AGING, Women

DOES THIS MIRROR MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

Is it just me or are there fat mirrors and skinny mirrors? And here is my question for all the mirror makers out there, which one is the right one? What do we all really look like? And why do I even care anymore, other than when I get dressed in the morning and look at myself for a brief check and then that pesky bubble shows up over my head and says, omg what has happened to me?

I write a lot about self talk, perfectionism, self image and spin cycle brain. I am constantly at work on the never ending dialogue between my head and my core belief system. This wisdom and self awareness keeps me in check with my mostly happy existence I am mostly grateful for. Relatively speaking, this piece today is what people would refer to as first world problems. Every day I open the paper, I read about death, destruction and the rise of antisemitism that makes me feel like I am living in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing about fat and skinny mirrors doesn’t seem to be a newsworthy commentary.

This is embarrassing to write, but I forge ahead anyway. I know this conversation is one that makes me not alone in my thinking. Years and years of female speak by the line leading ladies in my family always discussing body size, the latest Weight Watchers recipe and the dreaded workouts at Gloria Stevens have left their mark no matter how much positive patty talk I give myself.

When I was in seventh grade, I clearly remember an eighth grade boy saying to me, Alayne, your face on Eva’s body…. Wow. And as he said this he closed his eyes and turned his head with a slightly upturn of his lips letting the fantasy of this hormonal boy designed girl simmer in his loins (apparently, Eva was the desired go to body of the moment and she was a year older than me). I remember thinking at that particular moment that I was not good enough. Rather than saying, go fuck yourself, what about your face and body? I took it like it was a directive. Boys had that power over young girls back then, at least over this boy crazy girl, who for some reason allowed them to decide my self worth fate for most of my adolescence.

Hopefully all of this chick power and positive self talk commentary we have been feeding our girls for the past twenty years has helped them define themselves on their own terms so they don’t have to be guided down the path of negative. But it seems that body image and negative body talk is still a problem with our young girls, the very ones we have been trying to teach to just own it.

Just when I think we are making headway by actually saying negative body talk as a phrase aloud, I see some wacky diet plan being thrown at an eight year old. This is not really some new phenomenon. In my possession, I have a book written by a doctor named Ruth West from the 1950s called, The Teenage Diet Book, given to me my one of my best friend’s moms when we were in 7th grade. I don’t know why or how I still have this book, but it is significant in relation to the blithering bubbles over my head as well as the conversations I have had with members of my female tribe for the last forty years.

this book by Dr. Ruth West written in the 1950’s. Clearly, throwing diets at our young children is nothing new.

I have always had issues with the way I have seen my body even when the way I should have seen it should have been with degrees of worship. I look back at the pictures from my earlier years when I used to use language like, I am so fat, as my perpetual inner dialogue. Then I look at the picture now and my mouth drops open. What a waste of a perfectly good body. Good body? What does that even mean? Shouldn’t it mean, healthy, able to breathe when walking up the stairs or hiking for six hours? Shouldn’t it equate with the word, alive?

As I write today, I am aware that it sounds like I lack the self worth and acceptance I espouse in so much of my writing. Though it may appear this way, I just think it is helpful to say aloud what the bubble over my head occasionally says in its uninvited phrases. The food down turns I have taken in my previous day or week start their yipping in my head labeling themselves as wrong, bad, dumb. I fully realize that this is not helpful. But it is hard to stop the train. And I consider that the years of being surrounded with constant discussion and commentary on body size not just from my own family, but in every piece of literature, magazine cover, and now the algorithms of social media and the internet have planted themselves like an innocent single stem of mint in the garden.

Dieting of yesteryear has turned into softer words, like wellness, clean eating, and it has created a tornado of advice from experts and self described gurus that has left me and my over thinking brain on overload. And almost every woman I know. What to believe? What to eat? What not to eat? Is it even possible to lose weight past fifty five? Then there is the discussion of “set weight” which if you haven’t heard that phrase, you may as well throw in the towel because whatever weight you lose, your body, biologically, won’t stay there as it will work hard to climb back to the old weight for some scientific reason I can’t possibly explain.

