I Have Gray Hair, Stretch Marks, And Love Handles…Because I’m a *Human Person*

Old friends

Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.

Sigh.

I don’t know what it is about today; about this week or this month… Maybe it’s been years now, maybe a lifetime—but I’m hitting a little bit of a tipping point when it comes to how I perceive my body and its various shortcomings. For review, let’s list out what’s wrong with me (limited to physical appearance, of course—we only have so much room here):

  • gray hair
  • deep forehead wrinkles…nay—crevasses
  • stretch marks (thanks kids)
  • flabby arms (or underarm dingle-dangle, as Ruthie would say)
  • love handles
  • untamed bikini line
  • splotchy pores on legs
  • dry lips
  • cellulite
  • knobby knees
  • hairy uprising on the facial region
  • several “companion pounds” I’ll call them, that may never leave me…

And you know what? Who gives a shit?

I have all of those things because I’m a human person. I am a human person who has yet to develop some crazy disorder that prevents me from aging. So, as I get older—as we all are forced to do by the time-space continuum—I look older. And, I ask again, who gives a even a tiny turd about it?!

Take just a moment to think about how nuts it is that we try to stop aging. I mean, when you see a product in the store labeled “anti-aging,” do you think, “What kind of crack pot monkey dreamed that up, and how stoned was the group of people that launched it into reality?” Because that’s what you should think. That’s what we should ALL think.

The Silver Fox of Snark

English: Steve Martin at the 120th Anniversary...

English: Steve Martin at the 120th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall in MOMA, New York City in April 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started going gray in my mid-twenties. It’s not really a look that most people want to cultivate. I discovered I was gray when I stopped dying my hair. I was like, “I’m gonna be all natural and embrace myself and yadda yadda,” and my head replied, “Well, that’s fun because we’ve changed a few things around here.” And there it was. I kind of decided (likely due to my frequently mentioned laziness) that it is way too much fuss to dye away the gray. I just didn’t have the energy to put up a 70-year-long fight against, of all things, my freaking hair.

So here I am nearly a decade later and I’ve got a whole lot of that stuff sprouting out of my head. Every now and again it bothers me, but I really don’t care. My plan is to let it all come in and take over, then I’ll rock that business like I’m Steve Martin. I mean, look at that guy’s hair. Pure, 100% silver white and no one cares. Which brings me to a sticking point…

Men are allowed to age. Women are not.

Yep. That’s the deal. Steve Martin sports his gray hair like nobody’s business and he seems distinguished. Hillary Clinton grows her hair out and pulls it back instead of coiffing it just so and people go bananas. Hey, people: shut up. Because Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton is allowed to look however she wants. She’s allowed to get older, and to decide not to invest endless time and money into pretending she’s not getting older. Just like I am. We’re all allowed—men and women—to age with grace, and dignity, even affection (!) for our changing selves. My new rule: if Steve Martin can do it, so can I.

And then there’s the Thinspiration problem

I think the reason this is all on my mind right this second is because I keep happening upon what I’ve learned is called “thinspiration.” It’s like all those “how to drop 10 lbs in a month” or that picture of a woman squeezing her leg with the caption “how to solve the cellulite problem.” (Here’s a hint: stop squeezing your leg like that!)

Pinterest is brimming with these things, but so is the Today show, major news outlets, magazines—basically everywhere you look, you can find some “solution” for the problem of your—ahemnormal human body.

And to revisit my last point, how many dudes do you think are trying to solve their “cellulite problems”? How many under-eye creams do you think dudes are buying? Waxing kits? Boxes of hair dye? Skin primers? Lip balms? Anti-whatever-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you salves? Not nearly as many as women are. If a guy can save his money to go to the movies instead spending money to rip/bleach/laser blast his hair off, don’t you think you’re allowed to do the same? And menfolk, if you find yourselves falling into the trap of needing to look like a glowing, 2% body fat stone sculpture of a human, don’t worry about it. No one cares. Be a real human person with skin and hair and flaws. It’s okay. For all of us.

I don’t need to feel beautiful

I think our normal response in this discussion is to affirm beauty. To say, “No, no! You look [enter appropriate compliment here]!” And while this, indeed, is quite comforting, it doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Because, you know what? I’m not going to be “beautiful” when I’m 85. In fact, I’ll likely fall well below the beauty standard far, far before then. So will you. Even if you get surgery and shellac the crap out of yourself, everyone’s going to know that you’re not a 16-year-old girl. (Which is, apparently, our effed up standard for what people should always look like.)

