To my loyal male readers — this week’s story is female-centric. You’re welcome to come along for the ride because you’re bound to run into these “normal” changes in life someday if you have a mother, a sister, a wife, a girlfriend, a female cousin, or a daughter. In fact, forewarned is forearmed!
Do you know what I’ve discovered? I have a calling. I am supposed to become the “Paul Revere” of the modern era and warn the Twenty and Thirty Somethings of what to expect after their fortieth birthday — especially the women:
Listen my children
and you will hear
Of the devastation
coming to your tits and rear.
On the very last day
in year thirty-nine,
You’ll go to bed thinking: “Hot damn, I’M SO FINE!”
But relish that noteworthy
day and cheer;
‘Cause I’ll warn you my
babies, when the 4-0 draws near
By land or sea from
the town that night,
You’ll hear me cry and
shout in your ear,
To warn of what’s
coming in yonder years:
“Butt droop by land, girls sag by sea;
Eyes dim by night, weight gain times three.”
And I on the opposite
shore will be
Ready to ride and
spread the alarm
Through every pre-40’s
city and farm.
Run my sweet babies –
run fast as you can,
‘Cause the 40’s are
comin’ – it’s the god-awful end!”
(A million apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Lord, have mercy, I used to be so “hot” (although I’m just realizing it now — then I thought I was “fat” — go figure)! I remember when it all went wrong. I went to bed one night at thirty-nine-years old with the credentials of a stone cold fox: I was beautiful, I had a body that wouldn’t quit, I was brilliant, I was an award-winning national voice-over talent, I had 20/20 vision, and all body parts were on the level they were supposed to have been on. When I woke up the next morning on my fortieth birthday and walked toward the bathroom, my husband (WW) sleepily asked, “What’s that dragging noise on the floor I hear?” After looking behind me in horror, all I could mutter was: “Nothing babe; go back to sleep – it’s just my ass.”
When I turned forty the decline of my body happened with my ass first and my eyes immediately following. The morning I tucked my butt back into my pajamas, I sat down at the kitchen table to read the morning newspaper and all the words blurred into one giant centipede of a sentence. I couldn’t read a thing. As I got up to search for my eye drops (thinking the loss of vision was a bad case of allergies) I almost put a drop of Super Glue in my eyes instead. A last minute check of the bottle with a magnifying glass saved me from a fate worse than death! As I staggered toward the phone to make an eye doctor’s appointment, all I could think was why hadn’t a woman on the trail-of-life ahead of me sent back a warning that the end was near?
My forties were a blur as I stumbled through the years frantically dieting and exercising while loudly proclaiming to my flesh: “40 is the new 20, goddamnit!” But before I knew it, I woke up in my fifties and I was twenty pounds heavier, my tits were playing hide-and-go-seek in my armpits when I lay down, and early menopause had beaten down the door and invaded every fiber of my being. It was like the invasion of the body snatchers and everything got on my nerves. So when the kids came bounding in for breakfast one morning at the beginning of this venture, and they started fighting over who was going to ride shotgun in the car to school, I lost my mind! My head started spinning on its axis, my eyes turned into flaming darts, and my voice sounded like Freddy Krueger as I screamed at the top of my lungs: “I HAAAAVE HAAD IT UP TO HERE WITH YOUR BICKERING SHIIIIT. GET YOUR LITTLE CARAMEL ASSES INTO THE CAR – RIIIGHHT NOOOW!” As my last guttural scream tapered off, a deluge of spritzes erupted from all of my pores as if my skin had sprung ten thousand leaks. A waterfall of sweat was streaming down my brow as I grabbed a roll of paper towels to encase my body in so that it would soak up the river of sweat. As I came through the garden in my paper-towel robe – frantically fanning myself with the morning paper – I overheard my kids talking about me:
Kid 1: “What the hell just happened in there?”
Kid 2: “I think it’s the ‘meanie-pause.’ I’ve been waiting for it to hit for years and watching her like a hawk. Here’s the deal: She’s going to explode at the drop of a hat at anything we say or do, cry over nothing, and say the most inappropriate things to help us ‘learn about sex and boys so that we don’t make the same mistakes she did growing up.’ I think our lives are going to be a living hell for the next five to ten years! Personally, I’m thinking of asking Dad if I can move back to Israel and cash in on my dual citizenship until this war is over.”
Kid 1: “Well that’s fine for you because you were born there, but what about me? Anyway, you’re such a weird little kid — how do you know this stuff?”
Kid 2: “The Discovery Channel. Plus, I’ve been talking to my friends ‘cause some of their mothers are way over forty years old and have started into the old-lady crazies.”
Kid 1: “Wow! Did you see her sweating like she had sprung a leak? How embarrassing – if that ever happens to me, I swear I’ll die on the spot!”
Kid 2: “Do you want to hear something even worse than that? I overheard her and her girlfriends talking about what happens when they laugh too hard these days and how it makes them pee their pants – literally! And they all fell over laughing, holding their crotches, while one of them pulled out a packet of Poises (what I like to refer to as ‘mouse mattresses’) from her purse and another one started teaching the rest how to do Kegel exercises.
