Midlife Defiance

“Are you tired? You look tired.”

I absolutely HATE when people say that to me. If I’ve ever told you that, I’m sorry.

“No, this is just my face,” I reply.

My face does not look like it did 10 years ago. It doesn’t even look like it did 5 years ago. Everything is fine as long as I’m smiling but as soon as my face relaxes, it falls into something resembling Walter Matthau. I’m exaggerating because his face is fuller than mine. I look more like a hairless cat.

walter matthau

I aspire to be Walter Matthau.

hairless cat

But I look more like this.

Something happened to me in my 40’s and despite the tired look of my face, it’s really not all bad. The best way I can describe it is that as I became more comfortable in my skin, my body found its groove. Maybe it’s because I appreciate my body more now than I did in my 30’s. I used to exercise because I wanted my body to be different. Now I exercise because I want to keep it healthy and alive for a very long time.

I use wrinkle cream and diligently cover my grays. I wear sunscreen and I don’t overindulge in much of anything anymore except books (and chocolate, especially if it’s combined with sea salt caramel). I love my thunder thighs and my juicy booty because these thighs take me everywhere I want to go and my husband is a butt man.

But all these years of smiles and laughter, anxiety and sorrow are starting to show like the tattered pages of a well loved book on my face.  Some women would run out and get Botox (I reserve the option in the future) but instead of changing something I don’t like about myself, I decided to celebrate a part of myself that still looks damn good – my body.

I got tattooed.

This isn’t my first tattoo but the first one barely counts. I was 18 and a little rebellious and I got a tiny half moon and star on my shoulder that I never saw because I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.

Then, last year my husband (who has several tattoos) decided to get a tattoo of a bee and I was struck with the urge to get the same thing, this time in a place where I could see it. It’s a good idea if you’re going to get matching tattoos that you choose one that can mean something different to each of you. His bee means something different to him than my bee does to me.

I wrote a post awhile back:

“I’ve discovered that there are two types of bees that fly into the house. One type recognizes her mistake. She flies into the walls, into your hair, into anything that she thinks might be a way out of her prison. She buzzes intentionally and passionately. As hard as I try to get her to fly back out the door she came in through, she fights me every step of the way, almost as if she’s saying, ‘I went through that door already. I know better than to try it again.’ I’ve learned that if I open the kitchen window, she eventually flies out and never looks back.

The other type of bee flies into the house and tamely walks along the counters of her prison as if asking, ‘can I make my home here?’ She inevitably ends up by the kitchen window, barely able to fly and will often quietly die without a struggle. If I manage to shoo her out the window, she hesitates on the sill, paralyzed by some invisible force holding her back. That type of bee almost never recovers from being shoved out the window. She simply doesn’t recognize that she’s free.

…I am not a docile bee. Buzz.”

Someone once told me that tattoos are addicting. As soon as I got my little bee on my arm, I was fantasizing about what I wanted to do next. I spent the first half of my life confused and I complained a lot about what confused me. Now I feel awake and grateful and ok with being confused. And I’ve been feeling a little obstinate lately, like I don’t want to follow all the confining rules I made for myself. Like not committing to something on my body that will last forever. Well, forever isn’t as long as it used to be so if I have these tattoos for another 40 years, praise Jesus and thank you Lord.  It’s not a midlife crisis as much as midlife defiance.

So, I went back for more.


Nope, it doesn’t hurt.


Bees’ll buzz.

tattoo 4

Oh yeah, that makes my face look much better. 🙂

40 thoughts on “Midlife Defiance

  1. It looks very nice on you! I have a small one on my left ring finger of a cross with a heart in front of it. We got matching ones on our 13th wedding anniversary. Since then, my husband has gone on to add one one each calf, one fully wrapped around his right bicep from shoulder to elbow, and the start of one on his left bicep. I like the thought, maybe, but not enough to even spend much time thinking about what it would look like.

    I get those comments about my face too. ‘Course, so does my 14 year old daughter so I’m not sure we can blame it on age! 🙂 And… last comment… I’ve been noticing a greater degree of comfort with myself in my 40s too. It’s kind of nice. Makes up for not healing as fast and getting achy and all that. lol


    1. My 4 year old daughter has my eye circles so I guess I can’t blame age either! My husband has quite a few tattoos and he’s been waiting for years for me to get with the program. He thought I was hot before but now – wowza. 😉


  2. Terrific tattoo – btw you look nothing like Walter!!!

    Why are we all so preoccupied with believing all the hype about looking younger etc. I see some of these “stars” who seem to not age for a while then suddenly you see them and think “Holy Cow – what happened?” What happened is the treatments can’t hide forever and suddenly they look like someone who has had a load of treatment – and I think that is a far far far worse look than someone who is ageing gracefully – or disgracefully with tattoos etc. 😉


    1. Haha! Aging disgracefully – that’s awesome! That’s what I’m going to tell people from now on. I know what you mean about celebrities who look ageless one minute then their real age the next. It’s hard enough to age with a few onlookers. I can’t imagine the pressure they must feel. Thank you for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tattoo…and you look great as well.