I need to feel human. I need to watch time mark the days around my eyes and on my hips and through my hair and somehow feel more like myself, not less. I want each season to bring new scars, new wrinkles and more sag and for all that to make me feel that somehow, some way, I’m winning. I’m living. I’m human. I’m aging. It’s great.

Closing eyes and clicking heels

I want to believe all of these words through and through, without batting an eye. I want to banish that pang of guilt I feel every time I’m presented with the b.s. yardstick society so politely reminds me I’m not measuring up to. I want to embrace my changing, aging body without the knee-jerk reaction to sculpt it, starve it, or slather it into some other, better form. But for now, I’m closing my eyes, and clicking my heels, just hoping I’ll be transported to a mental home, free of these crazy, shrieking, body-hating monkeys.

And so, heroes of the internet with sagging boobs, and gray hair, and furry potbellies, I ask you to join me. Try with me. Get everyone you know to be down with aging. Wouldn’t it be rad if in 2033 there isn’t a single person out there writing this same freaking blog post? Fighting these same shrieking monkeys? There’s no place like…

What do you think?

(p.s. Check out this TED talk from model Cameron Russell. If models are still bummed about how they look after, you know, being the model for how people should look, maybe we’ve got it all wrong, huh?)

This Powerhouse is Condemned

Condemned.

Photo by shiny red type @ Flickr.

My life, as of late, has taken a turn for the seemingly impressive. I say “seemingly,” because while it might look impressive at first brush (what with all my exercising and writing and to-do list-making), I assure you, things are getting rather questionable on the inside.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m lazy. If laziness were a career, I’d have $4.2 billion dollars and a vacation home in the Caymans. Little Richard and I would eat caviar and laugh big, open-mouth, tiny black pearl-coated laughs. That’s how good I am at being lazy.

However, recognizing that people don’t actually get paid (in money or caviar) for doing nothing, I decided I should do things that successful, active people do. Basically, I should pretend to be successful and active and hope no one spots my ruse. So, that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’ve been exercising at least 6 days a week for two months, I’ve been dieting for a month, and I’ve been writing at least 750 words per day for exactly 107 days. In a row. It makes me look kinda awesome.

But there’s a catch.

See, what I expected to happen was that it would be hard at first, maybe even mostly unproductive, but then I’d start seeing changes. It’d get easier. I wouldn’t curse the alarm every single morning. I expected to put in the hard work, then magically become super me who can do exercise and productive things without every fiber of my being screaming to lie down and watch The Only Way is Essex. But no. That is not what’s happening at all.

Every day I struggle to get up. And it’s getting worse. Now, instead of thinking, “I’m so tired, I don’t want to get up,” I think, “I want to quit. Should I quit? I just don’t want to do this anymore.” I drag myself through the entire workout and slump down exhausted afterward. And then I pound out my 750 words, which often include the phrase, “I really freaking wish I wasn’t doing this right now.”

And weight loss? Not happening. Last week I was so discouraged that my best friend and I decided that I shouldn’t weigh myself anymore. I should just take measurements. Because if I’m gaining muscle it’ll throw the weight thing off and I don’t need to upset myself with a number. So this week I tried just measurements. No change.

I’m facing the very real possibility that nothing will change from here on out—that this is it.

But We Just Exercise to be Healthy, Right?

This look is probably not in my future.

Everyone says that they’re exercising for “health.” I do. I try to tell myself that even if I don’t end up looking like those Pinterest photos, the overall health benefits are worth it. Everyone says that. And I think most of us are lying.

We want weight loss. We want sculpted body parts. We want “that sexy v shape” (oh, lord does that phrase make me angry). But you know what will make you really inspect that belief? If you run and stretch and pull and lift and crunch and cut out sugar and reduce fat and do everything you’re suppose to do…and your body says, “NO! This area here is a flotation device. We are keeping it for survival! Run all you want, bitch!”

I am unhappy with this arrangement.

My friend Anna keeps reminding me that I’m in the normal BMI range, and maybe I should be happy with that. Happy with being healthy. I have to wonder why I’m not. I think it’s because I can make Jabba’s face with my belly if I want to, and I have yet to find a use for that ability.

Jabba the Hut Portrait

Not a great look for abs. Photo By San Diego Shooter @ Flickr.

