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The Old Gray Mare...she ain't what she used to be

The thing about getting older are actually all new again.

You heard me.

When I passed into my 30s some undisclosed number of years ago, I found myself expanding as a person. I still acted the same but I started noticing how I acted, if that makes any sense at all, and I started giving myself, and others, a little more slack.

Now that I am facing my 40s, I feel like I am a teenager once more.

It's true. Honest Abe. (And why Abe, and not George? Isn't George the Honesty Parable one?)

First off, I find myself being completely horrid about the opposite sex, especially Younger Men. I blame hormones, which are finally back in play after so many years of pregnancies and nursing. I also blame the military, which has a nasty habit of recruiting yummy young men and drilling them physically into even yummier specimen. These yummy young men---who happen to be, I know for a fact, not just hot but also braniacs---have a sadistic habit of jogging in very small shorts that let me know just how well-exercised their glutes are. And you bet your bottom dollar I am looking. Ogling. Also bet your bottom dollar that "Doo da doo do da doo," (the Mrs. Robinson theme song) plays through my head during the aforementioned ogling.

Admit it. You do it too. At least you do if you've passed your mid-30s and got your groove back.

I remind myself that hmm, if I had gotten preggers and had a baby at 18...he could almost be my son.

I'm happy to report that dreams that would make Susan Johnson swoon come into play about two weeks prior to the painters---you know what I mean. Ovulation surge dreams. At my age.

And in other happy news, I blush a lot less. In other words, my confidence is up. I have full faith that I will Come Fully Into My Own in my 40s. Slowly but surely, I am becoming okay with me. And finding spaces that are okay with me. As I am. Actually, what I am doing is accepting that I have always been, and will always be ME.

Now for the other side of the coin.

You know there is yin where there is yang.

So let's talk about the downside of aging.

My body has once again become unfamiliar to me.

I am recalling my emerging into a teen years vividly. The confusion, the angst, the changing body: What are these odd bits and why do they do that? Why don't they do this any longer? Why am I thinking and feeling this way?

The changes. Oh yes. The physical changes.

Hair over the upper lip. And in the nostrils. When the hell did that happen?

I was getting the brows waxed into some semblance of order and the aesthetician (yes, better call her that and anticipate a 25% tip when you do---she's the one who will keep you looking like a candidate for runner-up for Ages as Well as Andie McDowell) asks, "Shall I do the lip as well?"

And I'm thinking, babe, I've got the whole Native American thing going on...we don't have body hair!

But when I looked, I see the Scots genes have taken over and I have a bit of reddish blonde baby fuzz.

Right where you never want it.

Instead of Andie McDowell runner up, I am now a candidate for Looks Most Like Hercule Poirot.

And that my friends? Is merely the beginning.

Let's talk my top concerns and currents ways of addressing them.

1. The Last Hurrah: Wack-a-doo hormones

Aforementioned benefits aside, the truth is my body is gearing up for menopause. I believe one might call this perimenopause. It includes fun things like irregular body temperature, mood swings, irregular visits from the painters (come on girls, menstruation), and breakouts on top of the emerging wrinkles.

What to do.

I began investigating all sorts of distillations from plants like Red Raspberry Leaf, which one drinks as a disgusting tea (no amount of stevia can help it) and hope it regulates you.

One also counts on this as a form of birth control. At my last gynecological annual exam, which included the dreaded question, "When shall we schedule your mammogram?" the doctor also asked, "What do you do for birth control?" Although it would have been immensely amusing to have said something clever, I just said, "I'm old, infertile, have young kids, and have had exactly five periods in the last five years...who needs birth control?"

He replied with, "In other words, you'll take what comes?"

I said, "Sure, and I love your optimism, it's why I keep coming back." I then felt a little smite-y and had to get in a dig that he was better than the optometrist, just barely, but not as good as the dentist.

2. Holy Basil batman

While investigating the aforementioned Red Raspberry leaf, I ran across Holy Basil. Yes, I stopped to check it out because it was called Holy Basil, and my brain automatically added "batman," which made me giggle which made the shop clerk look at me funny, which caused me to say, "Oh it was the batman, so funny," which made her look at me really oddly, which made me think, huh, faux mental illness can really be really liberating, no offense to those with real mental illness---a class I do not exclude myself from simply because I have thus far managed to outsmart the diagnostics.

Holy basil.

Apparently, this perfectly legal drug will---if eaten once a day with a rather large meal---carry me to an ayurvedic level of zen, mentally and physically, all while regulating my cortisol (isn't that what causes the muffin top?) and blood sugar and moods.

If you think I bypassed this little ancient miracle, you'd better rethink what you know of me.

I'm sucking down a gel cap a day like a good little girl.

3. Ahhh a nice footbath

This year I noticed a bizarre dry foot disease on my pieds. After a brief and ultimately unfruitful worry that my husband had potentially passed some dread "boy athletic shoe foot disease" to me via the bedsheets, I decided I needed a pedicure. Clearly the feet were no longer low maintenance.

