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.

Moving Day

red letter dayIt’s odd how the most important moments in our lives are marked. It’s not so much by the grand pageantry of big events, but rather the small details that define our daily circumstances. We just don’t know it at the time. The little moments happen, building a collection of days and weeks that gradually mounts, moving us along until one day we look around and notice we’re no longer standing where we used to be. 

As expected, moving day on campus was a flurry of activity. Anxious parents, faces wrought with concern, clucked and fussed over their newly-minted “adult” children while those same children worked to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. Hard as it was to wrap my mind around it — my nephew was part of this new batch of freshmen at Ohio State. An avalanche of applications, test scores and campus visits now behind him, he met his roommates and unpacked his modest supply of dorm stuff. Class schedule in hand, he seemed set for this monumental First Day of the Rest of His Life. 

Although I’m not his mother, an odd mix of emotions washed over me after we said our goodbyes. As I stood, squinting in the sunlight, watching his broad, grown-up shoulders fade and disappear into the darkness of the dormitory, feelings of pride, nervousness, nostalgia and sadness ran together in a silent churning sea of sentiment. The day he was born naturally leapt to mind alongside flickering memories of massive Lego builds, movie nights, school plays, sporting events and spontaneous trips to McDonalds. 

I felt a smile tug on the corners of my mouth when I recalled the time, just before he left for camp, when he gobbled three cheeseburgers I was sure he’d never finish. The the hot sting of tears followed quickly after the realization that he was no longer that little boy on his way to summer camp and cheeseburgers no longer an effective currency for affection. 

As we drove away I glanced out the window, noticing hundreds of bright-eyed coeds walking and laughing as they unloaded boxes or rested in slanted rays of sun on late-summer lawns — I felt emotion rise up in me once more. Only this time I recognized it for what it was: a beginning. It is the time when everything is shiny and new and the world rolls out in front of you like a warm and welcome ribbon of highway. It was at that moment—that little moment—that I knew it wasn’t the goodbye that was taunting me. No, caught instead in the corners of my mind… was the quiet turning of the page. 

The Non-Traditional Student: Lessons In Irony

EPSON scanner imageAs a “traditional co-ed”—i.e. someone who enters college in the same calendar year that he or she finished high-school—I thought I was so cool walking to the art building in my oversized flannel shirt and shredded jeans while listening to Pearl Jam on my headphones. Yes sir, in the mid-nineties, grunge was in and being between the ages of 18 to 22 was even more so.

The “non-traditional” students were a phenomenon my friends and I could not wrap our heads around. Thus, we enjoyed making fun of them. We thought they were musty, crusty and old and we wondered why in the world they would CHOOSE to put their ancient, arthritic asses on the hard wooden seats in the same stifling lecture halls that WE had no choice but to drag our hung-over selves to at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m.

I mean, they had jobs and houses and families and cars and probably unpronounceable medical conditions and doctor’s appointments for crying out loud! Why did they feel the need to spend their “spare time” with us intentionally exposing themselves to the likes of English Comp, Abnormal Psych or the Geologic History of the Dinosaurs?

I remember at the start of each new semester taking a passing glance around my new classes, trying to get an overview of my fellow attendees while simultaneously looking for hot guys. And each time my gaze got snagged on someone sporting a fanny pack or grey hair, I would roll my eyes in bitter disgust, groaning and dying a little bit more inside. I would be stuck with the know-it-all geriatrics for the better part of five months.

It was incomprehensible. And it was annoying. Because fifty bucks said they were always going to have the answers FOR EVERYTHING. And another fifty said they’d have a nice long-winded story to accompany said answer. AND they asked a TON of questions. It was excruciating. The only saving grace was the possibility that I’d be paired up with one of them for the final class project — since they had, in fact, roamed the earth WITH the very same dinosaurs we were studying. I bet they had some real side-splitters about that ornery, ‘ole Velociraptor.

Imagine now, if you can, the calendar pages flying as I invite you to travel with me briskly into the future to a new chapter called “Irony’s a Bitch” … or “Getting What You Deserve” … or “Here’s To Me and MY Arthritic Ass” … whichever title you like best, go with it. The point is that since I’ve enrolled in a course at a local college of art and design, the irony is not lost on me that I have become the very butt of my own joke. I am the punch line. I am the “non-traditional” student.

I am the one with the answers and the long-winded story to accompany them. I am the one staying after class to ask the professor “one more question” in order to “get my money’s worth.” Yes, I have a job and a house and a family and a car and the pharmacy on speed dial AND I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment this very morning…

But I implore you, Dear Beautiful Young Blonde Coed Who Sits Beside Me With The Bright Red Lipstick and Super Trendy Glasses Looking Stunning Even Though You Are Totally Hung Over… please try to forgive me when I launch into a lengthy story about my recent vacation and the amazing architecture, rich history and Spanish moss of Savannah… For I—the non-traditional student (sans fanny pack and grey hair, of course)—am NOT too old to learn stuff too.

Endurance

woman runningI ran like the wind with a long blonde ponytail bouncing against protruding shoulder blades. My tan body tight and small—clad only in tiny spandex and a good pair of running shoes—nothing jiggled and nothing moved that wasn’t supposed to. Strong, muscular legs carried me wherever I wished to go without protest. My mind was clear and my vision clearer.

Life was far from perfect, wrought with problems some might say… but every piece of pavement passed and punished ‘neath the weight of my thundering footsteps brought me closer to their solutions. They also brought me closer to you. I wouldn’t know for quite a while. Much was still to be uncovered, discovered, experienced and endured. But you were out there. And WE were out there… sitting together on a horizon I could not yet see.

Sifting through the battered box in the basement marked “closet,” I saw the shoes again. Despite the wear and tear, they remain in good condition. I wish the same could be said of me. Today the tiny spandex would barely cover one thigh, the tan has faded and things now jiggle that I never even knew were a part of my anatomy.

Life is good, but far from perfect. It is wrought with different problems than before — of aging and becoming. Yes, you are here now, that much is true. You were a question to be answered… our life together a destination to be reached. For that I am forever grateful. But still, my vision could be clearer. My will stronger… my resolve more muscular. Perhaps I should throw on garments more forgiving, dust off the shoes, slip these older feet inside and lace them up.

After all, much is still to be uncovered, discovered, experienced and endured… out there on a horizon we cannot yet see.

That Picture of Us

To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is true I suppose. But only if you’re counting all the ones that are left unsaid. The things it failed to capture and yet, were present all the same.

That picture of us that sits atop my second shelf only captured a moment. It is a mere sliver in time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

It does not tell of weathered hearts and dusty dreams… of successes or of failures… Nor promises kept and promises broken. It gives no hint toward the future or revelation of the past.

That time I made you laugh so hard you nearly choked to death is nowhere to be seen. The scar on my left wrist I got while running after you is just outside the frame.

Weekends on the water, midnight rides and long, late nights of talking are written behind our eyes but no one would ever know it — were they to pick it up and hold it. Should they ever really, really study it…

That time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

Do you remember? That image on my second shelf? It is the one collecting dust. That picture of us.

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.

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?