Society, you are working my nerves. You–we–have created such a toxic, self-absorbed, superficial, idiotic culture that I’m having issues with it as an adult. What are you going to do to my kids in a few years? My girls? They kind of like who they are, you know. I’d like to keep it that way.
It (my poorly muted rage, I mean) all started with a dermatologist. I’d been meaning to get a skin check for a while now–I’m fair skinned, nor the best about sun protection–and after a mom acquaintance of mine discovered that she’s in the fight of her life with Stage 3 melanoma, I figured now is better than later to get that weird new mark checked out. I was super nervous about this appointment, which took seven months to get. I didn’t know what to expect, and of course, was scared about what they’d say. So, at appointment time, I sat in my gown on the edge of my seat, and waited.
It turned into one of the weirdest doctor’s appointments I’ve ever had. The resident physician walked in, gave me the five-minute once-over, and spent a little extra time on that funky spot. He called in the attending, who also came right in and looked at the spot. They snapped a photograph for posterity. The doctors told me that Spot looked fine, but to come back in six months or a year if I “was worried.” It bothered me that the attending physician never looked me in the eyes–not the warm-and-fuzzy type, this guy–but made sure to comment on the appearance of my hands (“Looking a little rough, here! What kind of work do you do?”). He turned up his nose when he found out my “job” was being a full-time mom (did he not see the ravaged hands?). He rolled his eyes when he heard about the book, and spent more time staring at my bag, and boots, and coat that lay on the chair behind him than he did at my weird-o could-it-be-cancer spot. I sat there, shivering in my scratchy cloth gown, and felt like he was pigeonholing me–he had me pegged as soon as he walked in. It was strange, and patronizing. I haven’t felt that small in a long time. And then he left and the resident gave me a speech on the merits of sunscreen, and then I felt worse. Because the focus wasn’t on preventing skin disease. It was about wrinkles.
Wrinkles. I had made the appointment because I was concerned about skin cancer, have a family history of cancer, but never mind all that. Instead, I got a huge speech from the physician about preventing wrinkles, and resisting aging and how I ever-so-desperately should wear sunscreen not to prevent, you know, disease, but so that I do not look older AS I GET OLDER. Instead of telling me what, exactly, the treatment options would be for a possible melanoma–or the fact that if you get rid of it, the chances of it coming back actually increase with time–he warned me about how sun damage will make the backs of my hands look old. I realize, somewhere in there, this was the angle the doctor was thinking would work best, given my age and appearance, but I think that infuriated me even more. Again, the assumption: Oh, look! A suburbanite mom in her mid-thirties! What else in the world concerns her more?
Newsflash, people of the world: I don’t care about stupid wrinkles. I’m going to be 40 in a couple of years. Isn’t that great?! I’ve been on the planet for almost four whole decades! That is AWESOME that I’ve gotten to come this far. Don’t wrinkles sort of come with the territory?
I’m annoyed. Annoyed, annoyed. A casual friend just found out–she’s five years younger than I–that she has breast cancer, which was also found in her lymph nodes. In the next month, she will undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction. After that, she gets her port. After that, a summer of chemotherapy, followed by radiation, followed by a complete hysterectomy. I cried when she told me. I got home, and held Cian before bed, and cried some more. She’s a mom, too. She has a fight ahead of her that is so overwhelming she can only take it one step at a time. But come on, now. Never mind that. We’re only supposed to worry about the way we look.
It’s just too much. I’m tired of of passing the billboard advertising a plastic surgeon in town, the one that has a giant picture on one side showing a body in a lumpy red one piece swimsuit, the other portraying Ms. Lumpy’s transformation into a hottie wearing a red bikini after a bit of liposuction and breast surgery (“go from this to THIS!”). One prominent practice in our area even offers a “Mommy Makeover,” including a mini tummy tuck for the mom who only kind-of, sort-of, has anything to “fix.” Since when is motherhood something we need to fix?? I can’t page through a magazine without turning past ad after ad for wrinkle repair creams. Why do we try to “repair” what’s supposed to come naturally? Some of my wrinkles originated when I played rec league football with my friends on those bright days each fall, or with my kids in the pool during the summer. Some of them came from crying over the silly boys that broke my heart years before I met Dave, or when I found out that my friend was finally pregnant, or when my daughter told me she loves me more than anything. Others, from laughing when I fell down the stairs at my wedding, or when my boss said that I finally got that raise I’d worked so hard for. Other wrinkles, really, are just the ones that come as I got older. Because that’s what’s supposed to happen.
And isn’t that what we want? To grow older? To be here as long as we can?
I don’t get it. I don’t get the fixation on trying to go back and capture those few years we had when everything, yes, looked perfect. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to my early twenties. Those years were tough. When the Oscars were televised a couple of weeks ago, I found that looking at the audience was like looking into a Ray Bradbury story. The faces stretched so tight they shone. The lips so plumped you could paint them white, plop them into a s’more, and nobody would know the difference. The boobs so perfectly placed–though surgery by choice–on chests made bony through liquid diets. It’s not real. It’s not life. A twenty-year-old body looks weird on a 55-year-old soul.
I just realized I might be offending some of my favorite readers of the blog. I don’t meant to hurt feelings, and if I hit “publish” on this it’s only because I’m so worked up my typing fingers got away from me. I just wish more of us could just be content with what we have. I wish we could stay as self-assured as we were when we were seven. Do I love looking in the mirror and not recognizing the face I see as the one I remember from my twenties? No, of course it’s weird. I have some funky crows’ feet that are starting to look more like talons. Jowls are starting to sag. Moisturizer seems to be more readily applied. On the verrrrry rare times I get checked out by a dude out in the world, I assume it’s just because a piece of Cian’s lunch got in my hair again. My time has passed. I’m really not that upset about it.
You guys, we’re supposed to get old. What’s so wrong with that? Need for moisturizing or not, I’ll take the wrinkles as they come. Nothing stays the same, and it’s not supposed to. I mean, really: if the world stopped turning right now, I’d be stuck with eight inches of snow on the ground and a minivan stained white from road salt. This girl does not need that. I want to keep going, to see what happens next. And if I’m lucky enough to get old, I’ll have other things to worry about.
And sorry, doc. How the backs of my hands look is not going to be one of them.