On Ageing. Or, Nipple Hair and Other Indignities 

 

When is the last time you looked at your nipples? I mean REALLY looked at them, not just a passing glance as you avoid looking at your own naked self in the mirror while you frantically towel off after a shower that you didn’t really have time for and that, frankly, you personally felt wasn’t necessary but you  took it anyways because you have conformed to social norms that force you, grudgingly, to bathe at least three times a week?

Oh, you have never REALLY looked at your nipples? Yeah, me neither.

UNTIL TODAY.

Is it not bad enough that our body hair betrays us as we get older by turning grey? And before anyone protests loudly and aggressively that there is nothing wrong with these grey hairs and that they, like wrinkles, are just happy proof of a well-lived life or something equally nonsensical – I agree. There is nothing essentially wrong with grey hair. I just don’t want any, in the same way that I don’t want purple hair or short hair or children. I like my hair how it is, and surprise hair seems unfair to me. Hair should be dependable and consistent. It should be the reliable news anchor of our bodies, the one thing we can rely on when everything else is breaking down and creaking more frequently and starting to sag and wobble a little more than it used to. It should be the Anderson Cooper of our physical selves, the voice of reason while chaos is ruling. It should say to us, comfortingly, “oh, you can’t bend down without grunting anymore? The Lego you stepped on yesterday almost killed you and you reacted like you had been shot? It’s ok. Don’t worry. I, hair, will not hurt you, I will not make you feel undignified, I will never shock and upset you. I will stay where I belong and you can remove me at your leisure. I will NOT BETRAY YOU”. 

A few weeks ago, I angrily confronted Moe and demanded to know why he hadn’t told me I had SEVEN grey hairs. In his typical Moe-like fashion, he shrugged and told me something really nice along the lines of “you’re beautiful no matter what” and I logically got mad at this and went to have a three hour nap, which is my typical way of dealing with anything that makes me irrationally grumpy.

I wasn’t grumpy because the person I live with is a good, supportive person (although – to be fair – that seems like something I would get mad about under the right set of circumstances that I have totally skewed and distorted in my own mind). Rather, I was grumpy at ONE MORE THING to deal with. Is the grey hair a big deal? Not really, in the grand scheme of my confusing and contradictory life. But it felt like a little indignity. Not a big one, like in the dreams we ALL have about being naked at Madison Square Garden while everyone else is wearing a cape, but one that makes you realize abruptly and jarringly – “I am no longer young”. It is the realization that it is the beginning of new changes that are heralding in the part of your life where things ache and crack and throb for no reason.

I know a lot of women who are ageing gracefully. My mother, women I work with, my aunts, and Oprah.

I will not be one of those women.

I will dye things, and I will fill things, and I will probably always dress in a way that makes people say, “that dress is a little young for her, don’t you think?”, and “someone should tell that woman to cover her stomach up”.

I think this is ok, and I think we should allow ourselves this luxury. We punish women who refuse to give up their youth. We have all seen a woman who is just too youthful, too fresh, for the age we know her to be. And what do we say? Do we say “DAMN good for her! She looks like she’s 25 and I bet college guys picture her naked and that is fucking AWESOME”? No. We sneer at her, and dismiss her as someone who has “had work done”. We SHOULD be introducing ourselves to her, befriending her, and hoping that she is wealthy and likes to bring her friends out for weekly lunch and Botox dates.

It’s like we are expected to look at our youth one day, at the proper and respectable age, give it a firm handshake to say goodbye and thanks for all of the good times, and please step aside now because Old Me is right behind you and I would like to welcome her with open arms and I have to go change now into my sweatshirt with the embossed gardening scene on it and throw on my sensible, well-made yet reasonably priced raincoat and sturdy shoes and go to a restaurant and ask indigninatly why the music is so loud and the heat is up so high.

So, I am going to put off meeting this version of myself, and hang on desperately to my youth. Because it is mine to hang onto. Much respect to the women out there who have bid theirs goodbye, because I think each one of us should get to decide when it’s time to embrace the changes that come with ageing. And much, MUCH envy to the men out there who can be perfectly ok with their nipple hair, since they’ve had it since puberty and no one judges them for it and they don’t have to ever, ever know the pain and shame involved in plucking those hairs that should have never been there in the first place and are total traitors.

