Posts Tagged ‘aging


Wonder Wall

It’s already a well-worn internet cliché to receive a deluge of “Happy birthday!!!” wishes once a year on Facebook. I don’t care. I’m absolutely delighted by it.

I used to think it was too simple. It seemed almost insulting or phony to simply post “happy birthday” to someone’s wall. If you really cared, you’d send a card and pay for a damn stamp! And maybe, individually, it is a little cheap and easy, especially when Facebook is probably the only reason you knew it was the person’s birthday in the first place. But seen in broader strokes, taken as a whole, getting a “happy birthday!” from hundreds of people at a time, whether or not they really remembered, is actually pretty awesome. A little bit of love from each of those friends and acquaintances adds up pretty quickly to a big lump of good will.

Just do your friends a favor and pay attention. It can be easy to dismiss those greetings. There can be so many that individuals get lost in the shuffle. So this year on my birthday I made it a point to respond to every single one of them.

My “Thanks!” or “Thank you!” may be even less thoughtful than many of the multiple-exclamation-point birthday greetings, but I think there’s some value in it. It guarantees that I have read everyone’s post, acknowledged everyone individually, taken a moment to remember something about each person and to think about how I’m connected to them — assuming I actually know who they are!

I’ve been paying much closer attention to people’s birthdays in the last year. I don’t remember phone numbers because my phone does it for me. And I don’t bother to remember birthdays anymore because Facebook tells me every day who I forgot to send a card to. But I do what I can to build up my birthday karma. Tell your friends, and even some strangers, happy birthday. It’ll come back to you when it’s your turn. And it’s so easy these days to show you care enough to do the very least, so there’s no excuse.


Half and Half

From today’s Writers’ Almanac:
“Today is the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox, where the sun is directly above the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal. The autumnal equinox occurred early this morning at 3:09 UTC, Coordinated Universal Time. But here in America, the equinox occurred last night, at 11:09 on the East Coast.”


The gayest libra image I've ever seen.

Today is also my birthday.

It’s also the first day of Libra, which is all about balance, so it fits nicely that the number of hours of daylight is equal to the number of hours of night. Someone in ancient Greece probably already figured on that, and it’s probably intentional and not a coincidence, and I’m probably just late to the party. But I think it’s pretty neat.

However, the zodiac sign that corresponds to the vernal equinox is Aries, which is not nearly as cool — unless there is some kind of parallel to draw between spring time and amorous, uncastrated ruminants.


Late Start

One morning recently, I nearly fell over when an intense, sharp, pain shot through my ankle. I was putting on a sock or playing with the cat or something; I don’t remember. But I’m only 31! I’m far too young to be falling apart.

And then it was gone.

Minutes later, when I was walking to the bus, it hit again, but a little less intensely. It stems from a two-year-old rugby injury. I rolled my ankle this summer at a practice. We were in Central Park, and an officious little groundskeeper was busying himself by whizzing by on his little golf cart every 15 minutes to yell at us for running on the open lawn of the North Meadow.

We weren’t wearing spikes, which are verboten by the Central Park Conservancy. And we were taking up very little space in the corner under some trees, far away from the baseball diamonds, where nobody goes anyway. But I guess we’re not allowed to use a ball larger than a softball or to run on the grass. It defies explanation.

So this groundskeeper finally succeeded in chasing us outside of the fenced region to a downward-sloping area of patchy grass, tree roots and the odd broken bottle. We made do with this until I was chasing down someone during a game of touch, missed a step on the side of the hill, and went down hard.

My teammate made his try. I, on the other hand, spent the next 10 minutes on the ground in a quivering heap of agony. As I was contorting myself into various death throes, I considered how my life might change should I need to amputate my right foot. I wouldn’t look that bad with a prosthesis, right? At least not in the winter. With long pants. And boots.

This is the same foot that sent me into physical therapy when I screwed up my plantar fascia the previous season. As a result, my right foot is considerably weaker than the left — and prone to ankle injuries.

The physical therapy got me in the habit of stretching really well. But it’s never been quite the same since. Not three blocks from my apartment, I tripped on a jutting corner of sidewalk while coming to a stop at a red light and rolled the same ankle. Can’t catch a break.

So now I have these recurring pains. And a new season brings new aches. What keeps me sane is the blessing of regenerative tissue.

But I curse this body sometimes. I’ve spent 30 years actively not conditioning my body to take this kind of stress. Coming to athletics so late in my life puts me at particular risk. But I love it, so I keep with it.

This is why kids should play sports. It makes their bodies grow in ways that will help them later. Note to self: When we have a kid of our own, he will play something. I won’t push him to anything in particular. My parents never pushed me to anything, which I have always been thankful for. But I will definitely push him toward choosing something he likes.

Like rugby.


I’ll Walk, Thanks.

Reading about the recent death of marathoner Ryan Shay, it strikes me how incredibly out of shape I am yet how relatively unbothered I am about it. At age 28, at the top of his game, he collapsed at the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials.

It absolutely can happen to anyone. Yet how disgusting that it should happen to him. If the good Lord comes ringing for me before my time, I hope I have the good sense to screen my calls.

He is from a family of runners, which I take as a testament to the dearth of amusements available to a growing boy up in Central Lake, Michigan, population 1,000. Every sibling runs or has run. His sister stills holds some sort of obscene high school record. Plus his parents coach. Is it dedication or obsession? Whatever it is, it’s bloody impressive.

