A Cowgirl looks (squints) at 60.

WM60selfie
88 Years of (combined) excellence.

I notice I wear my glasses in the shower more often these days. Unintentionally. I mention it because as I write this, it’s my 60th birthday and I had a revelation in the shower. Wait, it gets worse.

I’ve decided it’s time to start riding naked. Who’s in? Naked Dressage. It’s an idea whose time has come. Anybody? Okay, I get that dressage has a stuffy reputation and I’m forever defending it.. but think about it. It might be just what the sport needs. Really… no one wants to ride with me? How about spectators? No? None?

I’m shocked. (Not.) If the truth be told, no women look good riding naked at any age. (Fashion ‘stills’ don’t count, I’m talking actual riding.) A person of my calendar accumulation and… dimensional quality, least of all. And I couldn’t be more pleased. One of the very best things about being 60 is that no one wants to see me naked- on a horse or anywhere else. That makes me really happy. Liberated. Free. The meat wagon has left. Friends I have now love me without cosmetic correction, for the same reason horses and dogs have from the beginning. It’s dependable.

But back to the shower. Is revelation a bad word choice? I was surveying the landscape and thinking about skin. I remember waking up on my 50th birthday and noticing that someone had switched the skin on my forearms. I was more confused than outraged, but it was undeniable. My skin was gone and left in its place was some old lady skin that was looking papery and a bit hacked up. My arm hairs practically had split ends. It was a crime.

In the last decade but there’s been more lawlessness. My neck has developed a wattle, when I squint in the sun, my eyes totally disappear in my happy wrinkles, and tops of my hands have turned into torn and bruised parchment. I won’t mention, in this marginally polite company, what’s happened under my shirt but they make B-grade disaster movies about less.

We women keep plastic surgeons rich, while we go nuts about our skin aging. It’s easy to feel squeezed by the grip of judgment from a critical culture, who would like women to stay contained in tight skins. And it’s an equal opportunity betrayal of women of all sizes, careers, income, and of course, numbers of cats. Even rebels who left the cosmetic circus years ago are forced to notice when squinting creates temporary blindness.

I have a ridiculously optimistic question I ask myself when everything looks like a huge disaster: What if this isn’t wrong? And the answer about skin came to me in the shower.

When I was younger, my skin had to hold it all together. My brains scattered all the time and my heart was always breaking. Sometimes I puked my guts out. My feet marched off in bad directions and my hands should have stayed in my pockets more than they did. My skin had the nearly impossible job of holding me together.

These days my skin slouches around me. I look like a pasty, white basset hound, with rolls of this and that migrating to the oddest places. At first I thought my skin had lost it’s grip, but that’s not it. I think now, at 60, my skin trusts me more. That’s what all the sagging and bagging and general lumpiness is about: Trust and maybe it’s gained some confidence in me as well.

My brain stays steady now for the most part. It used to explode about a dozen times a day but I’ve gained a some tolerance of change. My body stays in line, a little stiff some days, but like they say, if something didn’t hurt when I got up in the morning, I’d think I was dead…

My heart used to need both skin and ribs to protect it. At this point, I’ve had a huge herd of horses stomping around in there for so long that it’s all stretched out and softened. It’s been padded with dog hair and sure, there’s a hole left when I lose a friend, but the truth is my heart has been so enlarged by loving all of them in the first place, that I survive. Like stretched out socks, there is always room for more; I like my heart better this way.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin can’t be over-rated.  It’s good horsemanship; probably the thing horses and dogs notice about us first. It’s not a crime to pack a few years on. We should wear it with the confidence of an old sweatshirt and be proud: sagging isn’t a failure of our skin, but really it’s the opposite. It’s a compliment when your skin says, “Good job, you can hold your own self together now.”

I also notice from time to time that I’ve sprouted a thick hair or two on my chin, just above my wattle. They are white and coarse… It’s good news, I’m sure this means I am being rewarded by turning into a horse. Evolution is a wonder.

I’m not special, just one more in a herd of feisty old cowgirls who are not anywhere near done yet. I just want to say thank you on this birthday, to all the horses and dogs who gave my skin a reason to relax. They’ve taught me well, especially my Grandfather Horse. It isn’t just great to be alive. It’s great to be so..so..ripe.

Thanks to all my friends who stuck with me since when my skin was tight. I’m especially grateful to you all who make time to read this blog over the years. I appreciate it so much more than you can imagine. Your comments and emails are a daily inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing the ride.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

66 thoughts on “A Cowgirl looks (squints) at 60.

  1. Thanks for putting into words how I feel at 70. I need to come and take a lesson in October before winter comes. I love how you see things and horses and riding.

  2. And look how many more fabulous years we have in front of us! If only we could come to these realizations when are younger…but maybe we need the years to learn to appreciate ourselves more

  3. Karen Willmus

    Now that’s a great analogy and a totally original thought! Bravo! And Happy Birthday, from a 50-year old who has skin like her grandmother’s used to look. Wonder how she got it?

