Sixty With a Six-Pack?
BY Robert Levithan
April 19 2010 6:05 PM ET
Recently, I looked at a picture of myself at 37. I remember being so concerned about aging then — I look great and so young. Twenty years from now (or even 10), I will probably look at a picture of me today and think I look great and young. It would be a shame to miss enjoying what I have now ... to have it only in retrospect.
To age gracefully, we need to balance health and vanity. I am propelled by both to take care of myself — and I have had opportunities to explore my attachment to both as well.
Back in 1994, after two weeks in bed with serious AIDS-related pneumonia, I had not “lost my looks,” but I had lost my body. The flesh hung on my thighs. My body had less muscle tone than my energetic 84-year-old father’s. I was tired after walking across my small walled garden in Santa Fe.
I decided to see what I could do about it. I remember doing three push-ups one day, 12 leg lifts the next day, and building incrementally until about a year later I was at the gym when a man approached me and said, “You look like you are in good shape and might be able to give me help with this machine ... ” Only then did I realize that I had fully brought back my body.
A few months ago I saw a dance performance of a piece titled GIMP. The choreographer was working with several “other-bodied” dancers and two or three dancers from her regular company. It was startling to actually be invited to watch a one-armed woman dance a sexy duet with a man with cerebral palsy, a gorgeous woman with one hand, among others. In one section they spoke about being looked at, challenging us to stare, about proudly being their beautiful, different selves. For me, the most confrontative dancer was a man from her company who, to me, looked to have HIV-related lipodystrophy, visible signs of illness, or medication side effects. He was who I might have become. Who I might still become ...