Living

SUSAN AGER: Get a better body in 40 years

I do not feel bad about my neck.

I no longer feel bad about my feet. Or my nose. Or my toes.

I am, however, 13 years younger than Nora Ephron, who will turn 66 in a few weeks and whose book about her neck and other deteriorating body parts has enjoyed nine months on the New York Times best-seller list.

The book is called "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman." I borrowed it from my local library because I was curious how bad a woman could feel about her neck.

Is any problem significant if you can hide it with a scarf?

And, I was surprised a writer as brilliant and successful as Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Silkwood") would complain about something so irrelevant. Perhaps she knew an essay and, then, a book with that title would attract the attention of nearly every woman of a certain age.

The day arrives, and we all recognize it, when the lights shine on younger women and men overlook us as if we were floor tiles.

My problem, if it is one, is that I feel better about my neck and everything else on my body than I ever have, even though it is objectively worse than ever: Simon Cowell would cover his eyes.

HEAD-TO-TOE ASSESSMENT

When I was 13, one sultry summer afternoon, I sat on the glider on our front porch in Dearborn Heights and listed in my journal (which was my best friend) everything wrong with my body. I began with my limp hair and my Polish nose and ended with my knobby knees, big feet and ugly toes.

The list was long and brutal.

The other day I tried to find that list among my old scribblings. But I must have tossed it out later when I realized how dumb it was.

Thirteen is when I felt worst about myself. At 23 I still felt frumpy, but attracted some positive attention. At 33 I was consumed with other issues: love, work, the meaning of life. At 43 I saw signs of age but was too busy to fret about them. Now, at 53, I'm in the best place.

My psyche doesn't snag anymore on every one of my physical flaws. Somehow I have come to conclude: I am the way I am. It is the way it is. Accept it or change it, and acceptance is easier, quicker and cheaper than cosmetic surgery.

INSIDE AND OUT

Ephron writes: "Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of 35 you will be nostalgic for at the age of 45." That's true. You kick yourself for rejecting photos that made you look soooo fat but which now remind you how thin you were.

Nostalgia is harmless. But regret is corrosive.

In my long relationship with my body, I've learned to appreciate it for what it is today and work to keep it healthy, so it can be a reliable package for what's inside.

My neck will do its thing, and each morning in the mirror my face will be new. I try to smile at it, no matter what, because we're in this together, and we're all we've got.

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