  4. Suzanne in NC

    Happy – Happy Birthday!!! This is so right on! Since I’m a tad older than you, I can attest to the fact that all this stuff happened to me too! Although I didn’t take it so well….haven’t gone to work without a turtleneck yet! I’ll have to ponder this attitude a bit – and try to adopt it! You are such a delight…have a great day and thanks for wanting to share so much with others!

  5. Karen Brown

    And thank you for sharing! Your blog has been/is an inspiration.
    Happy Birthday – here’s to many more.

  6. Shelagh in Vermont

    Wonderful, Anna! Happy Birthday and many more. I am closing in on 80 in a few and will save this for reading every year from now on.

  7. Lead Mare
    By Sue Wallis (from: Graining The Mare: The Poetry of Ranch Women)

    That woman there
    She can be a lead mare
    Has watched horses so long
    And so well she can tell what goes on
    In their minds

    It’s that high-thrown head
    How she holds her shoulders
    Watch … she’ll kinda hunch then
    Throw her weight in ways
    Unseen by us, but understood
    By the saddle bunch

    Once she tried it in Kentucky
    that lead mare bit
    And it worked there, too
    At one of those fancy outfits
    White board fences
    Blooded thoroughbreds
    She slipped away from the crowd
    Stood quiet, moved her body
    And they all quit grazing
    Tossed her head
    And they all came to her
    Just like they do

    At the ranch

    Happy skin-relaxing day, lead mare! 🙂

  8. Laurie Huckaby

    Beautifully written and so true! I’m 53 and still struggling with all this, but now and then I get glimpses of the beauties of aging. Our horses and dogs do it much more gracefully than we do. Thank you for these words!

  9. Sandie Marrinucci

    Anna – I don’t know you but happy birthday! I have to say this is the best piece of writing I’ve read in a while! Well said….you made me laugh and realize that aging isn’t so bad – it’s a gift. I never really thought that the hair on the chin was a sign that I was turning into a horse – but bring it on! I’m 63 and ride as often as I can and hope to do so for the rest of my life – however long that is. Thank you for your wisdom and your great sense of humor. Wishing you all the best this coming year and many more ahead. Ride strong!

  10. Meagan

    I love this piece! Happy birthday to you! At 50, I completely understand about our forearms! Ha! Your writing shoots arrows of cagey wit, beauty, and honesty. Thank you for sharing your four-legged family with us. Keep being feisty!!

  11. Happy Birthday from a 73 year old. I believe I began to truly live and love life at 60 and it just keeps getting better. Go for the gusto and have no regrets. It is just part of the magical, mystical tour we call life.

  12. Tom Yetter

    I especially like the the part about your heart, and how it has been so enlarged by loving all your friends, what a wonderful way to think!!! Thank you and Happy Birthday

  13. Simply wonderful, utterly delightful writing…made my day, Miss Anna. At 58, I’m right there with you. Who’d a thunk that chin hair could be a positive thing? Happy birthday, wise lady.

  14. What a wonderful appreciation of becoming comfortable in your own skin! And why does it take us so damned long?! I never appreciated having taut, unlined skin holding me together (just love that clever viewpoint) when I was young. Now I’m less worried about the exterior but just hoping all the gory, bony, sinewy bits and bobs on the inside are in good enough shape to keep me riding as long as my 13 year old horse is fit enough.
    There are probably lots of your online friends here in the comment line who would love to join together to give you a special birthday party to thank you for all the great, inspirational posts. (Even, possibly, a “naked dressage masked ball!) But I’ll just have to shout very loudly from across the ocean, “Bonne Anniversaire, Anna” – and I’ll be catching you up at the beginning of November 😀

  15. Sarah Cassatt

    Wow, I think you just made our “collective” day. Meaning the collection of antiques all older than 50 or so. Thank you so much! I too have been feeling suddenly mystified upon catching a glance here and there and having odd conversations in the shower and in front of the mirror. Now I know I’m just joining a much bigger conversation and we can all answer each others questions; especially about why we really don’t need to worry: “It’s ALL good!”

  16. eremophila

    Another wonderful piece of writing Anna, that deserves to be Freshly Pressed! I survived turning 60 last year, and pledged that for the next two years I’d be saying ‘YES’ to more risky things than I had for quite a while, and boy, has it been busy since then! Now a new life is unfolding….. 🙂
    Happy Happy Birthday!

  17. Ingrid

    Happy Birthday !! Just turned 59 and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the next birthday..till today. Reading this was my “ah ha” moment !! Thank you-
    I needed this

  18. Pingback: Age Versus Knowledge | Kiri's Amaranthine Rain

  19. As you know, Anna, I totally relate to this 60-thing, being just a few short weeks ahead of you. What a compelling, humorous and thought-provoking commentary on the issue. I shall now laugh every time I look at my parchment paper skin as well as my inability to button the top button on my jeans. I’ve also decided to paint my cane red and start the Red Cane Club. Care to join? 🙂

  20. I so enjoyed this post — my skin has been telling me that I can hold myself together now and I am glad you reminded me. My health isn’t great but my horses are. I have Pulmonary Fibrosis which is a death sentence — no cure just relentless progression. I have a few more years so my horses are important to me — they don’t judge — they just understand

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