Friends, please humor me as I lament the inconveniences and inconsistencies of middle age.
You are certainly aware of the clichéd hot flashes, the frequent moodiness, and the biggest affront of all: “mentalpause”.
Surely you recognize the symptoms: not quite dementia, not quite drunk, as in, ‘Why did I walk into this room?’
Perhaps you yourself or a loved one have had a brush with “meno-brain”?
Starting a sentence only to…. wait, what was I saying?
Needing your glasses to find your glasses?
Forget that (consider it done), what about the physical changes? Your body, your hair?
What happened to the thick flowing locks that now lie limp? The bouncy ‘do that once was effortless now takes hours to color, crimp and cajole into shape. Way too much time is spent at the coiffure. I’m embarrassed to admit that I know the birthdays and college majors of my hairdresser’s daughter, the receptionist’s son and my colorist’s husband.
Hair part two: what are all those grays and why are they showing up there? Forget the skunk that creeps across my scalp just days after my color application. My eyebrows that once matched Brooke Shields’ in thickness and hue are now peppered (or rather salted) with white. Folks still admire my arched brows but only if they are standing across a crowded room and cannot see that I’ve painted by numbers and connected the dots with a black Sharpie.
To think that as a girl I ran home crying after my neighbor Eddie Berman taunted, ‘Mimi has wall to wall eyebrows’. Ah, those were the days.
Have you detected the appearance of a “meno-pot”? You know, that unhandy spare tire that keeps you afloat in the kiddie pool long after the kids have grown? It’s unseemly to blame it on ‘baby weight’ when those babies recently purchased their first home and are paying a monthly mortgage.
You are no doubt aware of The Dreaded Four B’s: Back fat, Bra overhang, Bat wings, Butthighs. That’s right, butthighs; one entity, one big embarrassment.
There must be ways to camouflage, but unfortunately the creators of “bridge” lines at department stores offer only one look: Square.
I could bet my last dollar that Eileen Fisher’s ancestors were either fishermen or first aid workers. Have you ever seen so much netting and gauze? They aren’t clothes, they’re bandages. Swaddling for grown-ups.
What about Lafayette 148? Surely they outfitted Mrs. Gumby on her wedding day and filled her entire trousseau with their designs. 148 must refer to the articles of clothing you have to try on before finding one that flatters.
I can no longer bear the contradictions. So what if my body is heading in one direction? Can’t I pull it back to the present, if not the recent past?
Just because I’m a “woman of a certain age,” must I be exiled to the Land of Frumpydom?
Bless the designer who will create a wardrobe to fit my body while soothing my mood swings, using velcro for those “can’t reach your toes to tie your laces” moments, jersey for that one day of the month you feel “hot” not hot, silk for those “I’ve still got it” evenings, and pima cotton for those days when you’re dripping with both sweat and sarcasm.
Last month, I accompanied my beautiful 24-year old on a trip to Florida. It was a special time of celebration and mother-daughter bonding that included long walks, heartfelt talks and shopping. One morning, in search of bathing suits, we hit The Beach House of Naples. There, the lighting is kind and the saleswomen are kinder, skilled in both psychology and blarney (as in “Here’s one that will enhance your cheekbones”).
After trying on several matronly maillots, I thought, what the heck, let’s go for a bikini. The first was too sporty, and the next one should have been labeled “flea diaper”. But then, there it was: a khaki green number with a macramé bra and fringe on the bottom. I flipped for it and thought that hubby would, too. It transported me back to the ‘70’s. I could hear strains of Aerosmith in my head, and “Walk(ed) This Way” right out of the dressing room to show my daughter.
“Noooooooooh,” she roared.
“What,” I asked defensively. “It’s cute.”
“For me, Mom, but I’m 24. You can’t wear that in public.”
“Why not,” I asked indignantly.
“Mom, I’m sorry; you’re (wait for it) 56 years old!”
Ouch. Dejected, I plodded back behind the changing curtain, untied the bikini
and placed it on the reject pile. I peeked my head out of the dressing room with one last appeal, “But I’d only wear it at home.”
Fine. I ended up buying two bathing suits that Sister Bertrille could have worn on a return flight to her convent and matching “cover-ups” (read: burqas for beginners) that modestly hid any evidence of womanhood.
But the fringed bikini stayed on my mind. I called my hubby later that day.
“Why didn’t you buy it,” he asked. I felt embarrassed but he was insistent.
“Go back and get it”, he continued. “You liked it and you know I’ll love it.”
Thank you, dear Lord, for our husbands’ declining eyesight- one of the sweeter symptoms of “man-o-pause”.
Later that afternoon, when my daughter suggested we go for manicures, I demurred saying, “You go. I need to buy something. I’ll meet you after your appointment.” Unbeknownst to her, I dashed back to the bathing suit store for one last look at the khaki fringed bikini. I held it up and admired the details, approached the cash register then stopped. Who was I kidding? I’d never wear it. Wouldn’t it be more depressing to buy it and keep it in my drawer than to not buy it and dream of what could have been?
I opted for the latter.
When I met up with my daughter, she showed off her polished fingernails then asked, “So, what did you buy?”
She looked confused. “But you said …”
“I thought I wanted something, but found I didn’t need it, after all.”
The next day we left for home, she to start her new job, I to begin my new blog. Before our flight, we passed time at the airport gift shop. Amidst hokey sweatshirts and salt water taffy, my daughter espied a rack of pink tank tops with ‘Florida’ embellished in white across the chest.
“C’mon, Mom. We need these as souvenirs.” I looked at her in confusion, not quite sure why the racy, low cut top met her approval for acceptable mother wear, but that poor fringed dream bikini got the axe.
Back home now, blogging away in my Florida shirt on this hot summer day, I’m kicking myself for not buying that bikini.
Maybe I’ll head to the mall tomorrow and look for one similar. After my hair color and brow tint.
Has anyone seen my car keys?