I fell off a cliff at forty. One day I’m me, and then poof, forty happened and I feel like the me I knew is slowly being replaced by an old woman, one cell at a time. Like a tissue-papery shroud is covering me up layer by layer. I tell this to my twenty-something friends through clenched teeth when they nasally whine about “getting fat” and yet still manage to rock that hideous new style of half-shirts becoming vogue again. For them. Because they didn’t even exist in the 80’s. Megaphone: Madonna did it first, you idiots!
I would like to organize my thoughts from head to toe and share what my traitorous body has been up to lately.
It’s all over the place. I used to have this stick-straight, dishwatery blonde hair, but stylists would always tell me, yes you have baby-fine hair, but you have A LOT of it. Plus the world didn’t really know it was dishwatery because as soon as I discovered highlights in the 80’s, I’ve been an illegit-blonde. And this was in the 80’s, when in order to achieve highlights you had to don the torturous swim-cap-of-doom. With all the little holes in it. Through which my too-dark strands would be excruciatingly pulled-through with a metal chrochet hook device over a number of tearful hours, until they could be introduced to their life-long friend: peroxide. My teal-colored mascara would run in rivlets down my face. I’m a tender-head.
But soon, however, I won’t need all that. I either won’t have any hair at all, or the ones I do have will be white anyway. So, after 40 my baby-fine hair went so fine, you have to squint to see the strands. And new-on-the-scene (for me at least, because I have been bleaching for decades) are the white hairs. They are easy to catch with one glance in the rear-view mirror on the way to work because they grow straight up and are like thick steel wool. I spend time at stop lights plucking them out, until somebody honks at me because the light turned green.
It also feels like what I have left is disappearing. Yes the strands are finer, but handfuls of them come out every day. Soon my hair will be on the endangered species list, or on the sides of milk-cartons. It may also be thinning at the temples. Hard to say. Its so thin already. When I used to be able to wear straight hair without much thought, I now spend more time using a curling wand on the remaining strands just to puff them up and create some amount of body. What a pain in the ass. But without this effort I’m pretty sure my hair looks like Golum’s. All three strands.
I’m angry now. With that thing they call The Eleven between my eyes. I could be having a perfect day thinking about puppies and Gerard Butler, but then I catch a glance of my expression in the mirror and it appears as if I am holding some kind of grudge match. And that is At Rest. You should see it when I actually AM concentrating. It’s the bloody Grand Canyon up in there.
And then there are the rogue hairs.
Women speak of them in hushed tones after 40. But while we are busy losing the hair on top of our heads, the body is sending them out in singles to sprout from random locations like a follicle mine-field. This is why the world finds us with a magnifying glass combing over every inch of exposed skin with tweezers in hand hunting for that rogue agent, because God-forbid we miss one and then, after a dinner with mixed company we return home to find some long tentacle hanging from our chin! Which explains the lack of eye contact during dinner. It seems they never appear in quite the same place twice, and so we play this hellish game of whack-a-mole every morning with our twenty-dollar tweezers. Hey, right tool for the job.
I’ve heard about Marionette Lines and that they shall appear on the scene in my near future. Then I’ll be a puppet. Performers will be able to throw their voice, and it will come out of my own mouth. That will be weird. I see the shadowy presence of these lines in really bad light sometimes. They are coming. I’ll let you know where my puppet act will be booked, maybe it will be a huge success on YouTube and I’ll be able to quit my job.
Although I still get carded in bars, now I get to scoff when I hand over my ID and just say, “you know…I wear BIFOCALS.” Yeah, the eyes went after I went back to school and changed careers. I’m a nurse now. Hey 20-somethings…that’s something old people sometimes do. So while you’re bitching about how hard it is just starting out in life, some of us willingly just. Go. Back. To. School. Because we want to!
Wrinkles. Fine ones. They arrived. For my 40th birthday my best girlfriend gave me Botox. Loved that shit. The Eleven just melted away for a few months. But I was in school and broke and didn’t keep up with it. So its back now. In my early 30’s I remember being all judgy about superstars and their botox / plastic surgery antics. Now I say, “Never say never!” I’m leaving that door WIDE open. Many of my peers have already been through it and more power to them. Through some very kind genetics, people say I look way younger than 40, so I haven’t really bothered with any of that. Yet. But I reserve the right to any damned time.
