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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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Oh, to be 22 Again (or not…)

I recently spent a week away at Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami Florida. In addition to all the fabulous cutting-edge education I got in all things health (more on that to come in later posts), I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of really fun, smart, motivated people. This visit was filled with a very varied group – many of them under 50. A 40-year old woman was there not because of any particular health issues, but because she did not WANT any future health issues (there was a history of heart disease in her family). A 30-something year old woman came to learn what it takes to to eat better and maintain a healthy weight. Others came to arm themselves with the latest information on maintaining optimal health and wellness so they could live their lives going forward as disease-free as possible.

Anyhow, at dinner one night, a big group of us, men and women ranging from 40 to 65, sat around a large round table, discussing age and all its implications. “Would you be 22 again if you could?” asked one woman.

“Yes, of course I would!” I quickly answered. “But only if I could do it with the mind I have today.”

“No! Not that way!” everyone yelled, good-naturedly. “You have to be 22, exactly as you were when you were 22, mentally AND physically.”

As you can imagine, an interesting discussion ensued.

Without knowing us, would you be able to guess what everyone said? What if I told you that the ratio of men to women at the table was equally divided – would you think the answers were also equally divided between the sexes, or instead that our answers depended more upon our ages – in other words, the older we were, the more we wanted to go back to being young again?

As the last person gave their answer, the verdict was in: the men all wanted to be 22 again and the women resoundingly did not. And then, of course, the “whys” and “why nots”were fervently discussed.

As I sit here now reflecting upon that night, I’ve come upon some illuminating truths. The men relate being 22 with vigor and strength and undeniable virility. That’s what they miss; that’s what they want back.

The women? They all, including myself, feel that 22 was wrought with uncertainty, vulnerability, a certain degree of helplessness and lack of direction. We all - despite the possible health-related issues that invariably come up with age and the extra weight and wrinkles we may carry - feel were are in an improved place now, with so much more knowledge and certainty. We all feel we are justly evolved – and through (and perhaps despite) the rigors of youth, we have become who we are today. And we like it here.

Interestingly enough, in a survey last year by American Laser Centers of 62 percent of baby boomers, it was found that almost a third believed they look ten years younger than they actually are – and more women than men thought they looked younger than their years. (Okay, no jokes about us being near-sighted, please).

That study leads me to question another angle: maybe, just maybe, women don’t feel their age as much as men do.

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