Living Out Loud, or, Middle-Aged Woman Rules, Part Four

“Oomph.” “Umph.”
And “Me-Ow.”

Middle age comes with a soundtrack.

As in “oomph!” every time you sit down, or stand up.

As in “umph” for each step up the stairs.

Or “ow” when the knee, or the arthritic finger, or the kink in the neck flares up.

Sophie cat, up there, makes middle-aged meowing sounds, too, when she plops down on the rug, or heaves herself up on the bed, making it by a claw.  Meee-OOOWW!

There was an episode of Frasier where Martin was niggling Frasier about becoming middle-aged, asking “can you get out of a chair without saying, “oomph?” I’ve searched for a gif of it, but can’t find one. I think it was in an episode called, “Fortysomething.” Ha! Forty! I guess in the ’90s, forty was considered middle aged. But I’m all, “hey, sixty is the new forty! – or thirty five, even! Right? Right???” Cha, I wish.

Lately I’ve added, “aaaaaahhhhhuuuugh” or “ooohwaah” when I bend down (from the waist, to spare the knees – at least I’m still pretty “stretched out” from my younger dancing days) to pick something up.

“Umph” and “oomph” and “aaaaauuuuugh” as accompaniment to my every movement have become almost involuntary.  They help me get through the motions of the day. A little vocal punctuation to help me get up the stairs, out of the chair, follow through on the yard work and the gardening tasks.

But recently I signed up for our local park district fitness center, where sound effects are, um, sort of…not-so-much.

I have begun a six-month fitness plan, intended to get me (us, because my daughter needs to move, too) moving through the winter (winter is coming). While I love a brisk walk through autumn woods, or on a snowy bright winter day, the stark truth is that walking, by itself, will not prevent the creeping return of pounds lost only when I was on my feet all day, lifting and pulling heavy things working in warehouses I don’t work in anymore.

So heigh-ho, heigh-ho, off to the gym we’ll go, where after 10 minutes “warming up” on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the rowing machine (imagining a lovely row down the Cherwell in Oxford, where long ago I’d watch the college rowing teams drill) and a few reps with tiny barbels, I’ll push and pull a cart weighted with 270 pounds, with wheels set to the highest level of resistance, back and forth down half the indoor track as many times as I can (ok, twice down and back) while my daughter semi-reluctantly plays with the heavy ropes.

So far, so good.

Except for the risk that I’ll add sound effects to the proceedings.

Fortunately, many other users of the facility employ earbuds. There are a few ladies of a certain age, like me, walking briskly around the indoor track, or using weight machines set at age-appropriate levels. There are several white-haired gentlemen working to preserve such mobility and physical strength as they may have remaining, and a smattering of younger, mid-career men maniacally testing their endurance on stair machines, treadmills or ellipticals, pursuing conquest, dominance, mastery – or something. We stay out of their way.

All in all, though, this is a pretty laid-back facility.  We seem to have discovered the times of day when it isn’t crowded. Nevertheless, having realized that when in motion I’m in danger of making “oomphing” noises, I have imposed a few gym-inspired middle-aged-woman rules, to wit:

  • Arrive in make-up and lipstick. It doesn’t matter if you’ll sweat it off or shower it off later; what matters is that the other users believe you look like a hag only AFTER a vigorous workout. (Good for you! Way to go for the burn, lady!)
  • Wear BLACK fitness pants, bootcut if you can find them, and a not-too-tight-but-not-too-loose t-shirt in a flattering color, v-necked, because it makes you look a little taller and you’ve been putting that Oil of Olay night cream on your décolleté too, haven’t you, and damn that looks pretty good for a woman of your age, but go for elbow length sleeves, if you can find them, because you’re trying to get rid of your wings, not flap them in public. EEEEEWWW.
  • NEVER shower at the facility. In the name of all that is holy, do that at home.
  • Restrict sounds to millennial-style yoga-breathing – inhale! Exhale as you push! (Wait a minute, that sounds like childbirth….)
  • SMILE, though your legs are aching (you know the tune), Smile, though your abs are shaking, smile, while you push the machine for your tush… Etc.

I’m supposed to get the verdict, or at least some insight, into the source of the ache in my bones from the rheumatologist on Friday. I want to believe I can’t bend the ring finger of my left hand because Mike isn’t letting go, or is peeved that I took off my wedding ring, but from what the doc said on the initial exam, it could be anything from calcium deposits to something systemic and vaguely terrifying involving my liver or pancreas.

I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, I remain, your grunting, oophing, umphing, trying to keep smiling while sweating,

Ridiculouswoman

Middle-aged Woman Rules, Part Three

Dinah Shore was twenty years older than Burt Reynolds, and they had a hot romance.

