It seems to me that a more sensitive bureaucrat could have arranged for my birthday present to arrive at my house before March 31, but no...there it was...in my little mail box just waiting to insult me on April 1. I would have happily welcomed soggy toilet paper hanging from my trees, or even burning dog poop in a bag on my front porch, but alas, those happy days are gone. What I received instead was a slap-in-the-face reality check. "Happy Birthday, Mary," I thought as I opened the envelope and was greeted by an annoyingly perky new Medicare Card. "You are now officially old."
It's not that I hate aging so much...after all, the alternative certainly doesn't offer any hope for my wine-soaked brain cells, I-Pad illiteracy or gelatinous thighs...it's just that I wish I could do it without watching. You know....life could happen and I would always be three little paces ahead of it so I'd never have to stare it in the face.
So the big question is..how do I accomplish THAT?
I mulled all this over as I was getting ready for my big party a few days later. I was already frustrated trying to find a stable spot for the toothpaste in my medicine cabinet which was overflowing with a variety of medicine bottles with adult-proof caps on them, hundreds of dollars worth of micro-sculpting regenerating serums, and a forlorn tube of Preparation H, when my daughter came in to the bathroom and promptly leaned into me to pull a gray whisker from my chin. "Happy Birthday, Mom," she smiled. Then said, "wait a minute, let me get the one growing out of your neck too."
"Your turn is coming," I muttered under my breath as I went into my closet to select some garment that would conceal my back flab. I sat down on the worn cardboard box that was bursting with old report cards, children's drawings, a 1969 Time Magazine with a flag stuck in the moon on the cover, and the worthless 1972 Cosmo that sported a centerfold of a young and hairless Burt Reynolds. I became aware that my little jaunt into the decrepitude of my future was hijacking my birthday mood and taking it to a destination much less festive. "Hmmmmmm," I thought...."as a person who prides herself for staying on top of my emotional status....I feel......oh my God........crotchety."
You tell me....is crotchety better or worse than bitchy?
"Well! I'm a nurse," my inside voice exclaimed, "problem-solving' are my two middle names. I'll do what any good nurse does. To resolve this attitude issue, I'll evaluate the situation, identify potential solutions, give it an enema and see what comes out!"
With serendipitous good fortune I rediscovered one solution the following weekend when my husband and I took friends to lunch. Harry was a car buddy of my husband's, and I was stuck in the back seat with his wife, Sheila, while the men caught up in the front. We turned into a parking lot that was obviously under some kind of construction. Our restaurant was about a quarter of a mile over yonder. I'm not sure if it was the rhythmic bobble and jiggle of my entire body or the scintillating conversation about Ford vs. Chevy engines taking place in the front seat that nearly lulled me to sleep. Whichever, when we hit a large pothole I bounced in my seat and glanced up to see my reflection in the rear view mirror. "What the hell is my grandmother doing here," I puzzled, shaking off my groggy stupor.
With some effort, I tuned out the drone of Sheila's dissertation on her nauseatingly capable daughter, and began to calculate how long it would take me to grow out my pixie haircut. Surely a tight enough ponytail would diminish the crop furrows on my neck. Though, I fretted, doing so might completely eliminate my ability to chew. I frowned as I conjured up a life without Fritos. This did not help the reflection staring back at me, so I placed a hand on each side of my face and stealthily began pulling up and out when Sheila said to me..."are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, fine," I fake-smiled, folding my hands in my lap. It couldn't take rocket surgery to figure this out.
After we finished lunch, Sheila was complaining that she was frozen solid from the air conditioning in the restaurant. The men were now discussing upholsterers when I said to her, "you know, Sheila, the vent for the heater works much better on the other side of the back seat. I'll be happy to switch places with you."
She was grateful. I was happy. How could I have ever forgotten what any woman over the age of 30 knows. Never sit behind the driver where, if you travel with your eyes open at all, you take the risk of seeing the Wicked Witch of the West glaring back at you. It is a known fact that if you position yourself behind the front seat passenger, you will always be a young and beautiful princess!
Solution number one....check.
Over the next few days I continued to muse over the art of aging gracefully and sans crotchetiness. So far I have come up with a short list, which, in parting, I am pleased to share with you.
1. Frequent nursing homes. It's good not to feel like I'm the oldest person in the world. Plus, the greatest Generation has the Greatest Attitude.....ever.
2. Hang out with anorexic smokers or speed freaks. Even if they're ten years younger than me, they easily look ten years older. It's okay...I've heard that freeway underpasses are safe.
3. Work on your balance. I don't need this kind of attention. I learned this when I fell off my one inch heels while standing perfectly still waiting in line at Starbucks.
4. Know your keys. That red one is the panic button. It does not unlock the door.
5. Watch the diet. It's pretty important to watch the calories, but I did hear Gloria Vanderbilt tell Anderson that if you give up a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge you can have an extra glass of Smoking Loon.
6. Spend more money on a boob-lifting bra than you would on a stainless steel side-by- side. One of my daughters turned me on to this. It was really cool to become reacquainted with my ladies...I hadn't seen them that close up since I spent the entire month of February, 1973 standing on my head...trying to get pregnant while my husband was on R and R.
7. Learn lip reading. This works well for having any kind of meaningful conversation in an eating establishment. Also for getting the message right on TV. Recently, I mistakenly thought I heard John Boehner say something respectful about the President of the United States.
In case you missed it.....that's bitchy.