When I was in my late teens and even into my twenties, my body and I were friends. We weren’t best friends, not by any means, because I used to regularly stuff it into things that were too small for it and also pierce parts of it in my friend Leslie’s bedroom using a safety pin that had been soaked in rubbing alcohol for the recommended 10 minutes to ensure minimal risk of infection.
Still, things were pretty good back then between my body and I. I had the usual sort of teenage angst-y problems that were image-related, but I have been blessed with an apathetic attitude regarding most things concerning my physical appearance. This means that I have transitioned nicely from being a grubby 90’s teen into being a grubby adult who can comfortably go to the grocery store wearing sweatpants that I haven’t taken off in over 24 hours while also sporting a sweaty sheen on my face which seems to be permanent and which I am now fairly certain is stress-related.
In the last few years, though, something has happened to this friendly relationship that my body and I have mutually enjoyed. It is…deteriorating. Nothing sudden happened, no big blowout fight, no tears or screaming or threats or other abusive behaviour. It just seems to be starting to dislike me. Slowly. It all started with the consumption of alcohol. Nothing out of the ordinary – just a few glasses of wine, or some scotch, or sometimes a combination of the two. Maybe a few shots when I was trying to pretend that I was still 23 and still really fun. I would go to bed after a night of drinking, and then the next day – ANARCHY. Total and complete revolt by my body and basically all of its normal functions. It wouldn’t let me pee. Eating – no way. Think you’re going to drive this morning? NOPE! You’re still drunk! Basic motor skills – FORGET IT, you’re not brushing your teeth today, and GOOD LUCK trying to have a coffee without your head actually exploding.
What would have been a minor inconvenience just a few short years ago has become an entire days worth of pain. There is no middle ground now between normally functioning human being and disastrously hungover bag of dirt. My body has firmly planted a flag in the no mans land of partying. And that flag is red. And it just says “OLD” on it.
I can live with this disruption, this small fissure in the happy dealings I usually have with my physical self. I don’t drink often, anyways, and now when I do I just make sure I have three days off of work so that I can recover quietly, in the dark, in total humiliation.
I think this is probably the first small act of rebellion that my body is plotting against me. It is showing its silent fury in other, subtler ways, though. These must be signs of what is to come.
Two weeks ago, I had exactly 4 grey hairs. I counted them, and pretended I was fine with their sudden appearance. I made smug comments to myself along the lines of : “grey hairs mean wisdom” and “I am proud of my age” and other things that are total bullshit. Today, RIGHT NOW, I have 14. They are multiplying because they know I am lying and that the sight of them makes me angry and a little sad. I don’t feel like someone who has grey hair. Does this mean I should buy sensible shoes? Should I give up on sexy underwear? Do I now need a light sweater on cool summer evenings?
The wrinkles are coming, too. They don’t seem to be as furious with me as the grey hairs are, but they’re making their presence known in places where there is either florescent lighting or natural lighting, and if you are not aware THAT IS EVERYWHERE. Nothing covers them up, and nothing hides them, and so far I have not been able to conduct my life solely in dim lighting OR at dusk.
I have been writing this post for almost an hour, with my knees up and my iPad balanced on the arm rest beside me. I am ignoring the fact that my knees are aching and my neck is a little sore from keeping my head at an extremely slight angle. I refuse to acknowledge that SITTING DOWN makes me HURT. I know, however, when I do go to get up, I will make a noise of some sort, which will probably sound like “OOOF” and then I will stretch and shuffle away dejectedly, while feeling irritated at the fact that I shuffle.
I want to be ok with getting older – I want this stalemate between my body and I to come to an end. I want us to reach an agreement and sign a contract where we stop fighting and start looking forward to all of the good things that come with getting older (THERE ARE SOME, RIGHT???). I don’t know where that agreement starts, though. I think that I need a wiser older woman, preferably Helen Mirren or maybe Celine Dion, to take me under her wing and teach me how to love all of these parts of myself that are currently under siege by time (and gravity, seriously, how SHITTY is gravity). But, since it is not likely that either of these women read my blog (which is, frankly, shocking), I will end this by saying that I have nothing but respect for the women out there who are also at war, or not on speaking terms with, their bodies. I think we need each other, while we inhabit this murky area that is No Longer Young but almost Preparing To Be Older. We need to guide each other through this weird and unfamiliar territory that is sort of like puberty except in reverse and without awkward sexual encounters with classmates. Maybe we should tell each other how fantastic we look with those spiky, spindly grey hairs sprouting out of the sides of our heads. Or nod silently in solidarity to the other women whose foundation just isn’t hiding their newly discovered mouth wrinkles. Let’s high five the other women in sweatpants with sweaty faces,too. Just so I know there are others out there like me. With permanent stress-sweat.