|Not a self-portrait...|
J called this morning to say she'd caught a glimpse of her bare arm ("It looked like chicken skin, all puckered and white!") and she was suddenly depressed. It put me in mind of my mother who, in her fifties, stopped wearing sleeveless blouses.
"Aren't you hot, Mama?" I asked her as I helped her weed the garden one July day while the sun beat down on us like a sledge hammer. She was wearing a shirt with loose sleeves that nearly reached her wrists.
"Yes," she'd said, "but I can't show my arms any more. Look," and she'd pulled back her sleeve and held up the offending appendage. The skin in the fold of her elbow was all crinkled and soft while the muscle she used to show off proudly looked as though it had slipped from its mooring to hang upside down from the underside of her upper arm. She pulled the sleeve back down. "They're not fit to look at anymore," she said with a sigh.
I told this to J and she laughed. "Not much of me is fit to look at anymore," she said before she hung up. I knew just what she meant. Not much of me is either. I've never considered myself really vain though I used to take pains to make sure my hair and clothes were fashionable. Lately though, I've taken to letting my hair grow out until it's long enough to donate before getting it styled and my clothes are geared more toward comfort than haute couture.
I've started to wear longer sleeves in the summer as well, and to make sure the only people who see me in a bathing suit already know and love me, wrinkles, sags, and all. My arms look like something left out in the rain too long and my upper legs are mapped like an atlas with small, broken veins. The skin on my face seems to have taken on a life of its own. There are new lines every week and I noticed this morning that my drooping upper lids may soon be meeting the puffy bags underneath, akin to the way my bosom will meet my belly when I sit if either sags another jot. How on earth did I get so out of shape, or worse, into this shape?
Partly it's a change in lifestyle, partly it's more food than exercise, and partly it's the pull of gravity on weakening skin and muscles. At this rate, the inexorable weight of our own bodies and gravity combined will cause both J and I simply to puddle onto the ground like discarded garments. Each time we catch our breath from laughing ourselves silly over some new insult of age, we promise each other to make a greater effort to get ourselves fit, or at least more fit. Neither of us is particularly sedentary - she is a farmer's wife and I chase second graders around all day - but I've recently begun to walk daily again as I did in my youth, and she has taken to lifting more and heavier things about the farm in an attempt to shed some of our excess weight. And I'm seriously considering cutting my hair short if it will take some of the weight off my puckered forehead and hence, my descending eyelids...