How is the weather up there? I imagine it’s still cold and snowy. The cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom here in Arlington, it’s so beautiful. After church today, we will go for a long walk along the Potomac and enjoy their incredible fragrance. Don’t forget that we are driving up to visit you in Maine the last week of April, so be sure to have the lobsters ready. Miss you and love you very much. Give the kids a big hug for me.
P.S. I have a horrible pain in my kidney, my sciatic nerve is making my behind feel like it’s on fire and your father’s gout is acting up again.
This was an actual letter from my dear sweet Gram to my mother (“actual” in the sense that I made it up; but trust me, she sent similar letters). Notice how she starts out with a tried-and-true bang (the weather) draws the reader in with the promise of serene sweetness and bliss (cherry blossoms and lobsters) then ends abruptly with the doom and gloom of growing older (ass on fire).
When I was a kid, my Gram once sent me a birthday card with a 20 dollar bill tucked inside. But that was not all. She added a lovely message as well. No, not “Have a Happy Birthday!” but “By the way, I’m taking your grandfather to his colonoscopy next week, hopefully they’ll get all the polyps this time, so wish him luck!” When you’re the tender age of 12, hearing about your Grampy’s colonoscopy is about as cool as…well, having your own colonoscopy.
Why do we constantly feel the urge to reveal the gory details about our various physical ailments the older we become? And why is it that I am just as guilty?
I turned forty last year. Along with my disgust at realizing all those fashion mag articles promising “Beauty Tips for All Ages!” have callously slid me into the upper age bracket entitled: Women of Advanced Age–Give It Up Already, I’ve come to realize something very unnerving about my other “advanced age” friends; our conversations have taken a dark turn. The younger carefree days of discussing the latest celebrity breakup or our bad hangovers have morphed into casually chit chatting about our various soul-crushing ailments and upcoming medical procedures.
This is the phone conversation I had last week with one of my forty-something friends:
Me: Hey, what’s up, girlfriend?
Her: Oh, nothing.
Me: Yeah, nothing here too.
Her: Oh! I’m having chest pains today. So there’s that.
Me: Me too! What is up with that? Damn!
Her: Yeah, it’s probably due to stress.
Me: Yeah, stress. (snickers) What a bitch.
Her: My hair is falling out.
Me: Me too!
Her: And oh god, the hot flashes! I sleep with my head in the freezer most nights.
Me: Me too!
And then we proceed to discuss every single thing that is going wrong with every single part of our bodies. Sometimes mine are worse, sometimes hers are worse. Most times we tie.
Once upon a time, I would get excited about going to events like a rock concert or a monster truck show. Several times this past year, I have seen status updates on Facebook discussing mammograms. One morning, one of my friends posted that she was heading in for her first one. About a dozen friends commented with things like, “Been there done that!” “Bring some Advil or you’ll be sorry!” Then I chime in and say something sexy like, “Oh yeah! Have fun! Good times my friend, good extremely-uncomfortable-boob-pancake times.” And then a group of us giggle over our coffee and post more comments revealing things about our boobs our husbands don’t even want to know for all of Facebook to read. Have we no shame? No, we don’t. After all, we are perimenopausal women and we will be loud and proud and we will be revealing too many personal things about our boobs because we’ve earned it goddammit.
Or maybe it’s because we’re jaded. Maybe there just isn’t anything else to discuss anymore. Celebrities? Once you get to my age, you realize most Hollywood couples will marry, have affairs, break up and sell their story to The Insider, usually all within one week. Politics? Too much nagging and nothing ever gets done; I deal with that type of situation enough at home. Sex? Just typing that word out makes me chuckle. But general aches and pains? Medical procedures and surgeries? Bingo. We are all over that hot topic.
Joint pain? Why, yes! My ankle is killing me, thanks for asking. I seem to have developed a severely inflamed tendon when I stupidly tried to walk across the living room floor. And my left shoulder is aching constantly, my knee is locking up and my thumb is doing this weird clicking thing. And did I mention my ankle tendon is inflamed?
Kidney stones? Oh yeah, my husband was diagnosed with those right after he had laid down in a fetal position on the ER floor and passed out. After drinking three truckloads of water he managed to survive long enough to have them blasted into tiny fragments, painfully urinate them into a tiny strainer for weeks afterward and name them after the seven dwarfs (Stubby, Prickly, Slash, Rip Torn, Larry, Moe and Curly).
Migraines? Too many to count. I’m having one right now. Bad back? My heating pad’s cord doesn’t reach my desk chair or I’d be planting my sorry butt on one right now. Poor eyesight? Blurry enough to purchase an ugly brown pair of reading glasses and I’m cursing and squinting through them at the computer screen right now. Arthritic fingers? Once again, I’m expreinesing it rght nw.
You name a minor ailment and my husband and/or I have been there done that or know a friend who has and we will tell you about it in every single miserable TMI detail.
I am only forty so I can see where this one day might lead me to mailing my little nephew a card that reads: “Happy birthday! Hope you’re doing well in school. I have shingles!” (Note to my 5 year old nephew: if you’re reading this, apparently you are doing very well in school. Also, Auntie is very sorry. I’ll send you 20 bucks next time. And oh yeah, I still have shingles.)
No worries. As my 77 year old mother points out daily, “You think you have it bad now? Just you wait until you’re my age! Then you’ll spend your time checking the obits for your friends!”
Well, at least I have that to look forward to. Thanks for keeping it real, Mom.