The final insult that pushed me over the hill


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Aging is the process of accommodating the things that change over which you have no control.

That is the source of frustration. You used to have control, or you thought you had control. We gradually develop a picture of ourselves that we think is going to be the way we are forever.

I could be philosophical and talk about cultural, societal, technological changes, but I’m going to confine my remarks to our bodies. At least in this column.

The guy with a full head of hair gets slowly used to the idea of baldness as he sees a receding hairline. But something may make this more real than otherwise.

When we got married, my brother took some informal snapshots of the wedding party from the vantage point of the top of the church entry stairs. One was of The Main Man and me at the bottom of the steps talking to Uncle Elmer. The Main Man was astounded to see that he was bald on the top of his head. He had never seen it before then.

My first realization of aging was about 20 years ago when I realized that my smooth, silky, fair skin was doing stuff I didn’t like. Particularly the petechia that would show up here and there. Petechia is the fancy name for the little pin-point red spots that appear as skin ages. They don’t go away. I was totally ticked off that my skin was doing something I didn’t like and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I wrote a poem threatening them with lasers, but fat lot of good that did!

Sometimes you know how and when something changed. When The Main Man had carotid artery bypass surgery, he was told that one or both ulnar nerves might be affected and the left one was. It leaves him with partial numbness in the left fourth and fifth fingers, and a weak grip. But, considering the alternative, that is an outcome that can be accommodated without rancor.

My friend, Gayle, was shocked to find that she was having difficulty lifting the 50 pound sacks of dog food she uses to feed her Great Danes. Maybe not so surprising at age nearly 70, but not anticipated. She is annoyed.

I think we all may have a mental image of ourselves at some earlier time period in our lives. I say my mental age is 24. I think that means that I see myself as being receptive to new ideas, learning new things, finding out about the world.

I don’t think of myself as being physically 24. There is just too much water over the dam, or calories down the mouth. In those days, I was doing modern dance, wearing stiletto heels, and little sexy black dresses with chain straps.

Occasionally I would get some unsolicited male attention that was kind of fun, such as the teenagers in New York City who would walk by and make air-kissing noises.

One time I got whistled and honked at by someone in a small white van that tracked me as I was walking down a hill. When I saw that the van logo said, “Artificial Insemination Service,” I was less sure that it was a compliment. (Remember, those were more innocent times — there was no reason to think of danger over such attention.)

But this morning, at the Farmer’s Market in Davis, I received the biggest rebuke of my life. Now, there’s no question but that I am over the hill and heading right underground, any minute now.

It took less than a minute in time. I was leaving the market, past the plaza where the Putah Creek Crawdads were playing. A youngish, 20-something, nice-looking man was about to take a photo of the band when he noticed me walking toward him. I was smiling. It was such a lovely cool, morning. I had a bunch of wonderful veggies in my cart, including tiny Brussels sprouts for The Main Man. Life was good. The young man smiled at me. I smiled at him. Our eyes met.

He said, “Nice leeks!”

I was invisible.

Thank heavens for The Main Man. After nearly 50 years of marriage, he still thinks of me as a brain with a pair of gorgeous legs in a mini-skirt. He even thinks the legs haven’t changed. At least he doesn’t call them leeks.


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