Why bother? Well for one, when I have gained ten pounds, I feel like shit. I feel bloated. Every outfit I put on feels like it shrunk and as I actually think this, I realize, oh shit, no the dryer is not expediting heat mysteriously shrinking my clothes, but rather the extra weight is making my clothes feel snug. Darn it. I was ready to call Gils Appliance and buy a new dryer. Then I look in the mirror and that bubble shows up and the voice starts its scolding, Why did I eat that ….. yesterday? I was supposed to start the Whole 30 for the thirtieth time. Come on Alayne, you are going to Florida in a few months….you better get ready.
So I do as Whole 30 commands, stop looking in the mirror. Don’t get on the scale. Just stop the madness. This always helps. And I come back to the beginning of this piece about the fat and skinny mirrors. I know they exist, they are in every dressing room that sells women’s clothing. They are definitely in bathing suit stores and lingerie stores. They are in my gym. And it gets me thinking about perception as reality. And my own reality of aging and the way my body is changing just because of aging.

I realize that I am lucky to be able to write this slightly self-deprecating piece. I am alive and anyone reading this is too. Fat mirrors, skinny mirrors aside, life is a process, and there is never likely going to be a time where I can 100% say good enough. This is the most ironic part of aging, this self-awareness in the midst of the bubbles over my head. Self acceptance is part of the evolution of aging and the more aging women I speak to, the more honest conversations we are having about this process. Honest conversations are the best part of aging with like minded women I surround myself with. Mirrors and extra ten pounds aside, truth is beauty and if aging is truth serum, then bring it on.

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THE WORD WEIGHT

THE WORD WEIGHT

“I’m dieting.” A familiar phrase heard in my house and my grandmother’s house for most of my life. My grandmother, my two aunts and my mother were my female role models whether I knew it at the time or not. The fact is that whoever the grown ups are in our young lives become our point of reference like it or not. Sure, we can sort it all out as we gain years, but at the early beginnings, we really have no choice but to use them as our jumping off points. We learn so much by watching and listening and sometimes the two don’t meet. Actions speak louder than words come to mind; what adults say isn’t always what adults do.

As a parent, I’d like to think I tried to learn from my parent’s mistakes and made the necessary corrections by following through when I said something by my actions demonstrating my notion of being a ‘good parent.’ I am sure if I asked my son, though, he could easily come up with a list of examples where I didn’t, but this is parenting. You win some, you lose some. I know for the most part I made a concerted effort. I also didn’t have a girl so the traps weren’t as powerful as they might have been.

My four female influencers had a common denominator between them; they were always and I mean always dieting. If they weren’t dieting, they were talking about dieting. They were always trying to lose a few pounds, trying to get to that perfect unreachable unobtainable weight number that would magically appear on the daily step on the scale only to learn that another day had come and gone leaving them disappointed yet again. I am not sure how it all started, this obsession with the perfect weight that would never come and even if it did, like a crappy relationship, it wouldn’t stick around long.

As a little girl who was active with gymnastics, hula hooping and playing outside, I didn’t notice very much until that little sexual awakening started and boys became my go to hobby in seventh grade. This is when I started paying closer attention to the way I looked validating my sense of self by the way the boy I was infatuated with at the moment paid attention back. This is when I started reading Seventeen magazine not being even close to seventeen yet thinking I was doing something risqué. Laughing aloud at the notion that a twelve year old girl could think an innocent magazine was provocative enough to warrant this thought. Free and easy access to online porn wasn’t even in the brains of developers and as a matter of fact developers were people who developed real estate. The only place a twelve year old girl could learn about the feelings going on in her body was from other girls and the feelings themselves. We surely didn’t have the types of conversations with our own mothers. What went hand and hand with these sexual desires starting to awaken in our little bodies was also the reflection staring back. The more magazines we looked at, the more tv we watched gave us our definitions of what we were supposed to be ascribing to as the go to body, the one that would gain the interests of the boys we desired. At least this was what my experience was in retrospect and the experience of my young peers.