Made me hopeful.

Until I looked in the mirror right after a shower.

Which caused me to formulate a new middle-aged woman rule to add to the original and as-amended rules:

  • Even if you have a magic mirror, NEVER, EVER LOOK IN THE MIRROR WHEN YOUR HAIR IS WET. Trust me, just don’t.

Corollary:

  • Do your face before you put the stuff that makes your curly hair curlier all over your hands, to work in to your wet hair. See original rules, “manage hair wherever it occurs. (emphasis added.”) Just sayin’.

Pleased that cooler weather has arrived, permitting the use of a hair dryer in an un-airconditioned environment, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, disheveled,

Ridiculouswoman

Move over, Miss Jean Brodie

Am I delusional..about love with a younger man?

Got the all-clear from the radiologist (mentioned toward the end of “Divestiture, Episode One,”) who thought he saw something, which once snipped and biopsied turned out to be nothing, which made me feel, if not “young” again, at least “younger.” Ready to roll. New lease on life, and all that.

Time to dive back into the ridiculous pursuit of online dating!

Or not.

“For Online Daters, Women Peak at 18 While Men Peak at 50, Study Finds.”

Wait, what?

OK, I can understand aiming a little out of one’s league. Maybe even a little beyond the ballpark altogether. Study says everyone does that.

But a 50 year old man preferring an 18 year old girl?

That’s just creepy.

What the hell would they talk about?

Get real. The man in this equation is not much interested in talking. In fact, such a man likely finds intelligence and advanced education off-putting. Unless you’re as gorgeous as Amal Clooney. See end of article, referenced above.

Now look, I admit, when I tried this online dating thing before, I aimed a bit below my senior league, age-wise. A little bit more than the average “25% more desireable” below, as it turns out.

But for me, seeking men in that range still puts the guys well into their actual “prime” (e.g., into full-blown adulthood) and seems way less cringey than a 50 year old guy looking for a girl who could easily be younger than his youngest child. That’s just gross – and ridiculous. And dangerous for the fragile, still-evolving self of a teenage girl.

(And if you haven’t watched “Nanette,” as the NYT article recommends, do so now. Like it says, I’ll wait.)

Anyway what teenagers actually go on online dating sites? Don’t they have a name for how they intend to mislead and make fun of whoever pursues them, if they do? Catfishing, right? And aren’t they too busy Instagramming or Snapchatting each other? To make fun of the ancients they caught in their catfish net?

What the hell are these middle-aged men thinking?

Well, the same thing they’ve been thinking since the dawn of time, apparently. They are thinking about mating. And having some arm candy that won’t argue with them, won’t challenge their ideas about themselves, or challenge any of their ideas at all, or have any ideas – coherent ones, anyway, I guess.

But then, what was I thinking? Am I as delusional as these fragile-egoed guys? Covering up my mirrors, believing that my inner beauty, when I can access it, on those rare occasions when I can keep myself from being a patronizing, superior smartass (see previous paragraph in re: challenging ideas, or ideas at all, etc.,) will create a glow that can erase twenty years from my face and attract a  much younger man? (hey, c’mon, even I’m not ridiculous enough to believe that I could erase those years from the rest of me – just, you know, HEY! MY FACE IS UP HERE! kind of thing. It’s just that my face looks a helluva lot more like that cartoon up at the top there than I seem to think it does.)

Remember that magnificent Maggie Smith film performance as Miss Jean Brodie? Where she was always strutting around, announcing, “ay-ee em in my-ee prrr-eye-eem” and “give me a gurr-ul at an im-preeshnable a-yeege, and she is my-een foreverrrrr” – which doesn’t work out so well – turns tragic, actually, because in addition to harboring an unfortunate admiration for fascists and a penchant for inappropriate love affairs, she has a disastrous tendency to encourage same in her young students.

Miss Jean Brodie was truly delusional. Please don’t let me go full Jean Brodie  (of course you don’t have to worry about the fascist thing, just the inappropriate love affairs. Or more accurately, the pursuit of them.  The delusional, ridiculous pursuit, or hope, or belief in, the possibility of love with a younger man. In my defense, however, Mike was two years younger than I am. So there’s that anyway. But two years. Not twenty.)

But I digress. I was talking about inner beauty, radiating from the face.

From the face you get the smile, the intelligence, the spirited repartee.

Oh, I forgot. Spirited repartee need not apply.

It gets worse. The study suggests that for online dating, the level of interest in women declines precipitously based on age, and that the men on these sites, while dipping way down to the teenage shallow end (snark) rarely look more than a year or so above their own age on the deeper end.

