Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On The Middle Ages

I want to talk about having a point of view and about how we come to see the world through our own unique set of eyeglasses. But I just can't tonight. I have sudden onset of adult attention deficit disorder which scrambled my brain like a half dozen eggs.

I can't think straight. That's what will happen to you if seventy-five percent of your children are ill, but only vaguely under the weather so that they merely behave like hooligans, shrieking and chasing and then whining and crying when they fall and whack their heads on the couch. And then you start to regret keeping the 7-year old home from school with his sore throat because, really, he seems fine, though sniffling and coughing from time to time, usually in the direction of a baby's bottle.

And my cat seems ill. I need to make an appointment for her to see the vet tomorrow. I also need to make an appointment to have my mop hair cut and I want an appointment on Saturday, but I can't make the appointment because I have some kind of mental disorder which makes me pathologically reluctant to dial the number and make an appointment for any reason, no matter how important or mundane. But my colorist is coming on Friday night and surely, surely the planets will align and my stylist (I can't remember her name, it's been so long) will have an appointment just for me on Saturday. At one-ish, so I will look tremendously stunning for my birthday dinner.

I'm middle-aged. This didn't used to bother me, but then again, I didn't used to be middle-aged. When I turned twenty-six, I was despondent, but that was because I wanted a fetus in my uterus and my uterus was uncooperative, to say the least. So, I was working at an insurance company in the correpondence department, earning a fairly decent salary, enjoying flex-time, excellent healthcare benefits, including dental and eyecare . . . and yet, I couldn't stop crying in the bathroom because all I wanted was to be a Mom with a capital "M." I thought all my dreams would come true if only I were parenting an impressionable infant who adored me.

And then we adopted twins who had the temerity to throw fits in my general direction and to poop on the carpet when I had my back turned and to disregard my preference for sleeping past 7 a.m. I turned out to still have issues, financial issues, identity crisis issues, loneliness issues, and bad-hair issues. I know. How can anyone be so short-sighted? But I was. I pinned all my hopes and dreams on a drooling human being who would be dependent on me for its twenty-four hour entertainment needs.


Where was I? Oh, so when I turned twenty-six, two years after my dad died, two years into the black hole of infertility, two years into a job that bored me silly, I was a mite depressed. No other birthday has bothered me. But as I mentioned, back then I wasn't middle-aged. And now I am.

My mother is only twenty-two years older than me, which sounds like a lot, right? Two decades and a little more . . . yet, I can remember twenty-two years ago and I'm scared because it doesn't seem so distant. Twenty-two years ago, I was in my first year of college. I remember the weather (brittle cold, windy, trees starkly naked), the clothes I wore (a blue dress with a ruffled neckline that I constantly tugged up), the status of my hair (permed and shoulder length), the weird taste of the chocolate shakes in the Student Union. I remember my shoes (black low heels with interlocking circles of leather that were slightly too big and slipped off if I walked too fast), my friend's braces (Wilma*joy, only seventeen and overly enthusiastic), the round moon at night whose beauty made me want to weep while I strolled back to my dorm from the library.

Twenty-two years is not that long. And my mother? She just got a cane. A cane! Her lifetime of avoiding physical exertion and neglecting her body while buying yet another pair of lime green ballet flats with matching purse has caught up with her. She winces when she walks. She unbends slowly when she stands, taking as long as a drawbridge to stretch upright.

I do not want to be her. I want to be energetic and physically fit and able to run up the stairs and stoop down to pick up a fork off the floor. I know I can't do much about the crepepaper state of my eyelids or the age spots (age spots!)on my hands. Age is inevitable--preferable, really, when you consider the alternative--but I'm a little irritated by the physical changes which are happening without my permission. (Yes, I'm talking about you spider veins!)

I wished today that I could see myself side by side, standing next to the sixteen year old me and the twenty-five year old me. I judged myself so harshly then, measured myself against impossible standards and then berated myself for not meeting them. I'd like to apologize to the me of the past.