So, again, I’m confronted: Do I really want to do this—the exercising, avoiding foods, eating truckloads of salads, getting up early—do I want to do this if nothing changes from here on out? If I end up looking like a person who doesn’t exercise, will I still do it? If I look like someone who doesn’t eat right, will I eat right anyway? If I don’t gain any energy, if I don’t like it any more, if it doesn’t make me feel accomplished…if nothing gets better…will I still do it? If  the answer is yes, then by golly I might actually be doing all this for my health. In fact, that’s all I’d be doing it for.

Those questions rang through my head on my cool down walk home today. And the louder they rang, the clearer this was to me:  I have to let go of my expectations. Not just let go, I need to mourn them. I need to burn an effigy of the “ideal” me . I thought about how hard I’ve been working, and how the results aren’t showing. I decided that I have to let the expectation that things will change die like a neglected Ficus. In fact, maybe the Ficus is already dead and I’m just now showing up to its funeral. I thought about all of this and I cried my way home, having buried in my mind the hope of looking slimmer, fitter——better.

On the upside, I’ve been making this banana-peanut-butter-cocoa shake and it’s so delicious I could punch a goat in the mouth. So there’s that.

Everyone’s Better Than You at Everything

Head in Hands

Head in Hands by Alex E. Proimos, on Flickr

The internet teaches us new lessons every day. There are nuggets of knowledge littering every IP address and data package from here to Nauru and back. Being the perpetual student that I am, I keep my ear to the ground and my eyes peeled for whatever enlightening bit the internet wishes to reveal to me and…I’ve finally discovered the #1 lesson that it has to offer:

Everyone is Better Than You at Everything

Yes. It’s true. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing it very well. There are many, many people—droves of people, really—doing what you’re doing, but better. For instance…

People Are Better Than You at Parenting

Whether they’re tiger mom-ing, French mom-ing, attaching themselves, or detaching themselves—WHATEVER they’re doing, it’s better than what you’re doing. They run play groups. Moms breastfeed their children in public until they’re 5 years old without batting an eye. Dads coach the soccer team and build tree houses fit for the queen. They’re masters of cognitive development. Of discipline. Structure. Diapering. At-home science projects. Themed birthday parties. Whatever there is to be done as a parent, they’re doing it better than you. You might as well ship your kid to the zoo. You’re doing a terrible job.

People Are Better Than You at Home Decorating

Sure, you have decent furniture. You have a photo or two matted and framed. You have an accent wall. It’s like you’re not even trying. Because you know what? People are decorating the crap out of their homes. People are out there, upcycling, DIYing and ombre-ing every surface in sight. They’ve woven chic waste baskets out of plastic bags. Their laundry rooms are like five-star hotels for dirty socks. Where you see a box of plastic spoons, they see a custom-painted, hand-made chrysanthemum mirror. Every last item they own is coordinated, organized, arranged and exhibited with the perfect blend of exactitude, whimsy and glamour. Your home, to these home decorating mavens, is little more than a “before” picture. How do you sleep at night in that?

People Are Better Than You at Working Out

People are doing it to it out there! They’ve got pithy sayings. They’ve got fancy shoes. They’ve got health shakes. They’ve got gym memberships. They’ve got ROCK! HARD! ABS! When the going gets tough, they don’t cry like you do. They don’t sweat like a weenie, they sweat like it’s their JOB. When they sweat, they say, “Sweat is fat crying! Yeah! Air kick!” Then they do some bicep curls and drink a gallon of lemon-cucumber-mint detox juice. Where the heck is your detox juice? Nowhere. That’s where.

People Are Better Than You at Being Productive

How are people managing being better than you at parenting, home decorating AND working out? Simple. They’re better than you at being productive. They have lists. They have organizational structures for said lists. They have techniques. They get up early. They power nap. They multitask teleconferences while bleaching their kitchen grout and whipping up a crock pot meal. They could live your entire life on Tuesdays alone. In fact, it’d be best to just try to slip your laundry in with theirs, or try to sneak your to-do list onto their fridge because—let’s face it—that’s about as close as you’re gonna get to being even half as productive as these life masterminds.

So there you have it: evidence that every single person on the internet is doing everything better than you. Of course, there’s also the possibility that people don’t photograph, post, or describe in elegant detail the shitstorm that happens before and after the shutter clicks. There’s a teensy, weensy chance that the internet doesn’t show us real people—it shows us über-people; people at their highest moment, with no trace of failure, messiness, or inelegance. It’s that, or you’re the worst possible human ever. One of the two.