Kid 1: “Oh my God . . . Eeeuuw! Wait, what are Kegel exercises? On second thought I don’t want to know.”
Kid 2: “Exactly! It’s bad enough she assaulted our kid ears about “the snatch” she had five years ago. Somewhere along the line, our mother got a message that “oversharing” was a great parenting device, and I think we’re going to be scarred for life. I know more about her ‘hysteria-rectomy’ than I know about what’s going on in my own body.
Kid 1: “Well that’s not saying much, but I hear you. I don’t know anything about this peeing-your-pants-doing-the-Kegel crap, but I do know her brain has turned to apple-sauce. The other day she was calling me to come and get something, and she called me your name, the dog’s name, her sister’s name, her BFF’s name, and the next door neighbor’s name. When I asked her who she was talking to, and perhaps if she got the name right, that person would respond, she started screaming: ‘YOU (WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS), YOU KNOW I’M TALKING TO YOU; SO DON’T BE A SMART ASS. COME HERE — COME-HERE-COME-HERE-COME-HERE-COME-HERE!’”
Kid 2: “Sheesh!”
ADVICE TO ALL MY ‘SISTAS’ HEADED TOWARD THE “MEANIE-PAUSE” YEARS
- Try not to enter into your forties while still in your “salad days,” ‘cause having money really, really helps.
- There is nothing that a nanny and $10,000 won’t cure at any given point of this after-forty journey. But if you don’t have it – beg, borrow, or steal it because the meanie-pause years will kick your ass.
- A spa weekend, a shopping spree, a nanny, a personal trainer, a great colorist, and a maid service can work wonders.
- Learn how to meditate and pray because it will keep you from murdering your husband, your children, your boss, your co-workers, and your neighbors – in that order.
- Exercise is the silver bullet to the “meani-pause.” It is the best kept secret against irrational mood swings.
- Google the name, “Mrs. Malaprop.” You’re going to need to know who she was and recognize when you’re turning into her. For example, I knew I was morphing into Mrs. Malaprop at a dinner party when I tried to say: “The World Health Organization has declared cell phones to be possibly carcinogenic,” but my brain froze and I said, “I think the ‘whose-a-ma-call-it’ has declared those ‘thingie-ma-bobits’ possibly cathartic.” At which point, WW gently whispered in my ear: “Why don’t we give those sentences a trial run at home first, sweetheart.”
- Try not to have your children when you’re old. I did and it was brutal. I was going through menopause at the same time the kids were teenagers — “scorched-earth-momma” became my handle. On any given day when the girls seemed to deliberately set out to agitate my every last nerve, smoke would stream out of my ears and through my nose, fire would blast forth from my mouth, and I’d paw at the ground with my right foot like a legendary dragon ready to take flight and hunt down all those who had dared cross me. At that point, Sir Knight’s voice (WW) could often be heard broadcasting throughout the barren earth — often just two steps ahead of the dragon’s descent:
“RUN FOR COVER GIRLS!
YOUR MOTHER’S COMING AND SHE’S RIPPIN’!”
Maybe if I had had a year’s worth of spa treatments at Red Door when one or more teenagers started with the “sassy mouth,” I could have turned on a dime, ignored it all, gone into my “happy place” internally and driven off into the sunset for an hour of Consuela kneading my body with herbal tea hammers.
If I could have had a maid service, maybe I wouldn’t have taken things so personally and not come close to killing the one child who thought the word “floor” was synonymous with “hamper.”
Who knows – maybe if I had had ten thousand dollars and a nanny, I could have gotten my tits lifted, my tummy tucked, and my ass and thighs liposuctioned.
Or if I didn’t have the courage to get plastic surgery, maybe I could have consistently gone on idyllic trysts with my man and gotten recharged and rejuvenated to come back to face another day until the war was over. (Actually, even without a nanny and ten thousand dollars, sneaking away with my man is exactly what I did, and that is what restored my sanity and saved the kids from permanent meanie-pause hell.)
When I finally realized that nothing had befallen me that hadn’t affected millions of women across the planet (revelation coincided suspiciously with the end of menopause), I kicked myself in the ass and instructed me to get over myself. I started being grateful for what I’d been given, took Bette Midler’s advice and went out and bought a better “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder,” and I invented a new post-forties chubby me.
I am discovering that life truly is a journey. In the midst of all the years of physical decline and life’s painful hiccups that can eviscerate the souls and bodies of all humans, I’ve grown up as a human being — we all do, if we don’t take ourselves too seriously and can learn to laugh at our human absurdities. I used to live by formulas (God was in a neat, tidy, little box and so were people — good people vs. bad people). Getting older woke me up, along with a few heartaches, and both plucked the rod right out of my ass. My body’s decline and life’s disappointments cleared my spiritual vision and they changed me — they gave me grace. I’m not where I thought I’d be when I was in my twenties (physically, mentally, or spiritually), but I sure as hell like who I’ve become now that I’m in my sixties. I’m not so “hot” anymore, but I am kinder, more loving, and more compassionate.
“Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment,
and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to
future generations.” George Bernard Shaw
All text and photos
by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011
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