    I am too much a coward for getting any ink, and also I would probably die before I come up with something that would be “perfect”…ha ha.

    Lots of courage to do what you did.



    1. Thanks Paul! I think wanting something “perfect” is why it took me so long in the first place. I was afraid risk regret or risk how people would think about me. Then I thought about it one day and those fears were gone. Not sure how it happened but I’m glad it did!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is wonderful Karen! I love your spirit and subtle defiance at what we are supposed to look and be like at our age! You are gorgeous and I think your tattoo is amazing! I’m already thinking about number 2 for me…;-)


  5. Karen, I can so relate to this post! If I could wave a magic want and stop people from saying one thing to me, it would be just along the same lines: “Are you okay? You look angry.” “Cheer up, it’s not so bad.” “Why are you frowning?” It usually has the opposite effect: I am in a perfectly fine mood until the comment makes me self-conscious, and then I AM angry!

    Love that you have a mid-life defiance to this, and thanks for the inspiration… I am totally using that line the next time it happens to me!

    PS…. you are beautiful

    PPS… your tattoo is vibrant, just like you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a beautiful picture of you and a very cool tatoo.
    I have none. I admit i am a bit of a chicken. Some days i feel like i am the only person in the yoga studio without one. But i am also older than most.

    I have a frown between my eyes that comes and goes. I have thought about botox too, but i am generally unwilling to start anything that requires continuous maintenance.

    But i haven’t ruled anything out!



    1. You make a good point about continuous maintenance. The only continuous maintenance I’ve ever managed to stay with is dying my grays. I go through phases with how I feel about my face. My body seems to not be changing much as I age but my face is a different story. I actually had to have a talk with myself where I tried to embrace that looking beautiful does not mean that I have to look younger. I can feel beautiful looking my age. But I want to look like how I picture myself in my head. But did I really ever? Such trivial and self-indulgent concerns. 🙂


      1. That is interesting you say that.
        I also don’t look like I do in my head. I am often surprised to see my reflection. I look more serious than I expect.
        I also dye my greys. That is a necessity!


        1. Haha! My husband took that last picture of me and I made him take about 15 before I found one that looked like how I look in my head. What’s funny is the one he liked best looked nothing like me. Like you, I either look more serious or like ‘Edgar suit’ on Men In Black. They say eye witnesses are the worst. I guess that’s true for how we see ourselves!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Holy moly, Karen, that’s so awesome! Those colors really pop; it’s gorgeous work, truly.
    I love that you were reading Anne Lamott while you got inked. She would get such a kick out of that. (Maybe I’ll tweet her!)

    Oh, and take time to enjoy and appreciate your tattoo and that huge accomplishment (because it really is a symbolic accomplishment) before you start thinking about the next one. You know…take time to smell the roses before you buzz off to the next flower bed. 😉

    xo, c-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! What’s so funny about reading Anne Lamott is that I was able to laugh and cry and feel physical pain all at the same time. It seemed totally fitting!

      I know what you mean about taking the time to smell the roses (or lotus flower in this case). It’s just such a neat thing to look in the mirror and see this beauty on my body. It sets my imagination free. 🙂


  8. LOVE this!
    That tattoo is beautiful, as are you (if you saw a pic of me you’d see why i love your hair….same basic style, tho I am bottle red)
    I am itching to get another tattoo, or more. I know some of what i want but am trying to figure out where. I got my first tattoo very late, actually a few months before i got sober, and i always marvel at how it did not hurt at all. Of course, a water bottle full of vodka might have helped that freedom from pain along a bit. I wanted to get some on my feet, but I was in a parlor expressing that and a guy who was head to toe tats, andI mean everywhere, expressed that the feet hurt the most and that he only had one tiny tat there and never again! LOL.
    Anyway, i love your tattoo, and this has revived my need to get another…soon, soon!