Get used to this refrain at this stage in life. I think "Clearly the (insert body part) is no longer low maintenance," frequently. Yes, frequently.

But clearly, clearly I could not go see a professional with my feet looking like this.

What to do.

Here's where I am particularly impressed by my creativity and efficiency.

Bathe your feet with your kids!

The kids need baths, every night if I'm honest because I let them feed themselves, and play outdoors.

So I soak the tootsies in the bath. Every now and again, I rub them on the slightly rough plastic non-skid mat. Sometimes the kids even get into it and wash my feet. They use rough washcloths roughly. Luckily I have girls who like to be all girly. After the bath, we sit on the bed and slather our legs and feet with Body Butter. And then don socks.

My feet are now, I am happy to report, in a condition I am okay with considering going to see someone for a pedicure.

I doubt I ever will...but it was nice motivation.

4. My skin! Oh! Oh! Oh! My skin!

This is simple. I find that Proactive in the morning with Aveeno gentle wash and Oil of Olay Classic in the evening manage both the breakouts and the wrinkles. I use KISS. No, this isn't a brand, it's a philosophy: keep it simple stipper. Under the eyes? Vaseline. Or Aquaphor. Whichever is closest to hand. I've even used Lansinoh but I don't suggest that as it has a tendency to run overnight and clog your cheekbone pores. Or maybe that's just me. My pores are large enough for a trekker and band of Sherpas to camp in, so perhaps the tend toward the sharing the wealth of lotion.

Although, I think as I age, they are shrinking.

5. The Inner Workings

I simply can no longer abuse my body as I once did. It shows, and worse, I feel it. Staying out late? Oy. Staying out late drinking? Oy malloy. And I can tell the days I eat healthy, and keep in my Weight Watchers (whose guides I study as I once did Cosmo) boundaries versus the days I cave to the draw of Lupe’s and their fabulous fajitas and sangria margaritas.

I also can no longer fake it out.

When any doctor looks at my body, (s)he can tell whether I’ve been very good or very bad.

“You haven’t been flossing every day,” my dentist chastises, ‘There’s a bit of build-up in the back here, are you cutting corners?”

“Hmm, have you been on a Ben and Jerry’s binge,” my internist asks, “Your cholesterol has gone up a bit.”

Yes, this is the age in which you begin chugging calcium like it’s candy in the wild hopes you can make up for lost time in deposits, actually seriously consider the flu shot since you are in the “at risk category,” and find yourself creating a schedule of supplements and medications. Maybe. If you’re me. And I hope to God you are not. Because my friends, my health? It has gone to Hell in a handbasket.

I blame where I live, the sub-tropics, also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell, which explains the whole handbasket health bit.

The thing is…I don’t feel old. And yet, my body is changing, maturing, as it did when I was a teen. I’m having to rediscover who I am, physically, as well as emotionally. I feel myself entering a new stage of life. Young in mind, but not so young in body. Everything old---and familiar---is new again. It’s scary, exciting, and a little fun.

The other aging ladies and I sit in the school playground and discuss

• fashion---and how we are far too old to join in silly obnoxious naff Trends We Hate like Skinny Pants
• aging skin solutions
• how to eat and yet lose the last of the baby weight (even thought the baby is now school aged)
• which men are hot and which are not
• what we’d like to be when we grow up (or rather, when the kids grow up)
• the best dyes for gray
• and so forth

You know? Just like I used to when I was fifteen, before I knew everything and still needed to figure out what the heck my body was up to.

It’s fun to chat with friends, and a relief to know whew, it’s not just me.

The achy feeling in the mornings, the honesty of new limits, and the funky feeling of being in a body that does (or doesn’t do) things I mentally expect and emotionally can’t understand is not what I expected, but…I’m finding the fun in it too.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.


IzzyMom said…
ha! I can totally relate. I started having hormone issues after the birth of my first at 34, complete with weird hair growth...

Please let me know how the holy basil works for you. I'm very curious!
G. said…
Young guys in tight little shorts. Yeah, baby! just wrote my current life.

except, of course, add onto that the surprise pregnancy and what goes along with trying to lose pregnancy weight while forty.

and the dry spots on the feet! i don't mind the soles of my feet because i run barefoot and need those tough soles, but i was getting weird hard dry patches around my ankles. what the hell is that!

and yes, report back on the holy basil! and have you looked into evening primrose oil? that was supposed to be the miracle supplement when i was looking to put the damper on my pms crazies.

this is a fabulous post, btw. did i mention that?
Girlplustwo said…
from an observer role aging is a lovely process...from being down inside the rabbit hole with it, it can be a bit more confusing. you write about it in a terrific way.
Julie Pippert said…
Thanks all! It has suddenly struck me recently, all these changes...and in casual conversation noticed it was striking others too.

I'll report back on the holy basil.
Her Bad Mother said…
Doooood. So not just you. I've gone the raspberry lef tea route, and am dying to know about the holy basil...

(And I swear by Vaseline.)

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