Part 1: Slipping into my Senior Years in Vans™ aka “On the Road to I Don’t Give a Fuck”
April 8, 2015
I find myself here at the precipice of late middle age (44), where I am at moments, figuratively pulled apart by the mental clinging and flinging that is occurring: clinging on for dear life to my youth (think skinny jeans, hair dye, etc.) and flinging myself off the cliff of the aged (think bland foods that won’t upset my stomach, flowy clothes, bright colored rouge, comfortable shoes, stiff drinks, etc.)
When I was younger, I assumed that I’d grow old gracefully. I hoped to mature and evolve into an amazing, learned woman with a gray streak in her natural locks and a twinkle in her eye. I imagined my older self would wear beautiful silky caftans and lots of distinctive jewelry collected from trips to various exotic locales. I anticipated that she would weave funny, interesting stories about the many different regions, cultures and local people she had met as well as intense, sometimes tawdry, love stories about the trail of broken hearts she had left around the world.
Alas, I am not her – yet. Today I am a waffler; a cling-on/fling-off. Today it takes me 45 minutes to get dressed because comfort is key and although I may think my cutest, sexiest self looks “totally hot” in those skin tight leather pants and 5 inch heels which, I put on and then promptly remove because my older, wiser self (let’s call her Matilda) says “Bitch, put on the stretchy jeans so you can breathe after dinner; wear the cashmere sweater and scarf because you know your anemic ass is going to be cold at the restaurant and for God’s sake, put on your Vans™ lest you end up having to walk somewhere and your corns, bunions, shin splints and plantar fasciitis act up because there is nothing cute about whining about your feet hurting.” (For the record, my Vans™ are sassy – gold and patent leather; not some plain canvas numbers). To balance out the look, I wear a little more make up than I used to and a little more jewelry because even though I’m older, I’m still a girl and still want to feel “pretty”.
In case you’re wondering, Matilda gets less attention from the boys and not as good service in bars and restaurants as my cuter, sexier self but Matilda always has a better time because she is relaxed, confident, happy and self-expressive. She also gets to be an observer rather than the observed which in itself is extremely liberating. So when you see the older woman with the clown-like make-up sitting at the restaurant in her Vans™ feel free to stop by and say hi – or don’t because as Graeme says, she’s on the road to not giving a fuck and it is fabulous!
Part 2: Update: Slipped out of Vans and Straight into Flip-flops aka No More Fucks Left to Give
Feb 28, 2017
I am now no longer on the precipice of late middle age and no longer a cling-on. At 46, I have flung myself happily off the cliff of the aged and discovered miraculously that I could fly! I stopped fighting and am happy to report that I have metamorphosed into the woman I always dreamed I would be. As predicted, I wear silky caftans every day; I have beautiful jewelry from exotic locales and boy oh boy, do I have some tawdry love stories but those are for later chapters. (Turns out that once “Matilda” stopped giving a fuck, dispensed with make-up altogether and traded in her comfy Vans™ for even more comfy flip-flops, the peace and light that she radiated drew the boys like moths to a flame…)
Today, I am focused on having gratitude for the aging process. I have learned a great deal about myself and about the world around me and am eternally grateful for the wisdom. I am sharing a few of the pearls that aging has provided to me which will hopefully give the younger set something to look forward to and will, perhaps, give my peers something to empathize with…
My Brain (Decisions – Big and Small):
Aging has taught me to simplify my life in one tiny but effective move that has had gigantic ramifications: I now make as few decisions as possible. As I have aged, I have noticed that the neurons don’t fire as quickly as they once did so I have become more judicious about how I utilize my brain power. If it isn’t a life or death decision then I don’t really have time for it and generally just let the chips fall where they may. Decisions like what to wear, what to eat, where to live and how to travel are all made at the spur of the moment and not a moment before and then, only according to the path of least resistance. No more deliberating, stressing, analyzing and making up excuses – if my immediate response is not a “hell yes,” then it’s a “no, thank you.”
My Body and Appearance:
My breasts have been defeated by the one-two punch of breast-feeding and gravity; the latter of which has also apparently waged war on my ass which now doubles as an ottoman (think about it). The good news is this makes both bra and underpants totally optional as Victoria and her entire army could not keep the truth of my aging body a “secret” from anyone.
Menopause-induced hot flashes have solved the problem of picking out something to wear because now I just wear everything at the same time. I can wear that skimpy shirt because any moment now I’m going to break out in a hot sweat and wish I was naked so I will strip down to the smallest garment on my person at that time. I can also wear that lovely scarf and toasty cashmere sweater because once the hot flash subsides, I will be soaking wet, drenched in sweat and freezing. In addition to solving the eternal outfit dilemma, it turns out the hot flash thing has additional benefits: I now keep my bedroom temperature at a refreshing 10C/50F and it would appear that sleeping in an icebox is an effective repellent for both mosquitoes and lovers which makes it a highly effective birth control method. Who knew?
I am proud to say (although no one else may say so) that aging has allowed encouraged me to be fashion forward and on trend. My gray hairs absorb hair dye in a fascinating and unpredictable fashion. The resulting effect is a full spectrum of color which keeps me solidly punk-rock into my later years.
My waning eyesight makes the wearing of glasses mandatory however I hate fishing around for them in my bag, so often I’ll just go without. I’ve come to enjoy getting dressed sans spectacles because I look forward to the results and reactions of my blind efforts with anticipation and am as pleasantly surprised as those around me. My friends often comment on my revelatory ensembles: “That outfit looks great on you! You can wear anything; I would never have thought to wear pink, red and green – together!”