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On Inclusiveness. Or, Cozy Moms and Smug Hipsters Are Important, Too. 

There is room for everyone in the world of writing online. Unless you are a racist or a homophobe or just a general sort of asshole who says mean things to anyone different than you . If you are one of those people, you should go away.

The rest of us mostly harmless people writing for an audience that we don’t know and who we will likely never meet are just trying to share something – our knowledge, some information, experience. We have a need to tell our story, or some variation of our story, to a bunch of people who might judge us or laugh at us or dismiss us.

I am one of those people. I am also one of those people who judge and laugh and dismiss. I feel unreasonably threatened by others who seem to have their lives all figured out. Cozy moms, commonly found on Pinterest and other lifestyle sites, make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong. In life. Generally. I will search out a recipe for a healthy smoothie or instructions on how to assemble a burrito bowl (FYI they take forever and don’t look like the picture OR taste like a burrito AT ALL), but I will do so while fuming inside that these women seem to have a life that is compact, while mine remains loose, with frayed ends that I am frantically trying to tie up while taking care of the normal aspects of living, like eating and showering. Smug hipsters, found literally everywhere, make me feel like I am old and doddering and cranky, because when I see someone young and cool and original I get angry and want to start searching under furniture for my youth because I know its not actually gone its just sort of missing and I bet its under the couch with 41 Shopkins and dog toy fluff.

 What do we do when the media around us presents us with versions of ourselves that we want to be, or that we have lost? I’m positive that scores of strong and confident women out there don’t care what other people are doing, and live their lives without regard for pressures to conform to any idea of what they should be.

I am not those women.

Through my haze of jealousy and despite my pining for a fading, hip youth that I can barely see anymore, I do know that the Cozy Moms and Smug Hipsters provide a perspective for those of us who are flailing a little bit. They are showing me that I am not compact, I am not cool, and I don’t understand things like Farmhouse Chic or beard oil or vegan baking, but that’s ok. Our frayed ends are important, too. And I bet a lot of Cozy Moms are gritting their teeth while they make bento box lunches and are seriously contemplating giving their kids McDonalds for dinner so they just shut up already. And the Smug Hipsters, well, maybe they aren’t actually smug. Maybe they, too, are worried about saving for retirement and whether they should find a better job and if those super expensive music festival tickets are even worth it because no one actually listens to any of these bands anyways and they would rather just sleep in on the weekend instead of dragging themselves out to the desert wearing annoying looking hats and their grandfathers shoes.

Maybe all of us in our end-thirties stage are all relatively the same.

Probably not, actually, but I want to include these people. Let’s be friends, Cozy Moms, Smug Hipsters, even DIY-ers In Your Late Fifties With Empty Nest Syndrome. I will share my slim knowledge of adulthood and my poor life skills with you, in return for all of your wisdom about literally everything I know nothing about.

Once again, you’re welcome.

On Divorce. Or, Guilt & the Drunk Girl in a Hole 


(Part 1 of 47 or 843)

 When I was deciding whether or not to leave my then-marriage (spoiler – I did!), I was at a bit of a loss in terms of finding people to talk to about it. If you’ve been through a divorce, or a break-up, you will know that suddenly people seem to become pretty thin on the ground in your life (more on that in another post). You will recall that, often, you are alone somewhere (your house or your car or the bathroom in the grocery store that smells like urine and weak disenfectant and seriously has anyone ever cleaned this bathroom? Because I buy my food here, grocery store employees) and need so desperately to speak to a human being that isn’t your potentially soon-to-be-ex partner that you end up resorting to the only logical action that is left to you. Google.
One Sunday (I know it was Sunday because I remember weepily watching The Walking Dead and feeling like I would rather deal with a zombie infiltration than deal with my own life situation), I sat on my then-couch and googled “getting divorced in your early thirties”. I was positive that some answers would appear that would ease my guilt, and the pain, and the uncertaintity. That some woman, somwhere, would have something to tell me that would resonate. Like “hey you! Weepy, bloated woman on the couch over there! Ive been through this! Listen to my story and learn and be reassured!”. Shockingly, this did not happen. Not even close. NO ONE in ALL OF THE INTERNET wanted to help me. A quick summary of topics that I encountered every one of the four hundred times that I googled some variation of this theme:

