I’ve decided. I want to be old, sloppy, and look ridiculous in a bikini. I want to have a stain on my shirt that looks suspiciously like ketchup. I want to keep all the weight I’ve gained over the years. I want to prove that that is the look of success.
I heard they dressed some of the Occupy Wallstreet protestors up in suits and cut their hair, and then suddenly people took them a lot more seriously. I want to be the opposite. Except for the hair cutting– that’s fine. I want to go the other direction. And be taken seriously.
When I get old, or even considerably older, I want to look my age. I want to wear big, comfortable clothes. I want to never wear anything I don’t feel like wearing. I want to forget to look in the mirror, even when there’s something in my teeth. I don’t want this to make me quirky or eccentric or gross. I want it to be the way life works.
I want to be better at everything when I’m old. Better at knowing what really matters. Better at appreciating myself. Better at being nonjudgmental. Better at doing the things I love and being around the people I want to be around.
And at the same time, I’m scared of being old, sloppy, and ridiculous looking in a bikini. I’m scared of weight. People talk about baby weight “After my third kid, there’s no WAY I was losing that weight.” Oh shit, I think. Should I have kids?
I keep getting the impression that getting older successfully means looking like you’re not getting much older. Which usually means fighting a desperate, constant, losing battle against biology. From a distance, it looks a lot like having a terminal illness. And in a way, I guess it is. You fight every day, putting yourself through painful procedures and grueling exercise regimens, and then, eventually, the things you’ve been staving off overwhelm your body. And that is that.
I don’t want to waste my time.
A reader sent me this little clip. (I could probably embed the video so it looks better, but for some reason I forget how and I don’t have enough time to figure it out.) In it, the peppy announcer is praising Jennifer Love Hewitt for getting back on track. As in, losing weight, and keeping a young-looking body. “She’s back from the dead!”
OK, I know. She’s a movie star. Every tabloid is screaming “so and so gains 30 lbs!!!” and “finally, so and so loses the baby weight!” But it isn’t just about movie stars. It’s about women, every day. It’s about women, turning 30 and worrying about getting old. Women, turning 40 and getting treatments and injections. Women of all ages worrying and worrying about keeping their weight down, losing that ten pounds, chasing themselves all the way back to their perfect weight, their younger look, the glory days that may not have even existed because back then, they were agonizing about, say, their nose.
So I want to be 45 and somehow tight-skinned and elegantly slender and shockingly youthful-looking. Because that’s how successful women are supposed to be.
But even more, I want to be 45 and whatever that really looks like for me. While I work on my bestselling fantasy series. And then 65 and whatever that looks like, eating some really delicious stuff and enjoying the world. And then 85, and so on.
My 90-year-old grandmother is on a diet.
“Come on, just keep the pie,” I said. I had brought it over.
“No!” she cried. “Just a piece! I can’t keep it, I’ll eat it!”
“Well, that’s the point.”
“I’m trying to lose weight.”
Is there hope? Maybe not.
I got my hair cut two days ago (apparently short hair requires a lot of cutting. What d’ya know?), and the stylist was one of those people who just says whatever she’s thinking (I usually like people like that). She was telling me this story about a client with big ears, who hid them with her hair.
“Well, I have a big nose, and I used to grow my hair to distract people from it,” I said.
“That does work,” she said.
“But who cares?” I said. “People can look at my nose. I’m proud of it.”
She looked at it. “It’s long,” she said.
“Yup,” I said.
“It’s a smart nose,” she said.
“Are you saying I look Jewish?”
“I wasn’t gonna ask.”
“That’s what I thought!!”
We both laughed.
She said, “I have a tiny nose.”
“So does my husband,” I said. “I always tell him that hopefully our sons will get my nose and our daughters will get his.”
“Hopefully,” she agreed.
And then she proceeded to give me a terrible haircut that made me look like I should have bigger biceps and be wearing work boots and a leather jacket.
But that’s not the point. The point is that I didn’t mind. I do have a big nose. And it’s probably better if my daughters don’t get it, because it’s not always easy being a woman with a big nose.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of it. Or just fine with it. And it doesn’t mean I won’t cut my hair off anyway, because it’s easier. It isn’t going to stop me.
That’s a good sign, right?
(There’s my Gram, eating some cake. And looking amazing. Not because she looks young. But because she is awesome.)
* * *
I also want to say publically that I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss, Deanna. Deanna reads this blog, and her friend, a hair stylist, was recently killed in a shooting. I thought about you and her when I was at the hair salon the other day. I wish she was still around for your 9:30 appointment. I hope you heal, and again, I’m just sorry.
Unroast: Today I love how good my body is for hugging.
P.S. On another sad note, which feels weird including after I mentioned the death of Deanna’s friend, last night my dad took our family dog to the vet and had her put to sleep. I researched dogs for a year when I was nine in my effort to convince my parents I could pick the perfect breed and should therefore be given a puppy. It worked. Except for the picking the perfect breed part. When I was ten, we got Sadie, a Belgian Shepherd. She was absolutely insane. Like, something was wrong. She spun in circles constantly. But she was so sweet. And she’s been sweet and crazy her whole life. I thought her death wouldn’t affect me. But I cried when I heard. And I thought about her warm brown eyes. So trusting.
I miss her.