We grew up with commercials like, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Imagine. Then there were the Noxema ads that basically said without great skin, forget it, you didn’t have a chance. Women’s liberation hadn’t hit the twelve year old circle of girls in 1976 yet, maybe it had with our mothers but we surely didn’t see that in our homes where many played the more traditional roles of moms who stayed home and dads who worked.

This is even hard for me to write because as these desires grew so did my need to feel my worth validated by outside forces. These forces quickly came to mean how I looked, how my body showed up in a bathing suit at the beach and thus the final end result of dieting and food talk, body image inner dialogue.

The weight talk or in the vocabulary of today, the self fat talk, I feel fat, I look fat, I am fat began at an early age for me like around the time of thirteen. I am sure it was because of a combination of the aforementioned but who really knows. My friend’s mother gave me a book called The Teenage Diet Book written in the 1950s and off I ran, grapefruit diets, cottage cheese and cracker diets, one egg, slice of dry toast diets, on and on. The funny thing about all of this is that not only did I not have a weight problem, I was a healthy fit and very active tween. There was no reason for me to be dieting or even conscious of the food I took into my little body, but there I was, starting the cycle of negative body shaming out of the gate. These days it may be called an eating disorder, I don’t know. I ate fine. I wasn’t purging, starving, binging or whatever other descriptors are part of this world. It was more the talk I had with myself every time I looked at myself in the mirror. I just didn’t see the same picture I see now when I look back at the photos of yesteryear. I didn’t see that my budding hour glass figure was a normal healthy body staring back. Maybe it was the magazines showing the examples of what I was supposed to look like? Maybe it was the constant dialogue about dieting in my household. Surely I wasn’t born with this, there was something that just clicked about the same time I started wearing my first bra. Maybe it was the comments about my body and others girls in my class from the boys. “She has a nice body,” or a comment from a boy in seventh grade, “Your face on so and so’s body, yowza.” Boys commentary on my young blossoming body with no positive patty mama to teach me otherwise was the beginning of the uphill battle. Boys hormones were flowing too and their go to bodies were their father’s Playboy centerfolds. Whatever it was, the end result was a teenage girl who became super conscious of her weight, yes, but more so her body image staring back. It is forty years later and here I am.

Waking up at three am (again) I put on my go to podcast which immediately distracts me from spinney head and oddly puts me back to sleep pronto. This podcast was Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations interviewing the famous Carole Bayer Sager, songwriter extraordinaire. They were speaking of her success in the business of song, her marriage to Burt Bacharach and the general Oprah questions to get to the layers of what lies beneath the success. Like Oprah, Carole shared the same perpetual issues with weight her entire life around food and the way she looks at herself in both the mirror outward and the language she says to herself inward, usually not too kind. Always feeling fat, always thinking about her food choices from the day before, for later, for tomorrow, always dieting. It was both sad because well it is just a drag to have to have the constant battle yet refreshing because it was her truth. The truth shall set us free for sure and when we speak it more often to each other, somehow it eases the burden of the types of self talk we all are guilty of on any given day no matter how many positive patty affirmations we surround ourselves with. I listened to her talk about the comments her mother used to say to her about her weight and realized she is almost seventy and still grappling with the inner critic.

Conversations about weight, body size, diets, “food plans” “lifestyle changes” are often and frequently the words coated with a film of self loathing. I have never had an honest conversation with a woman that doesn’t include our perpetual inner dialogue about our body size, shape, weight, workout routine, or new eating plan.

