Miguel de Allende Writers' Conference when Steinem gave a keynote address. That was two years ago. And what I remember most was her good-natured, self-deprecating humor. She laughed at the surprises, the disappointments, the missteps in her life. She even found some silly moments in the fact that she'd waited until she was sixty-six to get married and lost her husband to brain lymphoma just three years later.


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When the polish on my toes dried, I put on my shoes and socks and, with Steinem's gift safely tucked away in my purse, I tiptoed out of the salon. I didn't want to disturb the wisdom I now possessed or have one of the technicians accuse me of theft.