– Divorce in your 40’s

– Divorce in your 50’s

– Divorce in your 60’s

– Divroce when your spouse is gay

– Divorce when you are gay

– Divorce and money

– Divorce and real estate

– Divorce when you have between 2 and 9 children under the ages of 5 who all need dental work and one needs glasses

– How to throw a divorce party

– How to throw a divorce party if you live in Wyoming OR have a horse farm

– Divorce and pets
Henceforth, the conclsion can be drawn that I am the only woman (or person, apparently) who has EVER considered divorce in her early 30’s. There is an ENTIRE POPULATION of people out there who are happily married in their early 30’s, skipping around at Home Depot buying things to improve their already very happy houses, while I squat greasily on a couch, in a bathrobe, frantically looking for answers online that ARE NOT THERE.

Fuck you, Google.

Of course, my need to have reassurance from strangers online is not Google’s fault. It comes from Guilt, the most elusive and useless of emotions, and one that women seem to fall victim to constantly, especially within the parameters of our personal relationships. Guilt drove me to seek answers to questions like: “how did I fall out of love with someone?”, “how do I fix this person and still have a life that will make me happy”, and “am I the worst person in the world and if so is there any kind of assistance for that?”. When I didn’t find them, I had to look at myself. This is probably the most frightening and sobering and mind-fucking aspect of a life-changing experience. I don’t even look at my outer self that often, except when I know I am going to be seen by others in flourescent lighting, and then I look at myself very critically and wonder- were all these blackheads here yesterday? and – are these dark circles under my eyes a symptom of some illness that is still laying dormant inside of me but will expose itself any day now?

The inner-self examination was even scarier than the flourescent-lighting one, and I didn’t get around to really doing it until I had broken all kinds of hearts. The one of the person I was married to, those of the good friends I had made over the years, and my own. When we end something of our own volition, we have a million consequences to deal with, ones that we are rarely prepared for. When the dust I had created settled, I was left with one person to reckon with – myself. I made shitty, selfish life decisions, and was angry and hurt that no one had stuck around to pat my head and tell me it was ok, that I was still a good person, that I would be fine. For a long time, rather than put the work in to understand what I had done, and why, and how it had affected people around me, I fell back on Guilt. Guilt was there for me. Guilt was comfortable and reliable and it understood me. It let me sleep too much, and drink a lot, and treat people however I wanted. It let me be my worst self and never judged me, unlike irritating Self-Reflection, who was ALWAYS on my ass to do pointless things like eat well and sober up and apologize to the people that I had hurt.

But no matter how many times I avoided it and tried to keep partying with Guilt, Self-Reflection, like that really annoying person we all know who is smug and has their life together and wants you to go to the gym with them and drink kombucha and run a half-marathon, kept hounding me. Did it work? Did I look at myself in a calm and meaningful way and decide to ditch the guilt and woman up to the choices that I had made and stop whining and feeling bad for myself? Not really. At least not right away. But Self-Reflection did make me realize something – I had created a situation for myself that I was blaming everyone else for, and my guilty conscience was proof of this. Some sane and rational version of myself (still seen very rarely) knew that this was the case, which is why I was letting guilt bubble to my surface like a PMS-induced zit. Then I would run and hide from the guilt, usually somewhere super inconspicious like behind 7 pints of beer and a double scotch.

Guilt still hangs out arond me a lot, but it’s not my best friend anymore. It’s more like a casual aquaintance that I try to avoid eye contact with in the mall but who races up to me anyways and asks when we are going to go for coffee together and I mumble something about not really liking coffee that much these days and so we end up out at an all-you-can-eat sushi place and I awkwardly order stuff I only sort of like and then leave full and annoyed that I even wasted my day off with this person who I don’t honestly like that much.

