What Happened To My Waist?

The years after 50 are a time of transition when changes seem to pile up on us. Welcoming this stage of life with some sort of rite of passage ~ aka a little party! ~ is very empowering. And fun as well!


 “Age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress”

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I don’t know about you but I’ve never got deep and meaningful in a department store changing room before. The other day I did. I was there on a mission – to see how it felt to get out of the jeans that have defined me since the 60s and try on some gorgeous dresses.

This was a big leap for me. I love my jeans and would never have considered such a radical move had my waist not grown by inches the moment I hit menopause in my early 60s. What a year that was! It took me a while to cotton on to what was going on.

First there was denial. “Why have my jeans shrunk?!” Then came the blame game. “it must have been all those bagels I ate in New York!” Next came the realisation that these inches were not going to be shifted as easily as they might have been in the past. (I’ve been eating like a saint and walking briskly hours each week but still they cling!)

Then came the “Oh my god. Life as I know it is over.” stage, and the envy stage. It’s amazing how many svelte little waists there are around when you no longer have one! That stage roughly coincided with a big Aha! moment. “Omg. So THAT’S why there are shops filled with elastic waisted jeans!

Honestly, someone should prepare us for this. We should be warned so we don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to regain something that quite probably has gone forever. Hormones, darling, hormones! Time to move on! So I locked myself away in the store changing room with my humour and a huge pile of dresses, looking at what worked with my new shape and what didn’t.

Learning to love the new me

Some dresses made me look and feel like a potato. They came off in a flash. Some though had possibility. They didn’t show me the me I had always known. They showed me a new kind of me with a new kind of glow. They made me want to laugh and sashay and spin around. They helped me see that, yes, I DO love this new woman!

I walked out of that store a new me. It sounds absurd I know, but for a few days I felt almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of moving into the second half of life. When I think back on that odd little scene in the store changing room I realise that something beautiful and empowering had happened in there.

Throwing that little private party had been funny and loads of fun, but it had also been a kind of crossing-over ceremony – a rite of passage.

Behind all the exuberance and laughter there was a deep sadness at the losses that came along with  menopause, and I knew it. But it was okay. Almost beautiful in a way. After a year of fighting to regain what I had lost I had finally given myself permission to let go and move forward.

What I learned from this

1) That letting go of what has passed brings a new kind of joy – the kind you feel as you watch something you loved slip away, and open your heart with gratitude to what replaces it. Its the promise of new adventures and new opportunities.

2) That there’s such value in warmly welcoming the new you after 50. In consciously experimenting with new possibilities and trying out new things. In learning about her, loving her and allowing her to be a new kind of beautiful and a new kind of sensuous. In throwing the opposite of a pity party for her. That’s really what I was doing in the store changing room!

3) Lastly I learned about the value of ritual or ceremony in these times of transition – some sort of rite of passage. I didn’t intend my little shopping expedition to turn into something so deep and meaningful. It just did somehow. This beautiful quote from spiritualityhealth.com expresses all of this so much better than I can.

“Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, teaches that ceremony and ritual are essential for people to mark the important transitions of life. Without meaningful ritual, he tells us, people suffer. Ritual and ceremony can bridge our past and our present elegantly, making it possible for folks like you and me to travel through life, honoring the good and bad times we’ve been through. They can help us become human “well-beings,” ready to take on more life and liberty and ready to pursue our happiness.”

Yes, gaining those stubborn inches was a surprise. But the good news is that my self awareness has expanded along with my waist! Instead of feeling regret and sadness I now feel an exhilarating sense of joy and possibility.

Since that day I’ve thrown a few more spontaneous private bashes for myself – in a number of different settings. The more I do this this the more I see how valuable this exercise is; how it helps me come to terms with the changes that are happening to me and move forward in positive and life-affirming ways. It’s a very empowering thing to do! So …

Why not throw yourself a little party?

I highly recommend you try a little crossing-over ceremony yourself at this stage of life. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can be fun and funny, like mine was. It can be solo but it doesn’t have to be. It can be shared with friends you can rely on to cheer you through it. As for where it happens ~ BE CREATIVE! If you do try this out and you have the time and the inclination to share I’d love to hear how it was for you!

Oh and one last thing: I didn’t buy a dress that day but I plan to. When I do I’ll post a photo here of the brand new me sashaying in her brand new dress! Or maybe a video, if I’m bold enough!

  • Looking forward to that photo – and please be bold enough for the video!

    • Helen Russell

      Haha Miss Boom Baby. Just what I need. Someone to hold me to my promise! Loving your Ancient Gleek look btw!

  • Keep those jeans. You will get back into them once you body settles down. I wish someone had told me before I gave mine away.

    • Helen

      Hi Judith. Great to connect. Your comment came as a surprise to me as I had no idea my body would eventually settle down! There’s so much we don’t know about this time of life isn’t there. We’re all just feeling our way forward without much direction.