Friday, July 25, 2008
Mid-Life Madness by Barb McKone
Mid-Life Madness by Barb McKone
I have decided to grow out my hair.
I am of the age (which shall remain temporarily unidentified) that seems to suggest sporting a shorter, unfettered hairstyle. I've had short hair for years. I admit it, I look pretty cute with short hair. My neck and shoulders are two of the few parts of me that still look pretty good, especially from the back. I think. But, I realized, last winter, the bleakest winter of my life to date, that I no longer felt... pretty. Things just look different. Saggy. Life has seemed a little darker this year, a little off-kilter, and things on me seem to be reflecting that. The circles under my eyes are darker, the whole lower half of me is off-kilter. And regarding the hair growing, believe me, it's not that I think long hair is prettier than short- I've been wondering for two years now why Halle Berry decided to grow out instead of stay stunningly shorn. But for me, right now, change is good. I want to see if I can do it, one more time before I possibly start caring about looking "age-appropriate." And if I let the long hair hang in my face, I might (like the woman in the commercial from last season for some sort of beauty product) get carded when buying beer. Just once more.
I realize that this clog is really supposed to focus on the parenting of teens. But, let's face it, most of those of us who are parenting teens are "of a certain age." Middle age, here we are.
You see, I'm denying my way through a, I believe, mid-life crisis. Job, kids, appearance, skin care, health and vitamins, cooking, housekeeping, financial status, gardening, fear of Alzheimer's, fear of my daughter leaving for college, being a good child, being a good parent- it's all under the microscope like never before and leading to a lack of sleep and increase in late-night writings. It's all being questioned and analyzed. Re-worked. Scrutinized. I never dreamed it would happen. "Mid-life crisis?!" I scoffed. "Not me!" I don't know how or when it started, exactly, but I think that at least the aging part of it had to do with a visit to my friend Katie two summers ago.
I went for nineteen years without eating sugar. I was experiencing some anxiety issues back in my single-and-in-New York- actress days (and when I say single, I mean still childless- my husband was wonderful during this crisis) and went to see a counselor I'd heard about through the soap-opera grapevine. He told me he believed that my blood sugar, considering I was living on Mentos and Coke, (please note that's with "aCola" on the end) was drastically affecting my physical and mental health. He was right. Although we still had some "issues" to talk about, the elimination of sugar as the base of my personal food pyramid was key in regaining my stability. God bless Dr. Cannon, wherever you are. I stuck to this for years. I didn't take Motrin because of the sugary coating. No white flour. Nothing.
Then, five or so years ago on vacation, I tried a bite of a plain cake Dunkin' Donut. No sugar strangeness, no dizziness. The next day I ate a whole donut. Perfectly fine. Better than fine, really. I felt elated. Freed. I guessed that after all those years, my body chemistry had changed. It's supposed to happen every seven years. Not only was my friend sugar unexpectedly back in my life, but the crustiness and perfect caky texture of my new deep-fried obsession kept me up at night. You see, I'd forgotten that nineteen years before being reintroduced to these Dunkin' circles from heaven, I had been a sugar addict. In one week I was a goner. Hooked. I didn't feel crazy, probably because I didn't live in New York anymore. My kids and husband were shocked and happy. My lack of sugar hadn't really affected their lives too much, but suddenly, I was eating pie on vacation. That might lead to (gasp-) birthday cake in the future! Over the next few weeks and months, I added all types of sugar back into my diet, testing. I was a full-fledged sugar-head again, and loving it.
Since then, I've gone through sugar lulls and binges regularly. Actually, I think I'm pretty normal. Most of my friends are like me, enjoying sugar and taking breaks from it when they overindulge. The only difference is that they weren't completely sworn off the stuff for years, and they don't (probably, I haven't asked) have days in which they'd kill something at three p.m. to get the stuff, and when they do, proceed to eat said item immediately, in the parking lot of the convenience store. This is a sad symptom of my sugar plight.
The other symptom is a five-year-fifteen-pound upswing in weight. It's been gradual, but it's noticeable. I look older, (I AM older, I tell myself in defense) and puffier. I've lost some of the definition in my face, and all of the definition in my waist. It's affected not only how I look, but how I feel, physically and emotionally. But, because I don't want to offend my sweet sugary companion, I've been trying to ignore the lumpiness of my thighs.
So, standing on my college sorority daughter and great friend Katie's front porch two years ago, getting ready to surprise her after not seeing her in a few years, I was wondering how she'd look. I hadn't thought too much about how I looked. I was in the midst of a cross-country trip in which we turned out to be picking up my daughter from Lacrosse Camp in the Chicago area just blocks from Katie's house. Let me preface this story by saying that of all my friends, Katie has retained the most youthful glow. She's adorable, tiny, and too nice for words, damn her wonderful self. I might have given more thought to how I looked, travel-worn and disheveled, but I knew that Katie wouldn't care. But it wasn't Katie who answered the door. It was her son Will's babysitter. Will was about six at the time. I don't know the babysitter's name, but for the story, let's call her Katya. Here, paraphrased, is our front porch conversation:
Me: Hi! (looking past her into the hallway) Is Katie home?
Katya: (heavily accented) No, no, not home. (Smiling broadly, welcoming.) You the grand mother?
Me, stammering: The grandmother? No, no- (fumbling for words) I'm her friend from college. (Trying to stress that Katie and I are, but for one year, the SAME AGE.) I'm just traveling through town-- is there any way to talk to her?
Katya: (Still nodding and smiling, which is starting to annoy me a little) You here to pick up? Grand mother?
Me, trying to retain composure: No, (smiling back) NOT the grandmother. Do you have Katie's cell phone number? Could I call her?
After some awkward conversation, I managed to leave my cell phone number for Katie on a scrap of paper, and minutes after leaving the porch, got a call from her begging us to turn around a come back. Stay for dinner. Let's catch up!! During our delightful evening together, I tried not to dwell on the doorstep conversation. But after relaying the story to my husband and his subsequent laughing attack, the story was also shared with Katie and her husband over a glass of wine. She was, of course, horrified. "Oh my God, Barb," she said. "I'm so sorry. You look great!" I love Katie, and appreciated her efforts. But I knew that Katya had said it all. Sugar-coated or not, I was starting to show my age.
So, I've decided to go into my, okay, I'll give- forty-NINTH year with a new goal. Get healthy, and in turn, maybe look a little younger. I know I shouldn't care too much, but I care enough. Save the health club money and work out at home. My dogs and my gas tank will love me for it. Resolve the mid-life issues that I can't change, change the ones I can, and know the difference. Realize that while wine is sugar, it also aids my sleep, and in so, negates the negative.
I'm sure Erma would tell me to roll with the mid-life thing. I am at the middle of my life, after all. Old is smart. The goal is gonna get me. She's say something pithy and playful. I should go back through her quotes and find a few to post on my office wall. My adorable friend Katie has lots of self-help quotes on her wall, scrawled in pink marker on torn sheets of paper. My favorite is: "A Hundred Years From Now... All New People." I know it should make me think less about the importance of my thighs, but it really just doesn't.
Anyone else getting mid-lifey? Let's talk.
On my fiftieth birthday, I'll give a report of my successes (perhaps) to my Clog-Mates. Or better yet, I invite you to come to St. Louis in May and help me celebrate, success or not. We'll have a BIG SUGARY CAKE.
And, in post-script, my visit with Katie ended in a revelation. Her son Will had been hosting a play date with a school friend the afternoon I showed up on Katie's doorstep. Katya had been expecting Will's friend's mother to pick him up at about the time I arrived on the scene. His name was Grant.
Isn't life just funny like that sometimes?