It isn’t always the actual thing that has happened that makes our world tilt. Divorce is awful, no question. But it’s our reactions to what has happened that change us, for better or for worse. Sometimes, it’s the shove in the right direction that we were needing all along. In my case, it was a violent stumble backwards, into a huge hole, that I had to crawl out of alone. It’s this long, dirty, muddly crawl that is finally giving me the answers Google couldn’t and that Guilt was hiding from me. I looked, slowly and cautiously, at this person I didn’t really know and definitely didn’t like anymore and told her that she wasn’t going to stay in the confines of being messy and weepy and self-pitying. She glared back at me for while, and it was uncomfortable because we all know that the girl I am alluding to here is myself, and no one has ever had a successful staring contest with themselves. If you have, I want to hear from you.

The moral of the story here? There isn’t one.  A lot of days, I still feel like the drunk girl in the hole. Confused and tired from questioning myself. Some days, though, I can see some light at the top of the hole, and then other days I am like a conditioned athlete (that is a lie) who jumps out of the hole completely and manages to (weakly) tackle life with no self-doubt.

The days where self-doubt reigns and the hole is deep and musty and the sides are too slick to pull myself out? On those days, I am learning to look to other people (shout out to Moe for putting up with me and my constant slides back into this fictional hole I keep talking about that frankly has him totally confused) to help me out.

I think we all have holes that we have dug, or that other people have kicked us into. Some holes are where we hide, and others are where we feel safe from whatever is following us around, be it that asshole Guilt or something more sinister like Self-Hatred or Fear. Whatever the hole is, wherever it came from, it can be filled up. Mostly with Time, or Self-Love, or things that seem so unattainable when we first fall in. Those good hole-fillers are out there, though, trust me. I’ve run into them a few times when trying to outrun Self-Reflection.

A Formal Introduction. Or, Why the &^%$ You Should Read This 

     I don’t really read blogs. I find the world of blogging to be a lot like going into a Sephora. The choices of what to select are overwhelming and make me panic quietly inside. Do I need to read about this random persons life online? Does their life experience reflect mine and give me a deeper understanding of who I am and who I want to be? Do I want to spend $46 on something called a primer which is apparently for my face but that up until this very moment I thought was what people put on their walls before they paint? Should I just buy it anyways? Because this girl named Nadine who works here is really beautiful and I bet she uses this primer. I’m going to buy it. And I’m going to use it and look and act more like Nadine, who I am certain has her life firmly together and has a handsome boyfriend named Nick or Mike or Jason who probably strokes her well-primed face and says “God, you are beautiful, Nadine”. THAT is why I don’t really read blogs – too many Nadines that make me feel like I am making poor life choices by not buying expensive primers.

Why, then, am I doing this? Why expose the world (“world” here is to be taken to mean a few co-workers and maybe my aunts. But also maybe not. They are busy women) to my inexpert writing? I suppose the answer to that is that I think I have some things that some women may want to hear. Possibly even some men may by enraptured with my take on the world we live in, but I doubt it. Along with writing, communicating, and being a properly adjusted adult, I am also staggeringly bad at understanding men. And women. And definitely children. I get along fabulously well with dogs, though.

Now that I have you completely mystified yet wildly intrigued about who I am and what my whole point is here, I’ll tell you a little about myself. I am a woman who is fast approaching well over 30 (but not 40 yet, although I am looking forward to 40 because I feel like 40 year old women and better are almost always serene and happily content with the lives they have built, have figured out how to have great and age-appropriate hair that doesn’t make them look too old OR too young, and are manoeuvring through life with well-set goals and proper life intentions), I live with a pretty great person who for the purposes of this blog I will refer to as Moe, his little girl (half of the time), and a beast of a dog who doesn’t respect me because I hug her too much. I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to figure out what I want to do with my adult life. I am divorced, which is something that I wish didn’t define me, but it does in a lot of ways and not just by the irritating habit of government and bureaucracy who make me tick that box that says “divorced” even though I can never fathom why my phone company or cable provider or the Canada Revenue Agency needs to know about my emotional wounds. I have anxiety over a lot of things, I am a waitress who is struggling to be ok with being a waitress, and I am mostly a female who is trying, still, to understand and accept what it means to be a female now, today. I am a step parent who is still pretty sub-par at the alarming and confusing task of being a step-parent, and I am a daughter to two awesome parents who I am still trying to figure out, and who are still equally curious about me.
My life isn’t exciting or glamorous. I don’t have wisdom for anyone, and I don’t think I am particularly charming or engaging in person. I do, however, know that when something needs to be healed or quieted or released inside of us, we want to talk or listen to someone just like us. Someone average, who is struggling and (very, very rarely) winning at getting older, at loving ourselves, at loving other people. This is the life of a normal(ish) woman with a messy, relatable life, in words, and occasionally (if you are so lucky) in poorly drawn cartoons and badly taken pictures.