    1. Thank you! I’ve been every color of the rainbow but this is the closest to natural. Well, gray is the closest to natural but you know what I mean. 😉

      I have a feeling I’m going to get more in the future. This one took 2 hours and I spent it reading a big chunk of Anne Lamott’s Small Victories. It really didn’t hurt as much as I expected. I was able to zone out but also lean into the painful moments. It’s kind of like getting my hair washed at the salon. I love how it feels but it absolutely kills my neck. My feet are so thin skinned that I think it would be pretty painful but I guess you never know until you try!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to laugh…I HATE having my hair washed at the salon too! I’ve gotten better at it since yoga, because I have to do so many poses with my neck bent deeply backwards, but there is something about that damn bowl jutting into my neck that makes me crazy!
        And yes, I know what you mean about grey being the closest to natural. I love my red, or should i say “dark auburn” for now, especially when i first do t because then it looks the fakest….i’d love to go some wild color, but tattoos and crazy colored hair might give some people the idea that (since i’m a little old for a mid-life crisis) i’m in need of some senility testing.
        ah well…i’m thinking small and soon….”Be here now” on my wrist along with a yet -to-be-decided image. I will post a pic when it happens.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Karen, I was so touched by this and hadn’t read the original, so I scurried off to do so. There is SO much beauty here, your tattoo included, of course. Thank you for always writing in a way that is so soulful and transparent that your readers can’t help but be touched. You are a beautiful person (face included) with a beautiful heart. May you be blessed, friend, as you continue to bless others.

    With heart,


  10. I am so jealous!!!! It’s freaking BEAUTIFUL! I love the way each of your tattoos have such meaning.

    And I like your face just fine. I think it’s a beautiful face. But I get you. I am the proud owner of a permafrown. I get “smile” all the time. Sigh…

    Congrats on your ink!!! Mid-life defiance. Priceless.



  11. Your tattoo is beautiful. I have a fairy on my shoulder and a blue crescent moon with a black cat sitting above it. I’m thinking of getting a peace sign, I just haven’t decided where to put it yet.


  12. That’s a rockin’ tat, man! :0) I think it’s smart to incorporate a “competing object”. This way, people won’t be so quick to over-analyze you and their eyes will naturally gravitate to your arm. I don’t ever get the “you look tired” bit. But I do get the “Are you ok? Is something wrong?” (And I’m like- “well there is NOW.”

    I feel ya. Also, I have no tatoos! At 45- not a one. I do have a considerably large brand on my right arm though- back from my drinking whiskey days. (Or should I say, daze?) It’s a brand that was fresh off the fire- coat hanger style! There was some sort of a line…and several of my friends were getting them. StOOpid me…had to go get in line. (I have a matching one on my right hiney cheek.) And so gain grene set into in several days later and I had to cut the puss out with a knife- in the shower. Yep. True story.

    I’ve been wanting a tat for 20 years though. It’s really cool that you’re getting one at this age. Rock on! 🙂


  13. I loved everything about this post (and YOU!).
    When you showed me the full tattoo yesterday, it stuck with me…not just the beauty, but the symbolic piece of it. I thought about it off and on through the day and just couldn’t lay my finger on it. The Bee…buzz…Bee…something tickled in my brain.
    Then I remembered it last night and you wrote about it here. Your bee story was one of the first I read of yours and still remains one of my favorites. When I find myself comparing insides to outsides (especially as it relates to writing), I remember your buzzy bee and just get over myself.
    As for Walter Matthau…never in a million years would I have put you two together. You are one gorgeous lady – inside and out!
    Bravo, babe!!


    1. Thank you Michelle! I just gotta keep smilin’. It’s funny because I was terrified of bees for a big chunk of my life. My husband loves bees and I used to freak out when he’d rescue one from the swimming pool with his bare hands. He convinced me that I could talk to bees and politely tell them to stop buzzing around my head and it’s true! It really works. They seem to pick up on calm energy. If you had told me 20 years ago that I’d have bees tattooed on me, I’d have said you were crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He picks them up?!?!?
        This story just keeps getting better and better.
        Because of my garden, I have considered “keeping bees” – but I’m too scared. Perhaps, i’ll try talking to the ones who live here first 😉


  14. Wow! I love it! I love arm tattoos. And you look nothing like Walter or a tired anybody. You look vibrant and alive. Love that you’re comfortable you are in your own skin. This is what middle age brings, and I’m relieved to find it.


    1. Ah, thanks but that’s because I didn’t post a real picture of my “relaxed” face! I remember being in my 30s and telling myself that my best years will be in my 40s. I don’t know why I felt that way but I’m glad to see that it’s true. 🙂


  15. My husband has been trying to talk me into getting a tattoo for some time. I’ve told him that’s something I have to want for myself, and the image itself would have to be something I’ve mulled over for months (at least). Still, it seemed unlikely until a couple of months ago, when I began wondering what I would get … if. My name means “bee,” so this resonates with me. And your comment about being stuck with yours for another 40 years? Heh. Still wondering here. Actually, thinking I might just have an idea … !


  16. Great story. Thanks for sharing. Ink looks great. I want to get a tattoo, wife is fine with it, I am just trying to figure out what and where, and I suspect until I feel strongly about it, I should wait . . .


I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s