Aesthetic Impact

Strangely, I’m as happy with my body now as I’ve ever been, perhaps mainly because I look better than many women in my age group, better than many younger women, too. The parts of my body that still annoy me—the soft upper thighs, the puckery loose skin that will never get smooth and tight (never was smooth and tight) hardly matter, since, once clothed, no one else sees that. I’ve also almost completely purged myself of the ingrained notion (ingrained by whom? more on that later) that I must look good to others. That “they” (whoever they are) don’t want to see my bulging thighs, my jutting butt. Maybe they don’t. They don’t have to look. Those overweight guys who squat down and flash their nasty hairy ass cracks never worry about the aesthetic impact of their actions. Why should I? Especially now, when I am entering the invisible phase of my life. Not that I was all that visible even as a young woman.
I had been one of the many unremarkable young women. The herd of equally unremarkable men briefly scanned my outline and dismissed me, before focusing on one of the few remarkably beautiful girls. How could I not take that as a slight at the time? How glad I am to have left the meat market realm of high school, college, dating! My positive attributes do not ride the surface of my skin.

(Source: bodyblogbybarb.blogspot.com)

Tags: binders

The Indignities Continue

Fuzzy Logic

I can’t see my armpits to shave them cleanly any longer. In the shower, without my glasses, the focal length between my eyes and pit is my fuzziest. I know I’m a Luddite; I could get it all lasered off if I cared deeply about how it looked, but I don’t. I only continue this pretense of beauty work because my own sweat smell bothers me, is lessened when I shave. That’s it.

One damn thing after another. Now the periodic numbness in my fourth and fifth fingers of my right hand spreads to my thumb, becomes shooting pain, zinging up my neck and down my arm to the elbow. I can barely hold a pencil to write. Yoga and lifting weights become impossible. I soften, atrophy, sink into more pain. Finally, I break down, go to the doctor, ask to be allowed to get physical therapy. My kindly Vietnamese general practitioner, the one who usually just sits and blinks in the flood of words I spew forth, examines me, gives me the referral. I want to be sure he has enough information, not too little. Perhaps I overdo it. He blinks and blinks.
So I go to the physical therapy place on Christmas Eve. That’s the only appointment I could get, and by the time I get there, the pain has lessened. I’ve learned how to sleep to keep it from worsening. The therapist seems a little baffled by my not-very-severe symptoms and I am cast as a bit hysterical once again. Crying wolf. But when is the right time to take my own discomfort seriously? On my deathbed? I keep apologizing for taking up the therapist’s time, explaining how I didn’t want to wait as long as my husband did last year, until he could no longer sleep at all and was gulping overdoses of ibuprofen around the clock. Of course, I say to the therapist, I realize this is at least partially due to the inexorable processes of aging. But part not. Surely it’s postural and I’ll still be able to write, won’t I?  I say, I didn’t want to wait so long that I am hunched and cackling and stuffing small children into ovens. At this, the therapist’s head pops up from her diagrams of human musculature and says, hey, that’s funny. Is that the kind of stuff you write? Fairy tales, I think. I say, No. Humor. Ha ha ha!
When I was young, I saw so many of my cohorts really believed in fairy tales. They were not cautionary for them, but promises.

Wherein I suffer a colonoscopy …

Not Shopping—The Baseline

Then it’s the baseline colonoscopy. Three days before, I have to start the low-fiber diet. Not a pleasure for me. I don’t really like low-fiber foods—white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes—and to be forced by the health professionals to eat as badly as the majority of the American population, to have to get a baseline in the first place because so many people take all health guidelines so skeptically, it burns me up. My bowels are probably glistening pink garden hoses from the all the healthy, low-fat, high-fiber, practically vegetarian eating I’ve been doing since 1999. And yet I must go through all this rigamarole to prove to the doctors that I’m telling the truth about my diet. Because everybody else lies.
I know most people would take this as a license to eat as badly as possible—with the doctor’s seal of approval! I suppose it should feel like a reprieve, like getting out of school early or having an exam postponed, but it doesn’t.
I stay awake for the whole thing. I was right. Not a polyp or involution in sight. I ask the doctor what’s the strangest thing he’s ever found up there. He changes the subject by telling me about the book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. He tells me I did an excellent job on my prep. I am inordinately pleased, a gold star or a smiley face sticker on my medical record. Will they believe me next time when I report my diet? Probably not.

