I Truly LOVE My Old Body
Everyone seems intent on going to whatever lengths possible to stay youthful. Now I’m not again anything that preserves or increases the health of body and mind. Diet is very important, as is regular exercise of both body and mind. But when procedures are pursued solely in an attempt to thwart the natural aging process, that’s when I draw the line. For one thing, these procedures are often dangerous: liposuction, face-lifts, and injections of collagen, botulinum toxin type A (commonly known as Botox), and sheep placenta extract. The most important reason why I consider such extreme effort to be a gigantic waste of time and money is that a body that has gone through menopause, the CHANGE if you will, is a lovable body. I know whereof I speak, and I’ve never been happier with my body than I am now; I love my old body. It truly is MY body now. It answers to me, and I can count on it to be obedient and reliable, something I could not do when it was young.
“Be careful what you wish for ‘cause it might come true,” rings so true with me now when I think about how fervently I wished for a shapely, sexy body when I was a ninety-four pound high school freshman. I didn’t know how much trouble such a body would be.
I was a “late bloomer.” All the girls in gym class wore bras and had their periods except me. Every time we took showers, I was embarrassed to be so undeveloped. Then, shortly after my fifteenth birthday, when I was a high school sophomore, I became a WOMAN. I was really happy, and relieved to know that I was normal. Little did I know that this normality came with a price; from now on my body was in control.
I learned that I could never disregard my body. For example, I had to pay attention to what I wore. If it was “my time of the month,” as we delicately referred to menstruation, I didn’t want to wear light-colored skirts or slacks—heaven forbid wearing anything white! And no one told me about “bloat,” mood swings, and a fierce craving for chocolate that accompanied “this time of the month.” I remember stirring up a batch of chocolate chips cookies “for my family” and eating at least half of them myself—sometimes I couldn’t even wait for them to bake! I’d eat some of the raw cookie dough. Anyone asking me what happened to all the cookies was lucky not to get his or her head bitten off. In fact, asking me anything while I was in the clutches of a bad mood swing, or PMS as it’s now called, was risky. I remember locking myself in the bathroom to give myself time to calm down.
In contrast, my present old body can wear white slacks any day of the month, doesn’t bloat unexpectedly, though sometimes my ears ring a bit if I eat too much salt, and I don’t even care much for chocolate any more. As for mood swings, I seldom have them, and if I do, they are mild. I like living with myself a lot more now.
My young body also taught me about blackheads and zits. Hair, too, was a hassle. It had to be “set” so it would conform to the “in” style. I learned the meaning of “a bad hair day.” But head hair was not the biggest problem; hair sprouting in places where it was unwanted was. I regularly suffered the agony of waxing my upper lip after a boy on the bus asked me why I had a moustache. Shaving my legs and underarms became a routine, sometimes bloody, chore.
My old body does not give me such troubles. Zits and blackheads are either not ever there, or if one rears it’s ugly head, it’s largely ignored—no big deal. Though my head hair has thinned a bit, it covers my head just fine. Unwanted hair has almost disappeared: a big and pleasant surprise. Sure, I sometimes get a whisker for two, but a tweezers quickly comes to the rescue.
In high school I also used tweezers. They painfully shaped my eyebrows to conform to the “in,” meaning currently beautiful, eyebrow shape. The latest make-up styles and colors were a “must”; we all wanted to look beautiful to attract the boys for some obscure reason. [What a waste of effort and money! We didn’t realize that teen boys seldom looked at girls above the neck. Our money would have been better spent on padded bras and waist cinchers to give us the fertile “hourglass” look.] Whether it was the eyebrows, the make-up, or something we didn’t dare acknowledge, we did get attention. Most of it was pleasant, but not all. The teasing, touching, and grabbing, was sometimes downright offensive and disgusting. My body seemed to be sending out signals that I did not agree with at all.
What a difference now that I have an old body. True, my body is not as esthetically attractive-- parts of me seem determined to head south, not for the winter but for all seasons, and I have crow’s feet, and lines are starting to bracket my mouth. Sometimes, in fact, I swear that I am invisible, especially in stores such as Home Depot and Ace Hardware. The upside of this is that when I am noticed, I am looked at above the neck and what I have to say is actually listened to! My mind is of paramount importance to not only me anymore.
My high school boyfriend eventually became my husband. We both wanted children. My young body found pregnancy a snap, with no morning sickness—the only thing that made me slightly nauseous was the smell of coffee. Within two years we had a daughter and a son; time to stop the baby machine, but mine wouldn’t stop! As Catholics, our only option was the Rhythm Method. You were supposed to know when the “fertile times” were by taking your morning temperature before getting out of bed. My body told me it was not a fertile time, but it lied! Again and again it lied! A head count proved it; we had five children. I feared for my sanity and a crazy woman would not be a good mother, so I went on the Pill. [Bless the inventor of the birth control pill!] The baby machine stopped.
By the way, I found out quickly when nursing my first child, that the body had found a new way of controlling me. Milk sometimes “let down” at inopportune times. Imagine being in a grocery store and looking down to see two dark spots on wetness on your chest—very embarrassing. But that was nothing compared to my body’s messing with my mind. This happened after the birth of our second child. I began having migraine headaches. They occurred every month or two, usually right before my period. Nothing is worse than a migraine headache. I couldn’t read because the words were blurry; I couldn’t eat, or take painkillers, because I’d just throw up; all I could do was lay on the floor with a pillow under my head and the radio one to drown out the sound of my groans. I wished for death, but this time, I didn’t get my wish.
My old body, unlike my young body, is not a mean control freak. I no longer need fear that my body will be under the control of a parasitic growth: pregnancy. I like my present, almost flat breasts; they can’t embarrass me by squirting milk at unexpected times. Most of all, thank God, I rarely have a migraine headache, and if I do, it is mild.
Before puberty, I liked my body; it was flexible, energetic, reliable and obedient. After puberty, that changed. My body no longer listened to me, it had a will of it’s own—it was too often in control. As a post-menopausal woman, that is no longer true. Actually, menopause had the effect of going forward to the past, to the control I enjoyed wielding over my pre-pubescent body. In a sense, I had my youth back. Is it any wonder that I truly love my old, but reliable and obedient, body?
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