OK, hell with that. I elect to believe that Real Men Don’t Use Online Dating Sites, and I intend to take my business (and my inner beauty) elsewhere.

Perhaps to organizations with “silver” or “senior” in their names.

Places that have shuffleboard and shuttle buses, God help me.

I’ll be the hottest babe there!

Hell with that. Break out the Oil of Olay and get me to the gym.

I’ll keep you posted.

Until next time, I remain, your devoted, not-really-humble-enough, and certainly not-very-obedient, servant,

Ridiculouswoman

Mirror, Mirror…

Maybe I should cover up those mirrors…

Mirror, mirror…

It must be the frosted glass shades that soften the light of the LEDs in the brass light fixtures in my downstairs bathroom.

The lights above the two large oval mirrors shine down from above. That bathroom had two sinks when we moved in, and I didn’t even think of reducing those to one when we redid it – I should have, and I should have put the laundry there also – live and learn – I’ll never be able to afford redoing it now, unless I win the lottery.

The lights are quite bright, despite those white glass shades.

Every time I catch a glimpse of my face in one of those mirrors, lit by those lights, I see a beautiful woman.

I think, “damn, Annie, you’re cute! You’re beautiful!”

So I try to take a selfie that won’t show me holding my phone, taking a selfie.

And in the photo of me, taken when I think I look gorgeous, I see a hag, a crone, with wrinkles and sallow skin.

What’s going on here?

Do I own magic mirrors?

Is the camera in my phone defective?

Maybe I should cover those mirrors.

You must know of that wonderful film called “My Brilliant Career” where the protagonist, an independent, unusual young woman in late 19th century Australia, played by Judy Davis, becomes despondent about her life and prospects, believing she is plain, and frustrated with efforts to marry her off – until a wiser older woman she is visiting covers all the mirrors in her house, forcing that young woman to realize that her character, intelligence, sense of humor and grace make her attractive. And, spoiler alert, she does attract a really nice man, but ends up turning him down to maintain her independence and pursue her dream of being a writer.

Covering up the mirrors was a good idea. I’m going to stop taking selfies in good light with a bad camera, and I’m going to stop being so concerned looking my age.

I’m going to walk through the world believing I am the beautiful woman I see in my magic mirror, remembering that it is intelligence, wit, grace and the kindness I am trying to convey that might make me attractive. I’m going to believe that my belief in myself will make others believe I am beautiful, too – inside and out.

I’ve seen a few photos of me, lately (taken by my brother, at a Cubs game, with a better camera than mine) where I look, um, unobjectionable. Tolerable. Even, dare I say it, attractive? In them I look relaxed, confident, happy, like I’m having fun (and who doesn’t have fun on a sunny day at Wrigley?) and like I’m not concerned about what others think about me – only concerned about having fun with the people I’m with, in that moment.

And I have seen a photo of me having fun by myself, last night, celebrating my acceptance into a rigorous Chicago area choral group. I was actually trying to use my camera as a mirror (oops) to discreetly reapply lipstick (see “Middle-Aged Woman Rules”) while sitting at an outside table at a local restaurant, straining to see – which struck me as funny – and remembering how appalled my Grandfather, Father and brothers would be, me putting on lipstick IN PUBLIC, for God’s sake, which also struck me as funny. These men believed, and those still with us still believe, that ladies are supposed to excuse themselves to do that, elsewhere. Unseen. Just come back looking better and let whoever you are with try to figure out why.

So I was laughing about that, and about bothering to put lipstick on in the dark, trying to use my phone’s reversible camera as a mirror, and I accidentally snapped a selfie.

And here’s what I found on my phone today:

IMG_20180816_195917.jpg

Not too shabby, huh? Bad light and all?

Actually, I messed with the photo to brighten it up and somehow managed to delete the original before it was backed up, so I messed with this one to try to darken it back down to look like it looked originally. Whatever. You get the idea. I look happy, relaxed and unworried about being ridiculous, taking a selfie in the dark.

Mike found me when I had stopped looking, or at least when I had made peace with the possibility of never finding “the one.” And then he showed up.

He helped me understand that I didn’t have to try so hard, that I would be more attractive if I just chilled out a little, enjoyed the moment and took the pressure off.

His favorite picture of me was taken on our honeymoon, in the morning, before make-up, where I thought I looked disheveled and washed-out.

He loved it because he thought it revealed in my face my innocent heart, undisguised by artifice or excessive concern with my looks. He saw ME when he saw me, and he loved what he saw.

I’ll take another look at that picture from time to time, to remind myself that there’s someone inside me, behind the lipstick, worthy of being loved.

In the meantime I want to be the kind of person who has that effect on others – reminding them with a smile or a conversation that they are seen, that they are loved, that they are worthy of love – and that they are beautiful.