 

On Writing. Or, Who The *&%^ Is Going to Read This, Anyways? 

     I want to be a writer. How original, right? Who doesn’t want to be a writer? (Probably a lot of people, actually. Like the people who are already lawyers and pediatricians and flight attendants that are super attractive and get free vacations). But anyways, I am a waitress and I want to be a writer.
The problem with being a writer is that it is likely impossible. I mean, I can flap around in life telling everyone who will listen (approximately no one) that I am a writer. Just writing these two paragraphs makes that statement basically true. The impossibility lies in the actualization of REALLY BEING a writer, not just saying I am one, or feeling like I am one. For example, right now I REALLY FEEL like a writer because: a) it is quiet in my house, b) I am wearing my glasses (totally unnecessary because I need them for distance only and they are giving me a slight headache from wearing them to stare at a screen right in front of me), and c) I have my hair in a messy onion shaped bun, which I feel really says “blogger” and “intellectual but still cute”. Despite this strong and also shallow concept of myself, I am not really a writer – yet. Someone needs to read what I am writing. Ideally, one day, someone will read what I am writing and LIKE it, too. Maybe someone will even PAY me one day to write things, and then I can sit in my distinguished and cozy book lined library/office/bedroom/indoor garden with my dog at my feet and only leave my house when I want to, which, based on my personality, will probably be never.
Irritatingly, this lovely fictional situation is hindered by one glaring problem – what is there left to write about? More importantly (and alarmingly), what do I have the authority to write about? I can’t have a Cozy Mom blog, and I wouldn’t want to,  since they make me feel strangely envious and uncomfortable at the same time. (I DO want to know how to fold fitted sheets in my super sleek country-like, rustic home while my husband earns a lot of money and my toddlers are at A Good Pre-School and I have a few hours to kill between grocery shopping for chia seeds and getting my highlights touched up. But also I don’t because folded sheets are annoying and also who cares. Just stuff them in your hall closet in a lumpy ball like the rest of us and please can we talk about something more important). I also can’t have a blog that dispenses any kind of advice or wisdom, because I (sort of) got my life (slightly) on track about 20 minutes ago and it involved so much boredom and negativity that I can’t imagine it would really help anyone out. I could maybe centre my writing on do-it-yourself projects, but that veers into the Cozy Mom category, and also wanders into Smug Hipster territory, and I don’t want to step on any toes. I do draw a mean cartoon bird, so that is always a possiblity, but I don’t know how many blog posts can focus on this one bird that I draw for every person I know on their birthday, so I will keep that in my back pocket. For now.
So, that leaves me firmly in the category of ageing/cynical/slightly boring/unsure/frightened but also often happy and content woman almost on the wrong side of her thirties. It’s going to be a hit and probably a sitcom, so if you are smart you will share and save this first monumental blog post because once I am on network cable and having a breezy lunch with famous and well put-together women who do not have social anxiety issues and probably some unresolved rage problems, you will want to say you read me first.

So, you may be asking, if you don’t have any advice to give, and you aren’t going to show me how to build a chic yet economical planter out of popsicle sticks while baking healthy granola-based snacks, what exactly is the point of this blog?

Excellent question.

I don’t know.

I sort of know.

I know that there is a towering heap of writing to read on the internet, much of it marketed towards or aimed at women. And I know that within this heap, there are true and realistic accounts of what it means to be female, to be a little bit lost or confused, or to just generally be struggling with everyday life. But there aren’t enough of them.

What happens when you look up from where you are in your life, and realize it’s not where you thought it would be? Who decides what this point is, and do we have a say in deciding? Most importantly, how much of all of this is determined by being a woman?

These are big questions, and probably ones that I, an anxiety-ridden waitress and totally unaccomplished writer, am not equipped to answer. There’s no harm in trying, though. Also I am pretty sure that a famous and intelligent person once said that, so it’s very obviously the truth.