Wednesday at the Tuesday Prude: Grandma Bodies

 

grandmother-4576437_1920I want to talk about the war on women. Women of a certain age. Women of a certain age’s bodies, to be specific.

The Super Bowl halftime show got me thinking about this socially-acceptable war. Incidentally, I’m not here to complain about the—um—energetic gyrations of the dancers. Or the mouthwatering sum of money the women performers must have paid for their wedgie-generating outfits that I could fold up and fit in an Altoids tin.

 
Here’s my main issue with that performance. One of the lead women performers is 50. FIFTY. She is old enough to qualify for an AARP card, people! Before she knows it she’ll be looking up directions to the Social Security office. She is half a century old.

 
Bully for her. My problem comes with the adulation thrown at her half-century feet, the cries of “Women of a certain age can look that good!” and “She’s in better shape than women in their teens!” and “Why can’t all AARP card-carrying women dance on a pole?”

 
Will it never end? How old do I have to be before I can say “I WANT TO LOOK MY AGE!”

 
The pressure to be buff and fit and fabulous and unwrinkled and alluring and slinky should be in my past, shouldn’t it? I look at photos of my grandmothers when they were in their fifties and sixties. Gray hair, support hose, Dr. Scholls footwear, work-reddened hands. They didn’t have time to worry about how their backside would look in high-cut garments. (Which existed in those days. They were undies whose elastic had given out.)

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It’s not that my grandmas didn’t care what they looked like. They wanted to look their best. Which, as their bodies aged and settled and became cushioned, meant being neat and clean. They had a few “good” dresses and necklaces and brooches for Sunday and weddings. Work dresses and aprons for almost everything else. Their primary attire was their labor and their love.

 
At what age do I get to decide what looks “good for my age?” How many fitness classes and wrinkle creams and plastic surgeries do I need so people admire my advanced state of preservation? When can I make peace with gravity? Stop insisting that the miles and years don’t exist and haven’t taken their toll?

 
I’m plenty vain. I don’t want to be dowdy. I wouldn’t mind if occasionally someone underestimated my age. But not to the extent that I want to be mistaken for my grandchildren’s mother.

 
It’s time to fight back against this war on grandma bodies. I’m going to look the best I can, take care of myself, and be at peace with my grandma shape. Wear the miles with pride. Clothe myself with labor and love. Which are guaranteed to never give me a wedgie.

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Up ain’t pretty

Here’s one of my new life mottos:
Smug goes before the grunt.

In its expanded version the motto goes:
If we’re smug because we can sit down cross-legged on the floor at our age, (60+), we’re sure to be humbled to the dust when we grunt getting up.

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Oh yes. Once, maybe only a decade or so ago, my fellow 60+ers and I were able to perform a feat of beauty:
We could rise from a legs-folded-and-tucked floor position and STAND UP by merely rising. No arms needed.
Note: In our less culturally and politically woke days, this seated position was known as “Indian style” (but whether from Native Americans or Indian swamis, I can’t say).

Apparently, once we hit late middle age, this graceful upsweep of levitation has become more complicated for many of us.
As our cracking and creaking days increase, rising can involve several steps, including but not limited to:

flexing, shifting, rotating, bending, hoisting one’s backside, and praying. And grunting.
Sometimes all limbs, including both hands, AND a piece of sturdy furniture get involved.

Up ain’t pretty.

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People my age should build an additional forty seconds into our estimated time transitioning from the floor to wherever we’re headed after the floor.

To be fair, the process isn’t always this complicated. I can often go from cross-legged to a squat to a stand using only one hand for support. A sort of flash-tripod move. (Usually only accomplished with speed and precision when there is no one around to witness my two-step triumph.)

I say this not to brag but to encourage. Another of my life’s mottos is: If I can almost do it, almost anyone can.

To be fairer, just last winter I witnessed a woman— a scant 30 some months younger than I—perform the single-sweep elevation. But she’s a vegetarian, so there’s that.

I, however, am an omnivore, I’ll never see 60 again, creakiness is in my DNA, and I never remember to regularly take my glucosamine and chondroitin.

Right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can still sit on the floor. Great things happen there. Stories with grandchildren, circle songs, a direct view of lost items cowering beneath the sofa.

And if up ain’t pretty, it is still up. A good place to be.

Aging Like a Conifer

‘Let me grow lovely, growing old”

is a poem by Karle Wilson Baker, which I’m not sure I can reprint because I’m not sure it’s public domain. (Prudes thrive on assessing and evaluating each potential action they might take, then searching for laws that could prohibit such action.)

The poem goes on to extol other beautiful, fine old things, like lace. Trees make the list.

Oak trees grow lovely, sure.SONY DSCMaples? You bet.

The venerable weeping willow droops gracefully as she sheds her final tears. SONY DSC

Elms, even those untidy, drop-their-messes-everywhere mountain ashes—

hardwoods wear their age well.

 

 

 

 

 

The leaves these old deciduous trees dropped the previous autumn might not all be replaced in the spring. Come late summer, their scant leaves fade into fall hues even as their younger compatriots still flaunt green foliage.SONY DSC

But sparser leaf covering serves only to accentuate the splendid outlines of these trees.

There is dignity in the gnarled, scarred trunks.

Branches, some of them more fragile now, still extend with grace and beauty. More of the basic structure is being revealed, and it is beautiful.

The deciduous tree is stately.

Its oldness has a fine quality.

Even the most elderly of these, naked and alone, can provide a perch for the majestic bald eagle.

SONY DSCWhat about the aging conifer?

With the exception of the giant redwood, maybe the grand cedars of Lebanon, very few elderly needle-producing, cone-bearing softwoods inspire poets.

SONY DSCA spruce, on exiting middle age, gets all prickly and irritable and begins to drop things.

The ancient fir suddenly realizes he is more bark than bite.

Pines fight a losing battle with needles turning from verdant green to unattractive rust.

Or worse, the needles fall out, never to return.

 

Think ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.’

 

The tall conifer looks over its shoulder one day and realizes it has developed a distinct dowager’s hump.SONY DSC

Your yew (just let that phrase roll off your tongue), along with cousins cypress and hemlock, realize they are getting bald and spindly.

And the lowly arborvitae is just a bedraggled mass of sepia-colored scales drooping from veiny branches.

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Brittle needles.

Unnatural color.

Unattractive veins and spindly shanks and drooping limbs.

That’s how a conifer ages.

 

 

Some of us, as we wend our way through mid-middle age, mature like hardwood deciduous trees.

Fine, elegant, stately.

And some of us, as we approach our pre-old age years, can’t help but notice we are getting scaly and droopy and rusty and prickly.

None of us have total control over how we’ll age.

It’s built into our DNA.

Plant an acorn and an oak grows.

Plant a scale-covered seed and you get a conifer.

Oak trees, maple trees, birch—they grow lovely, growing old.

Conifers just . . . grow old.

But little birds lighting on the numerous exposed branches of an old conifer don’t care what it looks like.

Their unlovely tree provides rest and shelter and doesn’t mind being swarmed with small bodies as long as the little ones don’t take the prickliness personally.

Old oaks, ancient maples, venerable elms, grizzled birches—still delight the senses with their beauty.

But the  sparrows in the branches of an aging conifer don’t care about dropping needles or sagging limbs or spidery veins.

Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, the conifer might not have grown lovely, growing old,

but it has grown love.