Making Peace With Gravity?

apple tree

I probably shouldn’t be, but sometimes I get jealous of the fresh-faced, smooth-skinned twenty-somethings I see walking about. Tan and toned in shorts and tight vintage tees, they flip-flop around reminding me that once upon a time, I too filled out a pair of short shorts like they do. In fact, watching them only succeeds in making me painfully aware of the fact that gravity is most certainly winning in the epic battle of Me vs. It.

As forty looms large, hovering ominously on a not-so-distant horizon, all I need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded that nothing stays the same for very long. I can’t help but notice every new crease, line, wrinkle, dimple or dent that forms in my reflection as everything continues it’s relentless march southward. It’s so much easier now to get depressed thinking of times I looked better, felt prettier or had the stamina of the Energizer Bunny without any help from Starbucks.

However, (and this is a BIG however) if I were to be REALLY honest with myself about those alleged “better” times, I’m fairly certain I was unhappy with my appearance back then too. Surely it’s a losing battle entertaining thoughts that I was also miserable at a time when I should have been THRILLED that all the important parts remained solidly north of the equator. But it DOES beg the question: Am I EVER going to be happy!?

I’d love to find the answer. I know my mother would too as it’s a question she’s been asking me since the first Bush Administration. Someone older and wiser than me, please tell me this is something I’ll learn to do in my 40’s!?  I’m begging you, because as I come to grips with the fact that gravity IS going to win in the end and my knees (among other things) are NOT EVER climbing back to where they were a decade ago, I need to believe that peace is possible. Please tell me that at some point in the near future I will be able to shake hands with my reflection and sign a peace treaty with gravity — or at the very least declare a ceasefire.

Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

Responsible Non-Parenting?

Biologically speaking I’ve not been dealt the winningest hand when it comes to reproduction. I’ve known for many years that children are most likely not in the cards for me. And even though it has, at times, been a bitter pill to swallow… I’m coming to terms with it as time goes by.

I’ve begun to think of myself as a non-parent, both now and for always. So it caught me by surprise to be recently asked by my physician whether or not I plan to have children anytime soon. Looking ahead to a wedding and a marriage, I suppose it was a perfectly reasonable question to answer.

But before I answered his question, I asked one of my own. “Look. I am staring straight down the barrel of 38.” I said very matter-of-factly as though he wasn’t already aware of my “advanced age” as he sat there staring at my crow’s feet with my chart and entire medical history in his lap. “At what age does it become irresponsible for me to have a child, Doc? How old is too old?”

He looked at me, slightly taken aback by my inquiry. After a brief, awkward pause he launched into a mini-sermon about how many “less than ideal” mothers are out there raising children. Some of which are very young, very immature or who lack the proper resources to care for a child. And if I am even questioning my age as a potential concern — then I am exactly the type of “responsible” person who should be having children if I wished to do so.

But you see that’s just it. I’m not sure whether or not I “wish to do so.” Biology aside, I’ve considered myself a non-parent for so long that I’ve become rather attached to the lifestyle. You know the one. It includes (but is not limited to) sleeping in, watching what I want on TV, eating meals that are not square, taking trips whenever and wherever I want to and having exorbitant amounts of “ME” time during which to ponder potential world domination.

I have watched as my friends disappear—one after the next—into the matrix of motherhood. I stand at the edge watching them dissolve into the mystical world of two a.m. feedings, car seats, play dates, Sippy cups, Cheerio containers, sleep deprivation and constant sitter hunting. And it scares the crap out of me.

My mother (along with just about everyone else) tells me that it is different when it’s your own and I’m sure that it is. But perhaps it is not only more “responsible” of me, but truly best for all concerned parties if I were to stay right where I am—on the outside of the Mommy Matrix—wrapped up in my down comforter with the remote, some travel guides and a really, really good bottle of wine.

More (or less) Glamorous?

I still remember the first time I heard mention of More magazine. A relatively new publication in the early 2000’s, it’s name was invoked during a meeting with a publisher I was working for at the time.

“I want our new magazine to have the look and feel of More” he said, scanning the room for some sort of a response from his nearly-all-female editorial and design crew. Being unfamiliar with it, I rushed to the nearest Barnes & Noble during lunch, bought a copy and quickly discovered that it was a women’s periodical aimed at the over-40 crowd.

I hung on to the issue for months while we developed concepts for our newest publication but admittedly… I never actually READ the articles. Personally, I was barely squinting at the big 3-0 on my horizon line at the time so the notion of topics such as wrinkly neck skin and finding the perfect “age-appropriate” power suit weren’t even remotely on my radar, much less my mind. 