Turkey Neck. Doom. Doom. Doom. I remember my grandmother didn’t speak to her best girlfriend at the Senior Center for MONTHS after that woman pointed out how gram’s neck “was so much wrinkly-er than mine.” That bitch. Now that I see what this hideous fate could do to my fragile self-esteem, I understand why scarves were invented. Hello Diane Keaton. And if I could flux capacitor back in time, I’d go bitch- slap that woman who made my gram cry.
Man I had great tits. I was a coltish young girl who bloomed a nice pair early. Turned heads for decades with those girls. Always high. Perky. Out loud I’d complain about the men who couldn’t make eye-contact with me, but secretly I’d be like, “Yeah…they’re pretty great.” The three of us had some good times.
Gravity’s a bitch of a mistress. Ask my double-D’s. I’ll wake them for you, they’ve been having a little nap under my armpits as I write this. Pencil test?! Bwahahahahah! I could hide a sandwich up in there.
Just before I started nursing school and while I still had health insurance I decided to get caught up on Preventative Care. Yes 20-somethings. Another thing old people do while you’re busy sunning your tight bodies covered in tanning oil. Enjoy it. It won’t last. Soon you’ll be having MAMMOGRAMS. I got what was left of my boobs squished to make sure cancer wasn’t in them and they never fully regained their shape. Well, that isn’t quite right, because I asked to take a look at my films when the test was over and gasped at the white masses showing up beneath the nipples. Worried, I asked what I was looking at and she said casually, “Oh that’s the breast tissue that gives you fullness and shape…you lose it as you age, see here above the nipples where there isn’t any?” In that moment icy cold water splashed all over me in my head. Yes I DID see! Or rather I HAD noticed the appalling lack of fullness at the tops of my boobs. And now I had a scientific explanation as to why my tits were destined to look like deflated balloons three days after a party. Nice.
And that is why I don’t judge any of my friends who get their tits done. Theirs look great. Perky. And full.
That may be a present to myself someday. When I’m sick of my boobs looking sadly down at the floor. And when I’m tired of all the false advertising that a good Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Bra can do. It misleads the men I say.
I think I’m evolving into a flying squirrel. That is all.
A drooping bowlful of jelly is my belly. Testimony to childbirth and years of yo-yo dieting. As a teen I used to lie in the tub and all I would see was two hip bones and this lovely concave dip which would fill with water. I was a skinny young woman.
Years later I was swimming with my equally skinny son. Well, he was swimming. I was floating on my back and contemplating the blue sky. He asked me to teach him how to float on his back. I taught him he had to fan his arms and legs slowly while trying to keep his lungs semi-inflated. And relax. He sunk like a stone. Zero body fat. And this tableau reminded me that I too was once a skinny kid and had trouble just floating on my back. But years and many pounds of fat later, I’m a fucking buoy.
My only consolation is if the world ever runs out of food, I’ll be like a grizzly bear with plenty of fat stores to survive on while the skinny people die off.
I used to have quite the ass. Made for slapping. In the perfect painted-on jeans. My badonk-a-donk turned heads. It’s still there, but its super-sized. Certain slices of culture are probably still attracted to my generous ass. Black men. Hispanics. I hear the occasional whistle.
Every so often I go on a health spurt and take up running. Again. My ass bounces along behind me. When I stop, it keeps going. My cue, I suppose, that I’m not there yet and must keep running.
You know you are joining the ranks of Those Who Age when you begin complaining out loud about aches and pains. After a 12-hour shift my knees and low back are screaming. Yeah I entered a field that is hard on the joints, and I did so after forty, so what was I to expect? But it also has something to do with the abuse I put my body through when I was a young idiot and would never die. Skiing accident primarily. But also being bucked off horses. Being the cheerleader always on the top of the pyramid. Crashing sports cars. You name it. Those stages of growth and development are bang-on…the young are all about risk- taking. And I took ‘em.