My Connection to the Natural World:
My body has changed but it teaches me things every single day. You may have to consult with the weather app on your phone or watch the news to know the day’s weather but my body has transformed me into an intuitive meteorologist. I know the weather forecast before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
My head has morphed into a barometer. Am I stuffy and do I have intense pain running down and across the right side of my face? Does it feel like a Goodfella’ came into my room in the middle of the night with a mallet and gave my face and head a good “talking to”? Well then my dear children it shall be a cloudy day with no rain in the immediate future. The sky will feature only low-hanging, big-ass, clumped-together clouds which will wreak havoc on my equilibrium. The sun may peek through from time to time today but mostly you can expect to see lots of gray sky and I can expect the excruciating pain in my head and face to last until those fat clouds explode.
Some days the pain is not in my head and face but in my lower back and right knee. Can I feel the inner-workings of my knee joint without actually even touching it? Do I wake up feeling like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pinned my ass in a pretzel-twist move all night? (I should be so lucky…) Well then my dear friends it is going to rain if it isn’t already. Sometimes I can even feel the electricity in the air and I don’t mean as if The Rock was in the same room; I mean real electricity. If I feel tingly, have goose bumps and my hair is even larger than usual upon awakening then the rain will also be accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Eating and Drinking
Meal time now lasts for hours and possibly into the next day. For example, when I eat spicy food, I will often belch it for the rest of the night then I get the added bonus of reliving the heat when it comes out the next day; that is, if it comes out the next day – bathroom time is now a nebulous concept.
The good news is that dietary restrictions are dynamic so there is no need to actually try and remember them for they are an ever-changing list of WTF. One day I’m wolfing down mac’n’cheese and washing it down with a beer and the next day I get gassy from just walking past a Ben & Jerry’s. I find myself reminiscing about food as though I’m living in the Great Depression or the way some people recall a long-lost lover. “Ohhhh, I remember chocolate cake…” and “Why of course I remember pizza! Mmmm. The kind with the really thin crust with the cheese all bubbled up on top was the best! I would sprinkle a dash or two of oregano and basil and then a few bits of crushed pepper on top. Then I would pick up a slice and fold it in half vertically and the tomato sauce-tinged oil would slide down my hand as I lifted that heavenly slice of greasy goodness to my mouth. I believe they called it New York style pizza. It was amazing! Those were the days…”
Milk, cheese, butter, bread, pasta, onions, garlic, peanuts, MSG; the list of things I can’t eat as I’ve aged goes on and on. Then one day I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter which restaurant I go to because I can only eat the same bland shit everywhere I go and I actually rejoiced and reveled in this awareness because it meant it’s one less decision I now have to make!
Aging has also made me a relatively cheap date. Since I go to sleep before 10:00PM every night it stands to reason that I eat dinner at 6:00 at the latest which puts me in prime, senior/early-bird special time at restaurants. Additionally, my liquor tolerance has gone way down (perhaps my liver is still tired from my younger years) which means I can now get drunk on one or two glasses of wine. And yes, I do order the good shit since I’ll only be able to have one glass of it before someone has to pour my drunk ass into a taxi or walk my sorry self home. And if by some stroke of stupidity or youth, I do somehow remain standing after dinner and follow the bad advice of a well-meaning friend or family member for “one little after dinner drink,” my choices are easier than bygone years because shots and most cocktails are no longer options.
For the most part, I am rarely tempted by a night out because the price I have to pay for the next two to three days is simply not worth it. Yes, you read that correctly – two to three days, kids! As we age we cannot abuse our temples the way we did in our youth. Hell hath no vengeance like a hangover over 40. The psychological hangover is a delightful accompaniment to being physically ill. If you think you feel like an idiot in your 20’s when you’re hurling after a night of drinking then imagine what it feels like 20 years later to think that you still have not learned your lesson. And Hangover 4.0 is not just nausea and headaches, after a certain age we get things like gout.
You’re now thinking: “Gout? Isn’t that one of those diseases that was eradicated at the turn of the century like scurvy or rickets?” I’m here to tell you that it was not. Gout, once known as a rich man’s disease, strikes those of us of a certain age who dare to over-indulge. So you say you’ve worked your ass off during your youth and now you can afford to drink the good shit like expensive whiskey, etc.? Well your body has a sweet, little random surprise for you. You will wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning in pain. Where is the pain you ask? In probably what tops the list of “the most humiliating places to complain about pain” – your toe. Yep, just one toe. For some it’s an entire foot or leg but for those of us who are still somewhat in shape and, unfortunately, aware of our bodies, we get a throbbing pain in our big friggin’ toe.
A fantastic day is now defined as a day free from aches and pains which allows me to feel gratitude from the moment I open my eyes. In truth, on the days where I do have aches and pains I am also grateful as those very same aches and pains provide me with legitimate reasons/justifications to not do shit and not feel guilty about it.
Seeing and experiencing some shit over the years has given my nerves an invaluable work-out to the point that they are now made of steel. A lot of big shit no longer fazes me because I know it will work itself out and the little shit? Oh please, your baby crying on the flight does not disturb me in the least because a) It’s not my baby so I am not responsible for its well-being/happiness and b.) In 13 years when that baby hits puberty you’re going to be the one weeping for mercy so I have a world of compassion for you. If you think she’s embarrassing you now, just wait until your friends call you because they’ve seen her strolling through the center of town, scantily-clad and tarted-up like a Kardashian; or when the principal calls you in because she’s been cutting class.
Blunt honesty is now a virtue which they call “authenticity.” This is fantastic news because I have no more fucks to give and can no longer sugar-coat things for others’ digestion. E.g. I love you and this party is great but I would really prefer to be at home, lying in my bed, watching Netflix, eating tortilla chips and farting so I’m leaving to go do that now.
To be continued…
 Thanks and credit go to my friend, Graeme Benson, for the title