Getting old sucks. Sure, it beats the alternative, but it sucks. It’s especially tough on women. The media only shows us the young, beautiful women. I haven’t seen an old lady on TV since the “where’s the beef” commercial. Shit, even in Viagra ads, the people look like they’re in their 30s.
What does an old woman look like? Have you ever seen your grandma in her underwear? I know, you shudder. But I’ve got nothing to arm myself with for my future—unless you’re in medicine most of us are not ready for the day you look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is looking back at you? And what did they do to your birthday suit?
I’ve got crows feet and laugh lines and I’m thinking Botox. My once-perky C’s look like C minuses, and the only reason I wear a bra is to keep my boobs out of my belt. My hair’s going gray, and not just on my head! Sure I could dye it, but I figure I’ve earned every one of those gray pennants.
As little girls, we get “the talk” about all the wonders of puberty and the beautiful things happening to our bodies. As adults though, no one prepares you how you’re going to look, say after you’ve had a kid or two. There are some things you just can’t change without airbrushing.
I’m now 50, okay 51. As anyone under 25 will tell you—50 is OLD. That’s wrinkled-gray-haired-bifocal-wearing-saggy-assed-pee-when-I-laugh old. Friends say, “Aw you look great,” but now they add those three words: “for your age”!
When my memory starts to seriously malfunction (Christ, already?) I go in to the Dr. She smiles, asks me what year it is, who’s president, who won the Superbowl. I answer and she tells me to relax, it’s not Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t even thinking Alzheimer’s until now. It’s most likely stress, menopause, or a side effect of some medication. But she’ll run a few tests, just to check. That’s the reality of aging: it’s not going to get better any more, you know?
I keep hearing myself say, “I used to.” The reality is I am getting older, but so fast? I mean things I could do a year ago I can’t do as easily this year? Does it happen like that? Of course, I know, it just feels like it happened all of a sudden. It’s a gradual process for all of us, it just hits you one bad day and there you are: OLD.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, I decide my sudden problems might have a cause. Of course, like any normal paranoid idiot, I go to the All Knowing Oracle (AKA the Internet) and start looking up symptoms and it’s not long before I’ve diagnosed myself with various fatal diseases.
So I see the Dr. She runs some tests. When the results come in, my doctor calls me. It’s never good when your doctor calls you. She’d like to run a few more tests. Uh oh. Here it comes, the first “health scare” of my elder years.
At last all the results are in and my doctor calls me in. She points to the image on her computer screen, it looks like a brain. She points out a few spots, just little spots—I figure that’s not good, your brain shouldn’t have spots unless you’re a Dalmation—and tells me I have Multiple Sclerosis. I’m shocked. I was expecting her to say I was just getting old; that I was perfectly healthy, just older.
Everything has its bright side, even MS. My mind can clear easily and I can really meditate now. It’s like smoking herb, without the cough. I live one day at a time: I don’t worry about tomorrow, because I’m too focused on getting through today. I don’t worry about yesterday, because, I generally I can’t remember it. I’ve slowed way down. I’ve been forced by my own body to stop and smell the roses. At least it gives me something to think about while I stand in front of my neighbor’s rose garden waiting for my legs to catch up to me.