A somewhat scary thing happened to me recently. As I slid into the passenger seat of my friend’s car one evening, micro-tiny, super-bright, golden-colored lightning bolts suddenly started flashing at the edge of my field of vision. At first, I figured that her car was doing something slick and fancy.
“Do your car’s lights have a kind of strobe-y thing that they do at night?”
She assured me they didn’t. The flashing became persistent, about every ten seconds or so. Being a concerned friend, she suggested that I call the ophthalmologist right away. I caught him just as he was leaving his office.
“Come in at nine tomorrow morning,” he said. “If your vision gets bad, go straight to the emergency room.”
We promptly added martinis to our plans for the evening.
The next morning, the doctor declared that nothing was dangerously wrong with my eyesight.
“It’s just part of aging,” the forty-ish year-old doctor assured me with a kindly smile, after examining my retinas and explaining the medical provenance of the flashes.
“It’s just part of aging” is a phrase that I’ve heard for the past twenty years. I think I first heard it at about the same time that my face stopped breaking out.
I don’t have an AARP card and don’t yet qualify for Medicare. It’s bad enough that I can easily see (and choose to deny) the gradual changes in my body and mind that have crept in over the past decade or so.
But this is worse: hearing that phrase, always delivered by someone at least ten years younger, always delivered as a soothing attempt to settle my nerves when I’ve mixed up (and missed) an appointment, my grey roots won’t stay covered, my normal clothing size seems strangely snug or medical exams — especially with eye doctors — is flat-out discouraging.
My face has always been hopelessly expressive. The doctor, hair colorist, gym trainer, or whoever is dealing with me must be moved to say those words so I’ll lose the look of horror that advertises my feelings.
Friends, you are either “with me” on this, or you’ll soon be heading down this path, too. I promise you I’m not kidding.
A great fan of demographics, I admit to being a classic “Boomer.” For us, the mere idea of aging — let alone the dreaded word spoken aloud — causes a foul, toxic reaction. I believe that humor is the best antidote to just about any kind of poison, so here goes.
FIVE CLUES THAT YOU’RE GROWING UP, In roughly chronological order:
1. Perimenopause. Medical researchers continually lower the age-of-onset to just after you’ve achieved the right to vote. It’s a seamless transition from PMS to PMP. And it’s a great way to rationalize antisocial behavior as well as eating lots of chocolate. Somewhere along the line, it morphs into menopause, a condition whose symptoms can drag on for the entire second half of a woman’s life.
2. Hair coloring is an increasingly frequent necessity. This rapidly develops into an obsession, as you move from an innocuous grey-masking single process, to highlighting/lowlighting, to the infamous double process. Do we need a science lesson to explain why horses nose hungrily towards our hair? It looks like hay, drying out, like everything else in/on our bodies.
3. You can’t read anything smaller than 10-point font. This, too, sneaks up on you. My inner-codger whines unattractively about the ridiculously fine print on package labels. Those under-30 art directors sure like to trip up their parents!
4. Spanx don’t really work for you. Sure, Spanx over-underwear do what they’re supposed to do, compressing loose, untoned, spongey flesh, so you look svelte when wearing knits or form-fitting clothes. What you don’t know until you’ve wiggled into your Spanx, bound like a mummy and walking like a geisha: that compressed flesh has to go somewhere. It doesn’t just recede back into your body. The stuff oozes out along the margins, at your waist, below your thighs, and (this deserves its own shout-out) up your back. Don’t leave home before checking for your body’s scope-creep. You might be trim and fit. But you can’t escape the displacement of body mass. Skinny or not, it’s part of growing up, and out.
5. Your bladder no longer sleeps through the night. Forget about any liquid intake within two hours of going to bed. And remember to clear the path to the bathroom before getting horizontal. Otherwise, you’ll be stumbling through a minefield of shoes, socks, pet toys, and your bedside equipment enroute to the toilet. No, you’re not dreaming that you need to pee. That taut, filled-to-the-brim bladder is more than a bad dream.
I’m sure this list could go on and on. Please share your growing-up wisdom with the rest of us. Let’s hear from you!