Exercising Makes Me Want To Murder Woodland Creatures

Exercising with Good Housekeeping

I hate all of this. Even the faux-bowling. Photo via kevin dooley @ flickr.

I hate exercising. I really do. I also misspell exercising (“excercising”?) almost every time I type it, which I think is due to my body revolting against exercise at every opportunity. My fingers feel it coming and say, “No way. Eff that stupid son-of-a-bitch word. We’re gonna screw it up.” (My fingers are quite foul-mouthed little appendages.)

I also hate being fat. Well, okay, I’m not fat. Yet. But I am carrying around 15 pounds (yes, it’s more like 20 pounds. Leave me alone!) that I wasn’t carrying two years ago and it feels like the runway to fat. Like my body is just turning on the engine and plotting the course to Fatville. There’s a layover in Lazytown in the Chocolate Province, with final destination in IHateMyself-istan.

Skinny

This is not an appropriate goal, ladies. Just sayin'. Photo via jon.bell @ flickr.

I can agree that nearly any woman born in the US has a tendency to have super wacky expectations for what her body should look like, but on the other hand, there’s a HUGE (Oops, pun. Oh well, I’m leaving it.) statistical likelihood that, if left to our own devices, we will become overweight. What kind of likelihood? According to NPR, 78% of adult women in the US will be overweight or obese by 2020. That number is 83% for men.

Holy bajolie! I don’t want to be in that majority! I want to be healthy and mobile and not at risk for diabetes, heart disease, gallstones, cancer, stroke, gout, arthritis, breathing problems and spontaneous combustion! (I might be wrong about that last one.)

So, what’s wrong with exercise, you ask? Everything! Screw you! (Sorry.) Ugh. I just hate it. First of all, I’ve always had a terrible cardiovascular system. I remember when we ran laps in grade school I felt like I was an asthmatic elephant stomping around our dirt track. I could hear my breathing echoing through my head and through the nearby trees. Birds jumped off their branches and looked at each other like, “What is wrong with that one?”A mother bird covered her little baby bird’s eyes.

Later in life I worked at a camp doing all kinds of outdoorsy stuff and I fancied myself a fit, active REI type. We camped out. We went on long hikes. We went rock climbing. On real rocks. Big ones. I bought a climbing harness, and had a helmet, and some climbing shoes. “On belay!” I’d say, like a nonchalant superhero, before mashing my fingers and body onto a slab of granite. Then I’d be like, “Uuuurrg! Aaarrg!” all groaning and scrambling and being super tough. (Fist pump!)

Then I realized that I hate basically all of those things. I prefer to move as little as possible, kinda all the time. And all those things are the opposite of that. REI is the mortal enemy of lazy people. It’s where active people go to plot their takeover of the world and buy gross tasting snack foods.

One time I saw some people walking early in the morning in these fun, black, cool looking outfits, and I thought maybe if I had an outfit like that I’d walk in the morning, too. So I bought an outfit and walked. Like, five times. Then I felt like my lungs were bleeding and decided I needed more quality time with my bed.

A few years later I put on my fancy outfit again to try “Couch to 5K” which is basically a program meant to get the uber-lazy running a 5K in 9 weeks. It’s a 30 minute or so combo of walking and jogging, and each week you add more jogging. I did week 1 for 6 months. On the podcast the guy said, “You should feel the efforts of your work, but not be tired or out of breath,” as I clasped my chest and heard my organs screaming, “No! God! Stop! Have you forgotten? We don’t do this!”

My best friend does P90X because she’s a badass and she can wrestle chupacabra with her Madonna-esque arms while doing burpees. She likes to exercise. It boggles my mind. Me? I do the “10 minute Fat-Blasting Dance Party” and fantasize about slapping that skinny instructor woman straight in the mouth if I ever see her in person. When my daughter was four months old, I propped her up on the floor next to me while I “exercised” and five minutes into it I pointed at her and said, “You…(gasp)…did…(wheeze)…this to me!!” Totally inappropriate.

How do you feel about exercising, citizens of the internet? Feel free to comment with your exercising secrets (though I can’t guarantee that I won’t scoff, eat a doughnut, point and the screen condescendingly and say, “No, Brenda, I won’t be doing that.”).

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