I was at an event created by Reebok to inspire fitness and encourage women to "express your strong." The spokespeople represented a wide range of carefully curated stories and storytellers: ethnic backgrounds, size and shapes, as well as variety of inspiring real life tales were in place. Brands today are careful to choose messages of inclusion, philanthropic ideals and fashionable ideas. I was proud of all these women, loved spending a morning in an active way and adored the new shoes that came with the day. But I was not inspired to express anything.
Mostly because I couldn't see myself reflected in the stories, there was a miss in that curation, since every single person in the room was under 40. No one represented this late boomer. I don't mind being in the middle and I still am "minding my middle," but their stories feel a little been there, overcame that myself past. If you are going to resonate with my generation, you are going to have to add a few layers of struggle and accomplishment. Whatcha got now? Boxing champ Mohamed Ali is famously quoted for answering the question of how many sit ups he does each day with "I don't know, I only start counting when it gets hard."
Well, it just got hard. On top of the personal challenges these brave spokespeople honestly share, my age group's kids are grown with big world struggles of their own that we can't help but to shoulder, our parents need care, finances may or may not have panned out, just like marriages and in terms of our health, "diet and exercise" isn't enough anymore.
There is a massive market out here of women who have crossed the finish line. We are successfully "middle age." A phrase that struck humour in me when I was 20, interest when I was 30 and fear in the 40s. And you know what? It's not so bad, there's lots going for it but there is the downside. We start to see ourselves as outsiders even though we are sitting right in the middle. No I do not want to climb that structure, punch that bag or run for hours like I used to. But I am still hot and I want to stay that way even more than my 30 year old sister does.
Here are just some of the things that matter even more to me now at 50 that are indeed unexpressed features of the fitwear provided:
I want to exercise with my breasts in the correct place and being forced to stay there. THIS is now how I #expressmystrong:
- My pants must hug, not creep nor expose any curve. ANY curve. (I am doing my best to love everyone of them but I do not need them peeking out for public viewing)
- Said clothes must look good on me even more now than before, because "before" I looked good no matter what I wore. (whether I knew it then is a different story)
- My feet must be even more supported now because they carry more weight whether I like it or not and they have walked miles in heels, carried babies on both hips and may even be pulling an extra shift as a caregiver for an elderly parent. So if my feet can be comfortably supported and NOT look like they are 90...well, NOW I am inspired. Now I feel strong.
It will do me no good to rail against the unfairness of it all. I get it; I didn't want to look at an aging face on a campaign when I was 25 either. I wished to see beautiful. Our culture is so obsessed with youth that we forget that aging IS the success story (there is only one other option, and I HATE that one!) I do feel though that it has never been more important to pull our daughters back from the brink of botox at 25 to "prevent" wrinkles, as is the trend. Our culture's scrutiny of weight has created record numbers of people (men included) who are living with disordered eating.
What a brand like Reebok is trying to do is inspire women to change lives for the better. A woman of a certain age who is "minding the middle" is doing that in multiple directions across many generations. She is the role model with an honest voice and stories to tell. She needs to be a beacon that shows a realistic way to look fabulous and feel better during any decade. I can honestly say that I have been doing exactly that as a health writer and nutritionist for quite some time and it is only NOW that it has gotten hard.
Finding my inner Ali, I am only starting now to express my strong.
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