Now. I pay.
THE LADY PARTS
Another friend of mine, also over 40, inquired one day if I thought my labia had aged. I think I was driving and almost crashed the car. What..WHAT?! I said I didn’t think so but really couldn’t say for sure. I asked her to elaborate. She said that one of the worst signs of ageing for her was grey hairs down there. Plus, she said her labia had gotten less…plump.
A part of me was still listening to her but also wondering hey…how come its so easy to lose weight in the lady bits and I can’t shave a few pounds off my ass??
As a nurse I’d like to warn the general female population about what CAN happen to our parts: as some women get older, their insides decide they want to be on their outsides! YES! It happened to an older woman in my family!! (Not you mom.) I guess her uterus wanted to do some traveling in later life and decided to come outside. The actual term is called a Protracted Uterus. Something about loss of muscle tone, ligaments, etc.
This is another scenario in which I would likely blow myself up.
This week I was in an exam room with an ER doctor and together we were examining a woman with abdominal pain. Possibly really bad menstrual cramps. He asked her if she had ever heard of Kegal Exercises. She said no. He glanced at me for help, but I just raised my brows…wanting to know what this young man would say next. He mumbled, “its something to do with tightening your muscles…you know…down there.”
Good one doc!
I just grabbed her hand and said, “It’s when you tighten the walls of your vagina progressively higher and higher, envisioning an elevator going up and then down.” (I think I learned that in childbirth classes). The doc beamed at me, “Yes! I have never heard such an excellent description of this!” I had to just shake my head.
You, fine sir, must get this teaching out to ALL WOMEN! So their PARTS DON’T FALL OUT!
You ever made a pinata? No? Blow up a balloon and cover it in layers and layers of tissue paper soaked in flour and water. This is what I mean when I say my pretty 20-something girl’s beauty is fading, layer by layer, under tissue-papery, sun-damaged skin. It was the 80’s people! We were ALL basting in baby-oil and burning ourselves to a crisp in the sun!
My best friend used to grab my younger hands and say she wished she had pretty ballerina hands like mine. Long nailbeds, slim graceful fingers, dainty wrists. The same with my feet. I have always had compliments on them. Little, cute feet they said.
It all goes to shit in the end, doesn’t it?
As nurse I can take a lot of revolting things: vomit, blood all over me, gaping open wounds. You name it. What I cannot take, my weak link, are Old People Feet. The elderly are always coming to see me in the ER. And I will uncover their feet to feel for pulses. And I will attempt not to throw up in my mouth. Gnarled, flaking, chicken-feet, with curled yellow toenails. They put me over. the. edge.
What I want to know is when will my still-cute little feet become this way? I have considered taking a photo every day of them, in a time-lapse photography experiment, just so I can identify when they have “turned.”
It is already becoming evident my hands will go first. More exposure to the sun and harsh chemicals. Call them what you will: if you were my gram they are “liver spots,” my mom calls them “age spots” – even if I only call them “sun-damage” I still have these ugly brown things on the backs of my hands. Not so surprisingly, mostly on my left hand, from years of driving with my arm hanging out the window, baking in the sun.
I take my zillion-dollar anti-aging cream and after liberal application to my face and neck, I slather it also over my hands. Because whats the point of having a perfectly preserved face if you have these gnarled, nasty claws for hands?
I could go on for pages more but I’m sure you are now as demoralized as I am after this tour of my 40- something body. Somehow its still “good enough” to attract male attention, even 20-30-something men, putting me firmly into Cougar Country. But its going, day by day. Like slowly donning Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. This is why my other gram would grab my hand as she slowly descended into Alzheimer’s Disease and look me in the eye and say “Never get old!” She did this over and over, because of course she forgot she told me already. This is why losing my mind is actually my greatest fear…I can come to terms (I think) with the assaults of time on my physical body. Uterus drops out? Didn’t need it anyway! But the mind….? BOTH of my grandmothers lost theirs. And this is my pact with the world, here in writing. You see me starting to lose mine…do me a favor:
Blow me. THE FUCK. Up.