Having indulged—for almost two decades now—in Glamour as my go-to guide for style, advice and articles to which I can relate, I remember sitting in my office (on my perfectly-sculpted, gravity-defying derriere) and scoffing at the idea that I would ever want or need to refer to “that” particular periodical in order to find some form of common ground in printed media.

However in the last two years, whilst flipping through issue after issue of what appears to be an ever-growing population of 20-something models of perfection, I have begun to notice a few disconnects between myself and my Glamour

For one, the faces peering out at me from between the pages look younger and younger with each passing month. Also, when I see a color, outfit or style that I like my first thoughts are NOT… “How can I re-create that look?” Or… “How can I get my hands on that?” But rather… “Could I even pull that off? And if I could somehow manage to pull that off… would I look ridiculous like I’m trying to be 25 again? Where would I even find it?” And… “How much does it cost? Couldn’t I buy a nice new piece of lawn furniture for that price?”

Another clue indicating that perhaps I am no longer Glamour-girl material is that the articles are increasingly failing to meet my editorial needs. Instead of learning how to properly exfoliate, get him to call the next day, manage a monthly budget or balance a checkbook — I’d like to know how to keep the skin around my knees from sliding any further toward the floor, help him to appreciate the true value of feng shui living and effectively manage a 401k in a volatile market.

See what I mean? Disconnects. Me and my not-so-much-gravity-defying derriere are no longer scoffing. For we are slipping further and further from the carefree, I’ve-got-my-whole-life-ahead-of-me-so-who-cares-if-I-make-a-few-stupid-mistakes-and-poor-decisions, youthful grasp of the bronzed, toned, air-brushed zygotes now gracing the pages of Glamour and slowly—but surely—being beckoned by the section of the newsstand that houses More.

THEN…

… AND NOW?

Slow Learner

I rolled my eyes in bitter disgust at my reflection in the rearview mirror. I was, as many women do, taking in one final overview before heading out.

And let me tell you that yesterday’s “overview” was not so bright. In fact, if ever there were a day to Photoshop one’s own face… this was it.

With one blemish on it’s way out but still lingering over the threshold of my cheek and a brand-spanking-new shiny one announcing it’s rude and unwelcome arrival, I was not in the greatest of moods.

Add to those two little dermatological gems the half-inch evidence mark of what is now being referred to as the “curling iron incident” from two days prior and yes… I was disgusted.

Really? I am 37 years old. I am starting to get laugh lines and on occasion, a few grey hairs at my temples. I SHOULD NOT still be getting pimples and I most certainly SHOULD know how to handle a searing-hot hair implement by now. In fact, shouldn’t there be a law that zits and wrinkles NOT be permitted to occupy the same space? I know I’ve brought up that issue before! UGH.

Strolling down the center aisle of the local drug store I spotted a former classmate I’ve not seen in at least 18 years. I immediately became entranced by a bin of $4 DVDs — sifting through them with great care and reviewing the plot summaries with unbelievable laser-like focus.

Once he passed by I moved down the aisle in search of what I’d come for. “THAT was close!” I said to myself and pressed on. “Hopefully I can slip out of here unnoticed and spend the remainder of the day locked up safely in the house, praying for the pimple cream and neosporin to work their medicinal magic.”

On my way to check out, a woman about my age caught my attention. The first thing I noticed about her was her height. (Standing at a whopping 5’2″ I am intrigued by any female over 5’7″) The second thing I noticed was the manner in which she was holding her head up high as though searching the store for her spouse or child.

It wasn’t until I got much closer that I noticed the skin grafts. They covered her entire face. I was quick to look away as I did not want to stare, but as I turned away I felt heat spreading up through my neck and cheeks as I flushed at my own ridiculous vanity.

“Reality check girl.” My inner voice then said to me. How dare you be so self-absorbed and obsessed with a few stupid temporary blemishes that no one would even care enough to notice when it could—in reality—be so much more than that!

I’ve shared posts similar to this one in the past… but obviously I am a slow learner. I’ll likely never know her story or her name, but hopefully the image of her standing tall, head held high and fearlessly facing the world around her is one not soon to be forgotten.

“Youthful beauty fades with time, but, with cultivation, inner beauty grows richer.”

Cardboard Time Capsules

Unpacking after a move can often feel like the opening of a time capsule. There are pictures, clothing and miscellaneous items—all from another time in history—packed into boxes you long forgot existed. When you inevitably uncover them you find yourself transported back to that moment… that week… that summer… that period in your life when things were vastly different.

