The Tracks of My Years: Please don’t eat the chocolates

Are you here for my usual virtual Friday walk Above Ground on the London Underground? I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month and I find myself in the mood to rant about that instead so I’m skipping the walk this week. 

What’s the deal with birthdays anyway? They keep coming whether I want them to or not. And I don’t. 

I’m turning sixty three. Despite the fact that my hubby continues to buy me cotton panties from Victoria Secret—the pair I’m wearing as I write this are black with the words Invitation Only written in silver glitter across my backside—it is definitely not the same backside he married twenty something years ago when I was a mere slip of a girl. If you can call a woman of almost forty a ‘slip of a girl'. 

I blame him. For most of the duration of our marriage—24 years in October—along with the Victoria Secret undies, he’s been buying me one pound boxes of See’s bordeaux chocolate for every gift buying holiday there is. Christmas? Here’s a pound. Right on your left thigh. Valentine’s Day? Pack another one on the right thigh so they match. Mother’s Day and my birthday, both in May? Two more pounds on the derriere, year after year. It would be rude not to eat them, right? No wonder my old Levi 501’s remain neatly folded in the bottom of my dresser drawer. 

It’s not just the extra pounds or the pull of gravity that puts those pounds in unexpected places—stay off my knees, please!—the years do things to us we just never saw coming. 

I remember an early date with my now-husband at the House of Billiards in Sherman Oaks when I could still wear those jeans. I hitched my right leg up and practically sprawled across the green felt of the pool table to get the ball in the corner pocket. These days, wishing I’d taken yoga classes, I’m not sure I’d be able to get my leg up there, let alone get it down off the table with any semblance of decorum, let alone the sexy brazenness I was trying so hard to rock back then. And the arthritis in my hands is bad enough that I can’t imagine getting a basic grip on a cue stick anyway. 

A lot of women moan about losing their hair as they get older, especially after menopause. Mine was never my crowning glory anyway except for a brief period a few years back when I had a full head of lavish locks via a weave job courtesy of my hairdresser niece. I loved the look, all that hair swinging heavily on my shoulders, but I couldn’t take the itchiness where the weave was attached to the root. It reminded me of the time I broke my arm when I was ten. As the arm healed, it was so itchy I stuck rulers, pencils, anything that would fit down beneath the cast to scratch that itch. 

It was the same with the faux hair. Sitting at my desk at the Prudential real estate office, hoping none of the top ten agents of the year would notice, I’d try to scratch my head as casually as possibly with a letter opener I just happened to be holding. When we went out on caravan, my arm was constantly up in the right turn position, my hand ready to hold onto my hair lest the wind blow it away or the uplift reveal those tiny plastic do-hickeys that kept the fake hair in place. I finally begged my niece to take that thing off my head or I’d have to rip it off. She’s still got that hunk of hair sitting in a drawer at her salon in case I change my mind, but I won’t. I’m accustomed to having thin hair now, it’s the only thing about me that still is.

With each birthday, time traces a new route on the road map on my face. Good times, bad, they all leave their mark, tiny channels crossing my cheeks. Invisible road workers pulling my whole face down. And my neck—heck, let’s forget my neck altogether—there’s no help for it. The hollow in my throat that someone long ago called lovely, now looks like Death Valley, the earth cracked and dry in the sun. 

The freckles splashed across my face and my hands are turning into old age spots. Just like your grandpappy, I get mysterious blotches that pop up like those surprise Halloween shops, and just as frightening, that bleed when I scratch them. 

My eyelashes are so sparse I can barely see them. Then again I can barely see anything. Bad vision—I’ve worn glasses since I was five—doesn’t get better with age. Mascara helps my eyelashes except that even with a magnifying mirror, applying mascara—something I used to do with a quick one two flick—has become an arduous task. Peering into the mirror, the ten times magnification isn’t enough so I have to hold my glasses out in front of my face and move in underneath them with the mascara wand to apply a coat, then check my work with my glasses on. It’s exhausting. And with my fingers stiffening just when I need them deft and nimble, the mascara brush is tough to maneuver. I have new found empathy for all those crazy looking old ladies with their overly rouged cheeks. The poor things weren’t crazy, they just couldn’t see. 

That’s an inequity between the sexes no one warns you about when they’re passing out sex genes. Even in our enlightened era, we women are still expected to be ‘the fairer sex’ while most men—rock stars and actors excluded—don’t have to wear makeup, let alone learn the rules of applying cosmetics as the years take their toll. Blue hair, my niece tells me, barely containing her shock, is for the young, Auntie Sim!

It’s not just the externals that I hate about birthdays and the onslaught of changes they bring. My cholesterol is high, my memory shot, so even when I remember to pick up my Rx for atorvastatin, I forget to take it. I’ve got narrow angle glaucoma, my colonoscopy revealed a polyp and I pee all the time. How many more times a night can I possibly wake up? As one might have said back in the days when we all wore watches, you can set your watch to my trips to the loo. 

And yet ... as frustrating as all the bathroom breaks are, as irritating it is that I have to work harder to keep my weight in check, and as much as part of me wishes I could still look like the younger me—who was never satisfied with the image I presented to the world even then—like that truly annoying woman in the AARP commercials who smugly proclaims, ‘I’m only in my 60’s. I have a nice long life ahead. Big plans.’  I do have, the fates willing, some good days ahead. Maybe many good days, months, years. Decades even. One of those days is my birthday. I might as well make some plans to celebrate the day. Not eating the chocolates is one of them.

Come back next Friday for my weekly walk in London. In the meantime Joy is celebrating British Isles Friday as usual.

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