Last night as I lay in semi-collapse in front of the television watching my taped Top Chef, I forgot to Tivo myself past one commercial. It was for a show about mothers, women, from Orange County. They were all dressed in very short skirts, most were very blonde, their hair long and dyed. Their faces all had that look of the botoxed, restalyned, and micro-dermabraided, way too smooth and shiny and tight. All the moms of the OC were really tan and had large breasts.
I blinked at the screen, wondering what, exactly I was seeing. What would go on in this show? What did moms in Orange County do, exactly, and why would I watch them?
The commercial went on, and just as it was ending, one of the women popped up from the bottom of the screen in that strange new "premier way" of TV channels and said, "I'm new on the show! I'm obsessed with being young."
Thank goodness I pressed fast forward then, and I made it back to Top Chef, where most of the people (except the judges) are rumpled and realistic, lumpy chef types with tattoos and a little pudge around the middle.
But during one of my restless awake moments in bed, I thought about that pop-up mom and her obsession with being young. She looked to be in her early forties, but she was doing everything to hide it. But there is only so much cosmetic surgery and fillers and exercise can do. At some point, even Botox OC mom is going to have to sit back and watch gravity take over.
I've actually been enjoying the shift. This may seem like a perverse perspective, but I've always found the changes in my body to be worth considering at length and in detail. When I began to go through puberty, I was astounded by the way things just happened, sometimes over night. My breasts managed to show up in a slowish progression over a year or so, but one of my friends had first the right breast and then the left decide to emerge. We would go into the bathroom to examine them with her during lunch. Amazing.
Hair was disturbing but interesting, even though we had to learn to deal with it by shaving it off or making sure it didn't show. And the much waited for period was the final stroke on the puberty bell. For what seemed like years after reading Are You There God? It's me, Margaret, I waited for my period. It had to show up. It would be so interesting. If Margaret could survive it, so could I.
Being pregnant was also as fabulous, if not slightly upsetting at times. Whatever elasticity I had in my skin disappeared, and I became a road map of the world, all points easily found in simple steps by following my stretch marks. My belly button first popped up and then disappeared, the skin around it turning slightly greenish. I was a gigantic torpedo of a pregnant woman, not one of these cute women (probably all the moms from the OC were cute when pregnant)with tiny bowling ball stomachs. I was the beast from the deep, huge, lumbering, stretched-marked, green-belly buttoned, darker haired. Watch out! I'm walking toward you and there's no more room in the store aisle.
And now middle age has brought me to changes again, the kind that no one writes about too much because it isn't to be vaunted but fixed, now, in the doctor's office. Watching the way skin slowly just stops holding the body against bone explains to me finally the process of overstretching rubber bands. The way hair decides to grow wherever it feels like and stop growing where it's supposed to is also one of those paradoxes of nature. How horrible. How damn interesting.
I have a feeling that from here in my mid-forties to the end of my life, I will be watching changes. I suppose I could have paid more attention in my twenties-early forties, but the body sort of holds together, at least on the outside, the changes harder to focus on. Now, it will be like a daily biology class, The Dessication of the Flesh 101. The test will be next week.
Having it all fall apart should feel different than watching it all come together, as it did in puberty. There the body was getting itself together to create life. But while sometimes I get a little sad, knowing that this process leads nowhere productive, I feel that I've been given a personal process to watch and live through. Yes, I've had to ask for medical help because of some of the changes, a couple annoying and requiring surgery. Yes, I might want to go in and have a few lines filled at some point, but this is the life and body I was given, and I've always found it so interesting to watch, much more so than the moms of the OC.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org