Now? Now I try to be gentle. I try not to criticize myself for things I cannot control. I stand up straight and welcome another birthday and I would be extremely pleased if only I could once and for all settle on a grown-up hairstyle which would take into account both my natural curls, my unruly cowlicks, my desire for straight hair and which would eliminate my default look, which we liked to call "Weary Cocker Spaniel."

On the other hand, my grandmother is ninety-nine and if I live that long, I'm not even half-way there.

But I still need a hairstyle.


Blogger Vashti said...

Life is flying by way to fast. It's hard to say the words "fifteen, twenty years ago." I still need a good hair style too.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

Great entry! I know what you mean, I thought my thighs were too heavy growing up - and wouldn't wear things because of it. Now that I look back, they were awesome - just not pin straight like other girls. NOW, after two kids, they are heavy. Wish I would have enjoyed it.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Nothing like spending the afternoon with my dad at physical therapy to improve my outlook.

I watched a family clap for a girl who was able to turn her neck about one quarter of an inch - with aid. She had to be hoisted in some weird contraption just to move from her wheel chair onto bench.

What I have jiggles and shakes long after I have stopped moving, but at least I can still move.

Mel - you are my favorite writer of all time.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

I have that phone-dialing problem, too. :-)

10:28 AM  
Blogger mopsy said...

Our toes must be in the same gene pool because I have the hair of an exhausted dog too. Curly but not, and crazed. It's worth the $ to have it blown out straight once in awhile. If you can't settle on a hairstyle, go get it straightened with the round brush.

I was tough on me too. :(

12:39 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

I have learned one of the best things you can do for yourself & be glad you are you & not some one else. So what if I walk with a gimp & have a couple of spidie viens. Why do I care what others see when I walk by-do they see what I'm looking at? Life is what you make it happy with what you do have or miserable for what you don't.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

Oops sorry I almost forgot. Happy birthday to you...

12:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Don't you wish we started out old and got young? That way we could be young and perky and beautiful and energetic, and still have the wisdom of the years behind us.
Wonderful writing as always.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Turtle Guy said...

I know what you mean about kids and being just ill enough to be... a handful... my sister has 3 and I've been witness to LOTS of antics.

About your mom - a good friend of mine mentioned to me a couple years ago that HIS parents were actively promoting a health program for themselves so they WOULDN'T end up like MY partents! My dad is physically together, but mentally lacking, mom is in a wheelchair with MS and is sharp as a tac. Together, they function well if only my mom could get the MESSAGE through to dad. *sigh* In some ways I'm happy to have been adopted...

1:23 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I'm to the point where I say "hey, I'm 46 - I don't give a sh** what anyone thinks. I need a hairstyle too - something between "whoa, they sure cut your hair short" and "oh, are you growing your hair long???" sigh, oh well, I'm 46 and I don't give a sh** what anyone thinks.
Happy Birthday, Mel!!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Don't worry Mel, by the time you're 99 you'll definitelt have found your perfect hairstyle, maybe, probably.

Happy birthday youngun!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Eyes said...

I've been grappling with the face looking back at me in the mirror because I have realized "This is the best I will ever look. It's only going to go down hill after this!" Why didn't I appreciate it all when I had it at 20???? Now, I have half of it left!!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Your point of view comment at the beginning reminds me of something. You recently made a comment about how we project our thoughts and feelings onto our children. I think we do that to each other as well....especially online! It makes sense, since we can only TRULY see from our own "unique set of eyeglasses."

The thing I can most relate to in this post is
"I'd like to apologize to the me of the past." I have had that exact thought myself. If only I realized how much I was expecting of myself then....and will I feel that way down the road about the NOW me?

Great post!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

Oh, man. This so hit completely home for me. When did I turn middle aged? Why do I feel like I can completely reach back and touch every moment from back then that I know so well, and yet I can't.

I didn't know it would feel this way.

10:23 PM  

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