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 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.

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Comment by Anna Blake on September 15, 2014 at 9:19pm

Jackie, One of my brit followers calls it 'saggy bits'. Sounds so nice put that way! Thanks everyone, for the comments. I don't recognize myself either, Darla. But the bottom line, it just isn't the worst thing.

Comment by Mandy on September 15, 2014 at 6:39pm

Happy Birthday! Congratulations on celebrating, as we all should! Looking forward to the day my skin doesn't need to be so tight.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on September 15, 2014 at 9:00am

Ah yes, the sagging skin. 

But the horses seem to see my sagging skin as a reason to relax.  Whatever nonsensical (to the horses) demands I make they rarely demand, uh, "exciting movement."  Since I finally learned to time my aids correctly I rarely cause my horse discomfort in the mouth, ribs and back.  I am often content to just sit on a horse while the horse has a good, long look at something off in the distance.

The horses I ride LIKE me having saggy skin.  People?  Who cares.  It is the horses that are important.

Comment by Darla McKean on September 12, 2014 at 4:36pm

DITTO, sometimes I forget how old I am, and then I pass a mirror with my glasses on and ask myself "who is that person staring back at me". But the years have been more wonderful than I could have imagined and all the richer for my two and four-legged friends :)

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