Are You Betsy From Brandeis? by
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64 years old

A women I didn’t recognize came up to me after class in the gym last year. “Are you Betsy from Brandeis?” Guess so. Turns out we were classmates, sort of. She had transferred into my class our sophomore year, but graduated a year after me, so I really did not know her. But somehow, she knew me.

I recently Facebook “friended” an old high school chum, someone a year older who had grown up across the street. “Holy moly, you look just like that girl who grew up across the street”, said he, after seeing my profile and other photos. He had seen me once in the intervening 48 years.

It is nice to get that sort of positive reinforcement. But five years ago, standing naked in front of my bathroom mirrors, I didn’t recognize myself. I had always been slender and now could not make that claim. I resolved before turning 60 in 6 months to rectify the situation. On Martha’s Vineyard that summer, I sought out a trainer who worked with me on exercise and diet. I cleaned up my eating habits and worked hard in the gym. Over the course of two years, I took off 18 pounds, joined a gym when I returned to Newton and kept up with a rigorous training program.

I have enjoyed the results until this past year. Time gets the better of us all. My eating habits have slipped a bit and I’ve put on a few pounds, but that is also due to injury. A year ago, I sprained a ligament in my back and had to take it easy for six weeks while it healed. This winter, I did the same on the other side, but worse. Even as my back healed, I felt pain in my left hip. I mentioned this at my annual physical. The doctor manipulated the hip, thought either there was swelling or perhaps a torn labrum and sent me in for an x-ray, then an MRI. No tear, so he assumed it was bursitis and gave me a shot of cortisone to reduce the inflammation. I haven’t exercised in weeks and I see and feel the difference. Age is catching up to me. Someone in one of my classes complimented me just weeks earlier on how strong I was and how consistently I came to class. Ha! So much for that! Also at this physical, I was measured. The doctor claimed I’ve lost 3/4″. Can’t be! That would make me under 5′ tall! Perhaps I just wasn’t standing fully erect. Good grief, I just can’t be that little!

My eye sight is terrible, I can’t see in the dark, have little cataracts growing, but it is too early to operate, so I just have to live with it. My internist said, “Welcome to aging!” No thank you…I am still railing against it, as best I can.

Technology makes everything move faster. It is great that I can stay in touch with my kids, each of whom lives 3,000 miles away, but it also makes me feel inept because I can’t keep up. I haven’t worked “outside the home” in 28 years, so don’t know the latest editors and on-line ways to do things.

On the other hand, I have lived through a fair amount of history by this point and have some sense of perspective. I would like to say about the current administration that “this, too, will pass”. Unfortunately, too much of what is being done can’t be undone in the areas of climate science because the effects are irreversible. We don’t get a “mulligan” on the environment. Same with the Supreme Court appointments, which are life-time appointments, so hang in there Ruth Bader Ginsberg!

I have always tried to keep a positive outlook on life. It helps to keep those pesky wrinkles away. I’ll keep trying that. Below, by the way, is my college graduation photo (it was 1974, so informal shots only). How am I doing?

1974 yearbook photo

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: exercise, diet, perspective


  1. Betsy, this is another great post from you! Of course, I can relate to so much of what you write, particularly about what I call the “slings and arrows of outrageous aging.” I’m so interested to read of your forced vacations from the gym due to physical ailments. I myself am just coming off one of those long breaks from good eating habits and trips to the gym due to my recent surgery. I’m determined to get back into shape again, starting back to the gym today!

    To me, you still look so much like your younger self. Some of us have changed a lot with aging, but you have not, at least in your photos. I hope I get to see you in person again one day, so I can reassure you of that up close.

    Thanks for another great post!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks Steve. I hope you are doing better now, have wondered about your recovery from surgery. Glad you will be back in the gym. I have just returned from Venice with a head cold and long to-do list, so actually don’t know when I will get back to the gym…perhaps not until we get to the Vineyard, which is still a month away. I find it dis-heartening and really do see the difference. My hip feels better, but all the walking in Venice left my back feeling sore…what’s a girl to do? I set my schedule by my gym routine, so am really out of sorts when not doing my regular classes. There is nothing to tie me to a fixed schedule, which is discombobulating. I also hope we can catch up in person. That would be lovely.

  2. Suzy says:

    Great story, Betsy. You look beautiful, then and now. As so often happens, reading your story inspires me to write my own. You are my kindred spirit!

  3. A fine reminiscence, Betsy. I was particularly caught by your remarks about the arc of history that we have all lived through, the distractions brought about by aging in what good fortune and care have brought to longevity. What a long, strange trip it continues to be.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Chas. I keep hoping that the good guys will win this arc of history, if we keep up the pressure. We certainly do live in “interesting” times! Age will always win the personal battle, though I will continue to fight my own battle.

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