Thursday, February 3, 2011

Full Body Scan

In the 54th year of my life, here are the things that I have noticed: hair, stable in its mix of white and dark for the moment, but always a few more wiry ones in the new strands, and strong return to the massive cowlick. A subtle hatching of crinkle lines on my forehead, around my eyes, the beginnings of those German pursed lip lines that I used to be able to make appear and then would erase magically when I smiled. Now, there they are no matter how serene I feel. The rest state of my face looks accusatory now, pissed off, like a combination of Hilary Clinton and Judge Judy. No wonder people back away if I flash them a glance. Each earlobe has one big dent in it, north to south. It's too big to be a wrinkle. Perhaps a crunkle? Horrid age spots appear monthly, new ones, in inconvenient positions, not where beauty marks should be. Chin and neck holding stable, but for how long? The skin of my chest which is exposed if I wear a scoop neck still feels smooth to the touch, but is likewise getting patchy and mottled. In interesting patterns, though. My once perky, though never large boobs are settling lower. Nothing a well-fitted underwire can't manage, but the days of fitting a pencil under each one and watching the No. 2s drop to the floor are long gone. Upper arms can flap like wings if I'd like them to. And lifting weights will not bring them into firmness ever again. The skin around the muscle is loosening and drooping. It is still very soft and soothing; all my little nieces and nephews somehow find it delightful to handle and bounce and caress. How can I be so mean as to keep them from such a sensual pleasure, just because it is slightly annoying to be used as a giant blankey? I can't summon up a sense of outraged amour-propre to fend them off. They manhandle me with the best will in the world. Who am I to deny them such comfort?
The skin of my hands and forearms is beginning to look like a balled-up piece of paper reflattened. Lotion is still able to make this surface less cross-hatched looking, but only temporarily and soon it won't work at all. I remember my grandmother's skin after 80 being still soft and quite beautiful but permanently marked all over with the tiny diamond-shaped patches, peaked and dented. My fingernails have become ridged and brittle.
All this is still under the radar. No one else might even notice a tenth of it, not even my husband. But practiced observation skills and a certain low level of health vigilance keep me apprised of these downturns. I'm watching the slippery slope. I'm not skidding yet, but it's only a matter of time.
None of what has fallen, drooped, discolored or dried has yet made any inroads on my lifestyle. Nothing above the waist anyway. Below that meridian it may be quite a different story.
I never had the flat abdomen of the stick leg girls of high school. Never. And now all that gravity which shouldn't be cumulative or conspiratorial (it's a physical law, not a moral punishment), seems to be increasing exponentially. Now every yoga pose, every five minutes of cardio, every kettlebell swung is only a staving off of the inevitable. Another German soldier losing his life at the Battle of the Bulge so that Hitler can commit suicide a day or two later. Maybe a week. And what is it for? I was no Catherine Deneuve, no Vanessa Redgrave even in my youth. Even when I was young I disdained throwing away my time on earth in anything more than routine body maintenance. Renovation, subtle or wholesale, did not, still does not, interest me.
But to continue. What was never that taut to begin with has softened further. The significant portion of Sitzfleisch I've always been saddled with now puddles about my bones and remaining muscle tissue. The ghosts of previous fat deposits slide past the extant ones as connective tissue melts like candle wax. It doesn't bother me particularly. I have no interest in competing on the physical, visual level with young women of today. Why would I now enter a silly race I can't win?
Blobs and bloobs of ever less controlled flesh and skin hang and flap and annoy. Inside each knee the crescent of extra flesh expands. Above the knee, skin hangs in rumpled curtains, like an unbent elbow, or a baggy suit of elephant hide, luckily not gray or the analogy would become a horrifying reality. Halfway up my thigh, the excess weight of years past is making its ghostly presence known in dimples and swags and effusions where it once burgeoned. The top half of the thigh is almost twice the circumference of the lower.
And the leg below the knee is still solid and trunk-like and covered in man-hair on the inner surface, smooth as ivory on the outer. Shaving my legs now takes half the time and is still not worth the effort as I have decided to wear pants from now on out. I don't want to look at my legs any more (never did), and at no point were they an asset to any of my endeavors: mating strategies, grade point average, or the pursuit of philosophy, so I now intend to keep them healthy, useful and out of sight. They're mine. They do the work I require of them, they do not also have to be window-dressing that attempts to advertise my inner worth or respectability.
My feet. Well, my feet were the one constant in my embarrassing series of wardrobe malfunctions called shopping. I could always find shoes to fit my feet. They still look like they're too small to anchor this particular body to the earth, but they don't look too bad otherwise. I never wore high heels (no, I couldn't take the pain, and no point--my legs would have required hydraulic lifts, not just the altering of the heels' angle to make them look better), so I don't have the mangled toes and damaged nails that that torture visits upon the vain. The heels are hardening up, but if I slather them with moisturizer morning and night, then pumice the hell out of them in the bath, they don't crack into painful fissures. It's a constant struggle though. If I go on vacation and forget to do the daily maintenance routine, a crack will appear to punish me.
Looking back over this, I see I may have exaggerated, slightly. It's not that bad. Only I really notice it. The public parts are still presentable. It's just that the decline behind the clothes goes on undetected, unnoticed, and easily ignored. Then about once a week, I catch sight of my own ass in the mirror as I step into my underwear and--Yikes! I'd forgotten. In my mind, my body goes back to its best possible moment when I'm not looking. It skitters back to that one summer when I thought for once I looked good in a bathing suit. Which tells you how long ago that was. My optimistic mind is carrying that image around as its reality, despite all evidence to the contrary.
To sum up: I now resemble a waxen votive figure left too long in the strong sun. I appear to be attenuating to a skeleton above the waist, with the melted wax pooling lower, making my usual pear-shape even more pronounced. But I can't complain, despite all the cranking above. All the parts still work well.
Full body scan complete. That will be $3000.

No comments:

Post a Comment