Perhaps they were better times, perhaps they were worse. Perhaps you are overcome with feelings of nostalgia, joy, surprise, grief or even relief that you are now sitting exactly where you are sitting at this particular moment in time. No matter the emotions that may wash over you, one thing will almost always be certain: Life looks different than you thought it would back then.

This week Lee brought in some boxes from the garage where we are still storing and sorting through my things. One of them contained a photo album, several envelopes with loose photos and a few cards and letters. He asked if he could look at the album and of course I said yes as I pulled my chair along side his in order to get a good look myself.

It was an album I put together of the summers I’d spent working on a dude ranch in Colorado during college. I was happy to see that although the photos were nearly 17 years old, I didn’t look radically different than I do today… minus a few laugh lines and crows feet. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact that Life hadn’t really touched me yet. In those images, Life and Circumstance had yet to ruffle my youthful feathers. Or trip me up and skin my knees.

Back then I operated under the naive assumption that the worst that could happen was a bad hair day, a rained-out horseback ride, accidentally calling a guest by the wrong name or a few broken dishes. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Though I wouldn’t trade my then child-like idealism and ambition for anything. I would learn soon enough that the world wasn’t fair and sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them.

We all do, eventually.

After we got done looking at the album and he got up and turned his attention to something else, I lingered over that box of photos and letters—this cardboard time capsule—and I looked at more images of times when I was younger, thinner, prettier, tanned and toned. And honestly, the thoughts and feelings they conjured up have been tumbling around in my head for days. Only now are they coming out through my fingers on the keyboard as I share this with you.

Truth be told I envy that girl and yet I remember that EVEN SHE occasionally thought (waaaay back then) that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or good enough… yet. She thought that ONE day—when she was older—she would come into her own and everything would be perfect. Everything would be just as it should be.

Well, here she is. Here I am. That “one day” has arrived and you know what? I’ve decided after peering inside of my time capsule, that since I can’t go back and fix her unattainable aspiration for perfection… I can fix mine. I can live in THIS moment, enjoying all that I have right now, promising to always try and stay present. But most of all… no matter how many more time capsules I uncover in this lifetime… to stay grateful for all that has been and currently is.

To Be or Not To Be… Carded

There comes a time in every woman’s life when they just stop asking. And unlike the fantasies we may have entertained when we were 16 or 18, it turns out it really isn’t all that great a feeling.

We spend our under-aged “kitten years” wishing we were old enough to wander casually into a grown-up establishment, brimming with cool confidence, make eyes at the handsome bartender and seductively order something “neat,” “dirty,” “extra dry,” “shaken, not stirred” or “on the rocks” like it’s our job. In other words… we can’t wait to be viewed as independent, mature members of society.

But in reality… when that magical times comes when we CAN wander casually into a grown-up establishment, brimming with cool confidence, make eyes at the handsome bartender and seductively order something “neat,” “dirty,” “extra dry,” “shaken, not stirred” or “on the rocks” like it’s our job… we sit there secretly praying he will ask to see our I.D. In other words…  we hope to be viewed as that long-gone “kitten,” perhaps not even old enough to grace the place with the innocence of our presence.

And the “eyes” we make at him, well… they are one of two varieties… the pleading or the daring. Pleading with him: OH PLEEEEEEZE ask to see my I.D. you know I can’t possibly be older than 21, don’t you? Or daring him NOT to ask, thus threatening his very life on what might happen next. If NOT carded (gulp) we are likely to fling ourselves across the bar, grab his towel and strangle him with it for so much as THINKING we are so obviously “of age” that we aren’t even worth the asking.

The only time… THE ONLY TIME that I DO NOT want to be carded is when I’ve forgotten my I.D. Which is, of course, as Murphy’s Law clearly states… the exact moment the poor bastard will ask. This happened recently after an Ohio State game and Lee was concerned that I would not be permitted anywhere without my I.D. Not because I look that young, but because they were college bars and college bars tend to be ultra cautious. But we played the whole “Guess Who’s More Likely To Let You In Without An I.D. Sociology Game” and chose the right bouncer… and it worked. And I got in. That time.

Had they not let me in, I was going to execute a new strategy where I put my face up REALLY CLOSE to the person making the judgment call that was going to effect the entire rest of my evening and ask them whether or not my crow’s feet would be an acceptable form of identification.

Poor bartenders and bouncers. It must be tough to be them… dealing on a daily basis with women perched ever so precariously on the edge of sanity as we wrestle with this whole getting older thing. But here’s an FYI… I am 36. Yes 36. Fifteen freakin’ years beyond the legal limit, and far from being considered a “kitten” but I still want to be asked if for no other reason than to flatter my ancient ass. For what it’s worth… There’s an additional 20% in it for you if you do.