“Trials” is an appropriate word. In today’s Times article about the tragedy, his coach’s training scheme for such trials is described thus: a 14-week training period, peaking at about 130 to 140 miles of training a week, with workouts including 8 x 1 mile at 4:45 to 4:50 pace at 7,000 feet (in Arizona) with two minutes’ rest in between.

Yikes! (Two minutes’ rest? They are so fat and lazy. What hope do they have?)

People who are driven to be the best at what they do have to work for it, no doubt. And I respect that. But I don’t want nearly as much. So I am perfectly content not to work nearly as hard as Ryan Shay, who can run a marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes, proposed to.

Even a friend of mine, finishing last weekend’s New York Marathon in 4:09 (a personal best for him, I think), leaves me in the dust. I wouldn’t even try it. I detest running. I can’t even think of something I enjoy doing for four hours and nine minutes!

I am just this side of hopeless. Truly, I miss my rugby team, which dragged me kicking and screaming into the best shape of my life over the last couple of years. Having taken a season away from the team, I am reduced with amazing speed to a quivering white pudding, winded by the staircase ascent from the subway, aware of every aching joint and wondering how long it will be before I end up an Old Man. This is how it starts! I think.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. From the horse’s mouth: 4:04:27. Yikes!


You Must Not Know ‘Bout Bea

CNN gleefully covered an onstage spill from Beyoncé recently. It reminds me of the time I saw Bea Arthur fall off a stage in Minneapolis.

She was barefoot and resplendent in a flowing white kaftan. Or something. During a story about a fistfight with Elaine Stritch or something, she moved slowly backward into a poorly lit part of the stage. And then, in an instant: a wisp of white taffeta, like smoke, and she had vanished.

A gay guy in the front row gasped. A small child began to cry somewhere. And then, from the darkness, Ms. Arthur’s voice rang out like a call from God:

“Ladies and gentlemen. I am all right.”

Exuberant applause erupted from the assembled masses, and she took to the stage once again, without so much as a limp. It was inspirational.


Long in the Tooth

I’ve heard people older than me say things about aging like: “I feel like I’m the same person I was when I was younger. It’s like I’m 25 inside. But I look in the mirror, and I see this old face.”

Is this incongruity the same for all of us?

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself: I’m living with my husband in a state I didn’t grow up in, and I have for the last 8 years; I’ve graduated from college; I’m making decent money at a decent job; I can make my own decisions and determine my own road. I have to make my own decisions. What choice is there?

I suppose some people groom themselves to accept their own adulthood. And whenever it happens, they take the reins and ride off into the future. But me — I think I’m still at the bus stop sometimes, waiting for adulthood to pick me up.

Who in their right mind would allow me to just sort of take care of myself? You mean, they let me vote? They let me live on my own like this? If I wanted to buy a car or a house or open a retirement account, I can just … do it? Who do I think I am?

I recently volunteered to speak at a career night event put on for some high school kids. I was part of a group of young professionals (professionals?) who talked about their jobs and answered questions from the attendees about skills, training, degrees, career choices. It seemed funny to me that I should be presented to these kids as a role model.

Are they kidding? My life, an example? I felt like all I could do was tell them what not to do. But I guess I’ve done OK, haven’t I? Of course I can give some advice.

One of the first times I realized I was a grown-up — that I had truly left the nest — was in the health and beauty aids section of Target. I was buying dental floss.

Until I was 22 years old, my mom scheduled twice-yearly checkups with the dentist. Even when I was in college. I’d come home, and there’d be a dentist appointment tossed in with the obligatory visits to friends and family. And every time, the dentist gave me a toothbrush and a packet of dental floss. And because I hardly ever flossed, it was plenty to get me through the next six months before my next appointment.

Dental floss always stacked up at my house. My mom had baskets and baskets of it under the sink in the bathroom. Plain, waxed, mint waxed, cinnamon waxed, blue, green, white. I think I even used a packet of unwaxed plain once as kite string. We never wanted for dental floss at my house — ever.

Then I crossed state lines. Visits to Dr. Forrest ended. It took me a year before I got on the ball and made my own dentist appointment. And I had to buy my own dental floss. The multitude of options at Target is overwhelming.

Sometimes I still feel like the insecure teenager I was: unsure about his future but somehow not worried about it. But now I’m really just a much less insecure 30-year-old — but slightly more worried about the future. I have much less of it now. And I have the power to screw it up.

I wonder if I will ever feel my age, or will I also look in the mirror 30 years from today and wonder who the heck is looking back at me?


Putting on Your Face

There’s a kiosk shop at Manhattan Mall for Vera Moore Cosmetics. I see it every time I walk through the mall to get to my gym. I wonder if there’s any relation to Benjamin Moore, the paint company.

Benjamin Moore covers the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Vera Moore covers the exteriors of people. Seems like a natural, marvelous connection. What if the companies merged? They could make everything pretty. But only on the surface. There’s nothing they could do about the interiors of people.

Reminds me of one of my favorite Sandra Bernhard routines. She’s talking about a fictional friendship with Courtney Love — “… a tear, a bruise. So tender; so fragile” — and she closes the monologue with “Courtney, what plastic surgeon is going to go in there and fix all of the scars in your heart?”

the untallied hours