The sandwiched generation is right. I am still taking care of my child while my elders decline. My elders had their kids earlier in life, in their twenties, and thus we the kids were off their hands before they were faced with taking care of their elders. They don’t seem to recognize this conundrum. Their point of view on this is that if they feel they need help, with whatever it is, then I should drop everything and come over. Even if the whatever is the continual search for more furniture and knickknacks. Why don’t I want to go shopping with them any more? their eyes plead. Don’t I love them any more?
Well, that’s not really the question, is it? Yes, I do love them. But no, I don’t want to go shopping with them. I never liked shopping, not when I was a kid, not when they assumed I did, because didn’t I buy something too? Not later either. Still don’t. But when I was younger, I believed I had enough time to do what they liked, and what I liked, so I went along. I only complained a little. Now, although the icy fingers are not as tightly clutched around my throat as they are around theirs, I still feel the finiteness of my remaining time and that if I don’t defend it, they will not respect it.

A Day at the Spa?

Next, at my mammogram, the way the all-female staff tippy-toed around me, as if I were a hand grenade with the pin already pulled, as if I were a nineteenth-century hysteric who had to be babied and pampered! This assumption that menopause has left me unreasonable, hormonal, bereft. As if this brain, this identity I’ve been burnishing for decades, educating, understanding and explaining is a thin curtain over achthonic swamp of rage. These assumptions begin to enrage me. I want to be a “cool customer” like Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking. But their tender treatment of me as a feral beast, or someone for whom the pretense that a mammogram is a day at the spa—a flower, a mint, a thank you note on an intricate glass plate in the dressing room—that this might work is what angers me. Not that having a mammogram is an unwelcome reminder that time will march on, cancer may strike, that or something else, and that my unique collection of cells will cease to exist. As if my temporary presence on this planet somehow adorns it. That is what many women in my age group appear to believe. Such reminders of my mortality don’t bother me. They are what they are. We can all stand to be reminded once in a while.
But I know it doesn’t matter why I get angry at this point. It will be interpreted as a menopausal hormone storm. Any righteous anger felt by any woman at any point in her life can be written off as hormonal—teenaged, pregnancy, PMS, perimenopause, menopause—then total irrelevance. Ageism will take over from sexism as need be.

I should probably get a few of the basic facts down right away—after all, what’s the point in hiding anything any more? Everyone suspects the worst anyway.
1. I am married. This is both true and significant at the same time as it is highly beside the point.
2. I have a 14-year-old son. He is tall and handsome, intelligent and a good student, and he won’t wear deoderant. I just keep the door to his room closed at all times. It’s a funk fair in there.
3. I’m a writer.
4. I’ve never been hungry. I’ve never been unable to find a job if I needed one. Luckily, I’m not looking now.
5. I am both blessed and saddled with a large extended family that both requires and expects my help. I was fine with all that, I had the time and the energy, until my son was born and then their expectations of what I should be doing for my nuclear family began to interfere with my ability to keep helping them (put on a big show for Christmas, say) and that made me realize they wanted me to be a more perfect mother to their grandchildren than they had been to me or my husband. Well, make a choice. I can be your good daughter, or I can be a good mother. I don’t have that super gene (that you don’t have either). Just because you expect me to take up your slack doesn’t mean I have to do it. I’m in the sandwiched generation.
Tree engulfs its defender

Tree engulfs its defender

Studio 10
before Eileen Myles read

Studio 10
before Eileen Myles read

Dottie Lasky, ladies and gentlemen.
Between two confessional poets.
#brooklynpoets

Dottie Lasky, ladies and gentlemen.
Between two confessional poets.
#brooklynpoets

My short story on the interweb!

Vanessa is photo bombed!

Vanessa is photo bombed!