I’m sure you’ve seen that viral video by Shea, from Chicago, of people’s reactions when they are told they are beautiful, and all the others inspired by it, so I didn’t link any of them here – but if you haven’t seen them, just search “people react to being told they are beautiful.”

A Visible Woman

Patrick … saw me – he treated me like I was actually there…not …invisible

For Patrick, from Erie, Pennsylvania

A young man struck up a conversation with me as I was waiting outside by myself for a table at a very tiny, very crowded Thai restaurant in Wrigleyville.

He looked a lot like a young Jason Bateman (not that I’m a big fan of Jason Bateman – it just bugged me so much that I couldn’t think of what actor this guy reminded me of that later that night, I thought of a movie trailer I had seen that guy in, and Googled it by the little I remembered of the plot, even though it wasn’t the type of movie I’d ever go see,  and I lucked out by finding it on the first try).

We’re going to let it slide that the younger-Jason-Bateman-look-alike’s initial purpose in talking to me was to encourage me to accept a table outside on a hot, muggy night, so he could show his visiting Dad and Uncle the very quirky décor inside the crowded little place. He was afraid they wouldn’t get in, and because his visitors were from out of town and might not have another chance, he wanted them to see the inside. Fair enough.

I didn’t care, because I was just hungry, for Thai food specifically. I’d sit anyplace if I could get fed. The hostess was true to her word in seating me in about five minutes. During that five minutes, another nice couple put in for a table and waited, this young man showed up with his guests, and two huge parties of 8 or so all left simultaneously – so the other couple, the young man and his guests, and I, all got to sit inside, under the impressive collection of toy robots, street signs, Cubs paraphernalia, etc. And I ended up sitting at a two-top right next to younger-Jason-Bateman guy, diagonally from his Uncle, who sat opposite his Dad.

After checking with me to see if I was a person who liked to talk (HA! Ok, stop laughing now, followers who know me) he skillfully apportioned his conversation between me and his Dad and Uncle, and managed to engage all of us in comfortable conversation for the duration of our meals.

I introduced myself and he told me his name was Patrick, that he was from Erie, Pennsylvania and had been in Chicago for about two years. The rest of it was pretty light stuff – how he ended up here, his educational background and job, and then mostly baseball and other sports, recreational opportunities on the lakefront, the relative severity of winters in Erie (regular snowfalls of 6 feet or more) and Chicago (regular bouts of subzero temperatures) etc.

When I had finished my meal and settled up, I told Patrick as I was leaving that it had been nice to meet him and wished his Dad and Uncle a pleasant visit.

And as I did this, Patrick stood up (well, sort of half stood up, but hey, it was a tiny, crowded restaurant) and shook my hand good-bye.

Let that land for a minute.

When was the last time you met a young person (I’d say he was maybe 26?) who had been raised to observe often forgotten courtesies, like rising when a lady (or anyone older than you) was arriving or departing? I was touched, and charmed, especially because it seemed like an unconscious habit – this is something Patrick does for ladies and his elders, I suspect, without really thinking about it.

But what really made my day was that Patrick saw me – he treated me like I was actually there, not as if I was an invisible woman. He just marched right up to me and started talking (about me maybe sitting outside, but we’re letting that slide, remember? He was gracious enough to keep talking to me once everyone was seated.)

I’ve seen posts by women my age, or even quite a bit younger, who wrote that they felt a kind of freedom in their invisibility, knowing that because of their, erm, maturity, nobody would really pay much attention to them in public (unless they made a spectacle of themselves, and as we know, I’m the one who specializes in that – see the latest episode related over there in the “Snark Tank”) and they could go about their business without worrying about what anyone thought and without being accosted for attention from others. They were fine with whatever attention they got at home. From their still-living husbands.

Invisibility doesn’t work for me – while I have always enjoyed my own company and have been happy in solitude when I have chosen it, I still crave social contact with adults who are not emotionally dependent on me to help them cope with shared grief.  So a casual conversation with a good-mannered person (ok, man, but as the supply of them is inverse to the age of the woman, I’m trying to enjoy the company of women, more, too) who may only have been talking to me because he had good manners, can make my day.

So thanks for treating me as visible, Patrick. It made the difference between a day that might have included weeping and a day that didn’t.

(And thanks also for seeming genuinely surprised that I was old enough to have had my heart broken by the Cubs in both ’69 and ’84 – things your Uncle remembered in detail, but that certainly occurred before you were born).

Looking forward to my next encounter with a nice man (ok, person) with good manners and the grace to seem surprised by my age, I remain,

Your humble, devoted, lonely but hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman