Monday, October 15, 2012

Ah, well...

J and I had a rather enlightening conversation yesterday. She's a widow and I've been post-divorce single far longer than I was married. Since we're of a certain age, we spend a lot of time discussing the strange and odd things our bodies are doing as they deteriorate without our mind's consent. Our conversation this time wound round to the fact that neither of us would be able to enter into an intimate fling at this stage in the game, not because our once taut skin is now wrinkled like an elephant's knees or our once healthy hair shows signs of being chewed by mice in the night or because we might cause permanent physical damage with the swinging bat wings on our upper arms. No, the demise of our night life hinges on the fact that our night life has taken on rituals sure to stymie even the most determined man.

It used to be that we splashed some water on our faces, slipped into something more comfortable, and jumped into bed. Those days are gone forever. As gradually as the wrinkles appeared on our cheeks, so the little bedtime routines grew from slapdash to must do. Now, just getting up out of the chair and into the bathroom takes planning and ablutions include special non-drying, colloidal soaps and emollient rich lotions. There's the anti-aging night cream, the delicate skin eye treatment cream, the spot eradicating hand cream. There's flossing and brushing and rinsing, eye drops, ear drops, anti-ache foot potions that smell like an herb garden run amok and capsaicin cream for aching joints.

Then there's the whole climb-into-bed routine that includes finding just the right sleepwear - old people nightclothes that won't bind or pinch or cling or wedge. Looking sexy has taken a waaaay back seat to being able to turn over under the covers without exposing too much flesh or being tangled, strapped, caught or strangled. The very act of turning over requires strategy because now one's knee pillow must follow along, the head pillow arrangement for the left shoulder does not match the pillow arrangement for the right shoulder, and the whole bed becomes a war zone of arms and elbows and knees as we struggle to alleviate aching hips. There'd be no room for even the most intrepid fellow even if he was willing to put up with the smelly lotions, the shifting pillows, and the fanatic need for absolute dark. 

This must be why one's libido diminishes with age. Imagine having the energy for a spot of hot and bother after all that preparation. Imagine the light of day (or a bedside lamp) shining on what now looks best in pitch black (and the safety of one's imagination). I know, I know, I'm leaving out love and the comfortableness of a long-term relationship and J admits that if her husband was still alive, he'd be fine with all that. But someone new? A stranger, no matter how wrinkled and smelly himself? He'd have to be blind, deaf, and willing to sleep in his own house at night.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creamed and Steamed

borrowed from

 A brightly lit changing room is not an older woman's friend. Neither is the mirror. I'm edging toward dim light in a number of ways!

J and I went on a minor shopping spree the other day. Youngest daughter is getting married at the end of June. J has a lovely skirt she is willing to lend but it needs just the right top - something lightweight and shimmery, not sleeveless, but summery. It has to be the right color (the skirt is two layers of voile in shades of cocoa, cream, and peacock blue), and the right length. Too short and I look like a pot-bellied pig, too long and I look like a dressed up Doric column.

I checked out a gazillion tops, give or take. If one was the right color it was the wrong style. If it fell nicely it was the wrong color. If it fit it was too expensive, if it was the right fabric it was the wrong size. I looked at ruffled blouses with plunging necklines, skimpy blouses with floppy fabric flowers strategically stitched, spaghetti-strapped camisoles under drapey sweaters, pullovers with three quarter sleeves that made me look like a chef applying for a 5 star hotel job, and short bolero type tops that left my second stomach fully exposed.

All that pulling on, buttoning up, and taking off under glaring fluorescent lights in front of a clown booth mirror resulted in a severe case of brooding. On the way home and blouseless (now that sounds just wrong but it wasn't), I moaned to J that I used to look like a string bean. "Now I looked like a cauliflower," I said, patting my mid-section. "A steamed, creamed cauliflower at that." She didn't laugh. Neither did I.

Over the years, along with the wisdom, I've acquired bumps and sags and bags and spots. I've been stretched and bent, pulled and pummeled, dragged and drugged and it shows. J agreed that she, too, had once resembled a potato stick but now was headed for the Idaho baker side of the plate. I averred as how I would really much rather resemble a slender stalk of asparagus but that it seemed a futile goal at this point. "Maybe we should switch to fruits," J suggested. "You could be a poached pear and I could pass for a steamed peach."

Well, okay. I look pretty good in green.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I was winding my wispy blonde-going-on-gray hair on bristly rollers this morning (an exercise in futility since it's raining out and the moisture will take out the curl before I get from the door of my cottage to the door of my car), and contemplating the unfairness of certain aspects of my persona. For instance, instead of having thick, shining, naturally curly locks that tumble in reckless abandon to my shoulders, I have thin, fine, stick-straight hair much the color of mouse fur. I was a tow head as a child, a color I carried right up to the birth of my first child. With each successive pregnancy, the color was leached from my hair follicles and deposited in my child's. All four were white-blonde as small tykes while my own hair began to take on the hue of a winter-dead tree. I've sought in vain for a haircut that is flattering to both my face and my hair texture but hair style magazines limit face shapes to oval, round, heart, and square. Bovine is not listed. Sigh.

Where I've been limited in the hair department, I've been burdened with excess when it comes to my nose and my mammary glands. Photographs show my great grandfather's nose holding a prominent place in the middle of his face, balanced with great bushy eyebrows and an equally bushy mustache. I have been spared the latter two features but my nose is decidedly similar, i.e. too big for my face. And what I wouldn't give to have my blouses and shirts fall straight and smooth to my waist without first stopping to leap off a cliff.

I mention all this because I have been going through old photos for a senior history project at the local senior center. Pairing a senior with a middle school student to talk about what life has been like for the past 60+ years, the project covers nine weeks of memory digging and culminates in a scrapbook of student writing illustrated with pictures of the senior from birth to the present. I keep finding photos of myself as an infant, a toddler, a school girl, a young wife - and I don't look at all like the image in my mind. I do remember, however, bemoaning my looks even then. What was I thinking? And why was I thinking that?

I'd like to think of myself as wiser since I'm so much older but old habits die hard and once I'd fallen into the habit of seeing myself as flawed in face and figure, it became almost impossible to think of myself any other way. Looking back now, I see all my worry over how I looked to others was useless. I wasn't half as bad looking as I thought and most likely, when I look back on photos taken now, I won't be quite as awful looking as I'm imagining now. It makes one wonder when we, as humans, started judging our worth by our beauty and our beauty by someone else's standards.

My mother was forever admonishing me that pretty is as pretty does. I wish I'd paid more attention to her; I'd be stunning by now!