Tag Archives: aging

What happened to my ass?

David Sedaris spoke at my daughter’s graduation from Oberlin College. The speech, which I found online in its entirety (you’re welcome) was funny, as you’d expect, but it also delivered some unexpected pathos. He said, “You might not realize it this morning, but thirty years from now you’ll pull out pictures of yourself taken on this day and think, ‘Why did nobody tell me I was so attractive?’” Who knew that was a universal problem?

I remember myself as a tubby child and an overweight teenager. Family photos, however, belie that with evidence that I was a normal, right-sized kid. Sadly, there is no evidence to counteract my memories of my dad telling my petite and attractive mom, “Don’t eat that,” or, “Do you really need that?” I internalized messages that weren’t even addressed to me.

When I hit forty, though, and was still carrying around the ‘baby weight’ from my two-year old, there was no disputing that a diet was in order. I took the logical first step and cut my hair; that was good for a couple of pounds. Then the real work began. Thirty-five pounds later, I looked better than I ever had and life was good for another ten years or so—before nature began to interfere.

As you age, you change in ways you have no control over. Ask anyone who had 20/20 vision what happened when they hit forty. Most will tell you that ‘all of a sudden’ they needed glasses. Hair turns gray. Mine started with a Cruella de Vil silver streak that I thought was pretty hip when I was in my early thirties. But it didn’t stop there; over time, my color went from brunette to salt-and-pepper. It’s thinning now, too.

Are you old enough to remember Magda from the movie There’s Something About Mary? I’m not a sun-worshiper like she was, but there are other similarities. If you’re a woman, I know you’re familiar with the test where you try to hold a pencil under your breast. If you can’t, they’re not sagging yet. Lucky you. I could probably hold onto a desk’s worth of office supplies.

Another indignity is that your weight rearranges. You don’t necessarily weigh more, but your clothes don’t fit. For some, gravity brings on the dreaded pear shape. Me? My ass has all but disappeared. While I wouldn’t say it was my pride and joy, it was an integral part of the hour-glass figure I used to have. Now, I’m pretty much a straight line from the back of my neck to my heel, and I’m forever pulling up my pants.

Nora Ephron said all this much better than I ever could in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. So, if you feel that life is treating you unfairly, let David Sedaris and Nora Ephron put things back in perspective. Laughing is good for you. Or you can create your own blog and complain. It won’t bring back your ass, but you’ll feel better.

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Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old

I just finished reading Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old, a collaboration between two friends, Mary Boone Wellington and Tracey Bowman, who are the primary caregivers for their elderly parents. They share their stories in alternating chapters and include useful information on all kinds of things you might not know you need to know about, like common medical problems of the elderly, Long Term health insurance, how to clear clutter and more.

There are probably a bunch of books like this on the market, and as baby boomers age there will be more. The appeal here is the conversational style; it’s like listening to friends tell stories over coffee at Panera’s, only with more candor. If you approach the book with that expectation you can excuse the occasional typo and abundance of exclamation points. It is, after all, self-published, but don’t let that stop you. When I met co-author Mary, she observed that it was “…pretty well written considering the fact that I’m a visual artist.” That honesty is a big part of the book’s charm.

Both Mary and Tracey struggled in their roles as caregivers. They were, occasionally, resentful of the time and effort it took, and the sense that their elders were not as cooperative or appreciative as they should have been. That may sound shocking, but I’m guessing it’s not unusual. I’ll bet every child of an elderly parent has had similar thoughts, and then been horrified and guilt-ridden. However, Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old posits that the negative feelings may actually make you a more effective caregiver (which may be why the sub-title is How to Survive Old Age: Your Own or Someone You Love) if you pay attention to what those thoughts are really telling you.

After expending effort to make her mother’s house safer and enduring a scolding in response, Mary was hurt, even as she realized that her mother “…longed to be on her own again…without me asking her how she felt, or what she wanted for lunch, or whether she wanted a nightlight in the kitchen.” Her frustration caused her to vent to her friend, Tracey, who helped her understand that “…this process was a kind of orphaning, and my anger was transparent cover for my sadness and fear.”

Who wouldn’t be scared by the prospect of becoming an orphan? That primal fear may be what drives children to worry about their parents long before their parents are inclined to worry about themselves. There may come a day when you have to intervene and take away the car keys, but what if your elder decides on their own that they no longer feel safe behind the wheel? Aging isn’t easy and elders need to be able to maintain some control over their lives.

Reading Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old will undoubtedly make you think about your own aging as well as that of your elders. Everyone is different and YMMV, but buying the book is a small investment to make in the future that, if you’re lucky, is still a long way away.

You can buy a copy of Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old here.