Aging Gracefully. Or Not.

One of my oldest friends called last night (meaning, I’ve known her forever, not that she’s the oldest of my friends), and it was so great to hear from her. We hadn’t talked in ages — probably since before the holidays — before the rush of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year took over. Talking with her is so wonderful — I laugh harder and longer with her than with just about anyone.

The topic of the call, once the pleasantries of how were children and husbands got handled, turned to the chores and horrors of personal grooming, now that we are firmly settled into our 40’s. She relayed an announcement she made to her husband — that the line item in the budget for “Personal Grooming and Beauty” was going to be increasing over time, not decreasing. A budget increase in, say, “desserts,” would be cause for celebration (let’s buy a cake with the extra money to celebrate!), but a necessary increase in monies for things like magnifying mirrors, waxing, plucking, coloring, etc., is just plain grim.

So we commiserated over random, bristly hairs that sprout from places that need no hairs, bristly OR otherwise, and about things that are now waxed that never before required waxing. She reminded me of a time, when I was in my 30’s!, when I decided to wax my own upper lip at home. In my defense, I was probably newly postpartum (with either #1 or #2) when I decided to do this — so clearly I had no business making these kinds of serious decisions or undertaking potentially hazardous tasks. But Husband was probably in South America and I was left behind with either 1 or 2 small babies (and, if I had to guess, a bottle of wine). At any rate, the idea of waxing one’s lip by oneself is not necessarily a bad one. The execution of this idea, however, is quite heinous.  As I discovered when I applied the wax to both sides of the lip, put the little cloth strips on both sides of the lip, and then ripped off only one side.

Holy Mother of Baby Jesus, it hurt like nothing I had ever experienced. So, I did what human beings normally do when undertaking a painful activity — I stopped. Standing there, left with one side still “wax on,” I called my friend for support. I don’t recall much about any support she offered; I think it was all just laughter, sobbing, gasping for air, laughter. I remember telling her that the next time she saw me (at the time we lived across the country from one another) that I would probably still have bits of wax — and obviously a big hairy lip — on my face, as my plan was to never ever rip off the strips. They’d have to fall off on their own.

When I think back to that incident now, two thoughts come to mind. First, I don’t recall ripping off the other strip. Clearly, this is God’s way of protecting us: some pain, like that of childbirth (and now lip waxing) is best forgotten (so that we’ll do it again). And second, for God’s sake, what the hell was I waxing? I had no business waxing — I was a child back then. There could not have been any major need for waxing at that time in my life….I was barely shaving my legs with any regularity (see earlier comment about two small babies, husband away). What was wrong with me? Clearly, that postpartum period was not a sane one.

This leads me to recall somethign that another friend told me recently. While on a business trip out of town, this friend called a local friend to drive over to the hotel where she had her meetings and stay over. A good ol’ fashioned slumber party….if said slumber party were to include digital cameras, tape measures and notebooks.

Seems that these two had a great idea about embarking on body changes — a self-improvement bug, as it were (probably viral; praying I won’t get it). They stripped down to their unmentionables (well, I’m mentioning them so perhaps not) and proceeded to document the ups and downs, hills and valleys, comings and goings, of their 40 +/- year old bodies. And then they measured.  And took notes. All in an effort to document the “before” part of the process.

My pal didn’t mention liquor, but hopefully the mini-bar was open and flowing by the time they unfurled the tape measure. (Tape measure? Let’s just ponder that for a moment — without shuddering, if possible.) And I was laughing too hard at all of this to ask the important question: never mind a sex tape…on whose computer do these photos reside? What kind of security is in place? Imagine if they popped up as a screen saver in the home office or, gasp, the out-of-home office?

However, in all honesty, I must say that I honor and envy the bond that these two friends have. I’ve been with my husband for 22 years, and I really don’t want to subject him (or me) to the sight of me leaving a room without my clothes on. And to give someone a camera (or a tape measure) and say, “have at me, let’s see what’s coming and going (and how big it’s grown)” ….Well, that’s a special relationship right there.  So, really, no matter what self-improvement does or doesn’t happen, these women are really lucky that they can get down to their civvies in a hotel room with each other and laugh (or cry) together.  And that trumps hairy chins or mushy thighs any day.

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