I was in Florida feeling pretty strong and thinking I looked pretty good in my sassy bathing suit so I snapped a picture and sent it along to my work out coach, leader, fitness mentor, thanking her for helping me look the same way I felt for a change, my inside self yapping about my body size finally felt like it matched my outside. Her response was, “That’s so great Alayne!! Have you lost any weight?” What?! Buzzkill with a capital B. I don’t fucking know. I don’t get on the scale anymore since it is a perpetual bummer and it will never be the number that I want it to be. The last time I got on the scale was when I was doing a weight loss challenge at said gym that I totally love by the way and the number flipped me out so much I started eating Ice cream sundaes and drinking wine with a vengeance. I had been doing nothing except eating “clean” for like five weeks straight and the scale went up.

Ok yes it’s muscle, yes I look great, Yes I am alive, but what is it with that frickin number of doom. Does any happy woman get on the scale and like the number? I see the fittest healthiest, aka trimmest, women working out at the gym with me and they dread the scale. They have that voice in their head too that says fat. What does that even mean? I think the word should be dropped from our vernacular. It has such a negative connotation like a disease or something and it surely isn’t a kind word.

I wish clothing sizes were labeled with instead of the numbers going up, just naming the vibe, like bodacious, bad ass, voluptuous, serena strong, I mean have you seen her thighs- super bad ass, and how about Beyonce? Rocking the house at some California music festival I have never heard of, with legs of steel owning her body power for the world to see.

I grew up with ads like “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” with Brooke Shields lying snake like inviting the world in front of her to imagine what this means. I think she was about fifteen at the time. Not to mention all of the other dieting messages that have always come our way surrounded by ads for Weight watchers chocolate cake and yogurt attempting to imitate an ice cream sundae filled with chocolate chunks and oreos, but low fat and only “100 calories.” What a load of crap. It turns out all that low fat eating was all bullshit and that the amount of sugar needed to make it taste anything like normal is worse for you than the fat would have been. I am so confused. Are you?

I remember watching an Oprah show many years ago that really stuck with me. She had moms with their daughters on who had eating disorders. Oprah was trying to establish some common denominators as to the reasons. These mom’s seemed to have the greatest intentions with their daughters, positive self talk, encouraging language, direction, but what we learned in the show was that their actions didn’t always meet their voices when it came to the topic of weight. “You are beautiful, you are smart, strong, healthy, brilliant, good enough,” only goes so far when what you are doing on a regular basis is staring at yourself in the mirror filled with disdain and scorn for the body or the face or the hair that stares back. Talk about disempowerment. By the way, our boys are watching too and this made me a little more self conscious of my actions and commentary in the reflection back when my son was around for sure.

“Muscle weighs more than fat.” “What size are you fitting into, that is your gauge.” “Who cares what the number is?” Well obviously a three page essay on the topic warrants the obvious. We have been told incessantly that we are supposed to care. Cancer risk, diabetes risk, heart problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol, all of these diseases are attributed to excess weight so beyond the cosmetic factor of pounds, there is the pragmatic element of needing to weigh less to lessen the chances of dis-ease coming at us. There is so much information available out there on nutrition and exercise and at the same time, we are all seeming to be gaining pounds globally. Do we have the literal weight of the world on our shoulders with the amount of distractions away from our inner core causing us to eat and gain? We live in America here, what is there to be stressed about? We have freedoms in our country that should never warrant a moment of stress compared to other countries. But here we are dwelling on the silliness of a number on a scale to set our day in the right direction.

The more we talk about the talk that goes on in our heads with others, the better I think we will be. As Maya Angelou once said, “We are more alike my friends, we are more alike.” Honest conversation with each other about all topics, this is the way to get to the root, knowing we are not alone and this weight topic is one that most women I know struggle with every single day. My grandmother was always and I mean always dieting. She never felt good enough in her body and this translated right down the line supplying unintended body talk that would continue on in generations to come. Breaking the cycle is as tough as I would imagine it is for an alcoholic giving up the drink. I opened up a Shape Magazine and there was article after article about supposed fitness coupled with ad after add for Slimfast, Hydroxy cut and pharmaceuticals. Then there were the pictures and words in the Emma Roberts story, I know I am getting old when I don’t have a clue who she is. Words like perfect and fit and zen. The photos of a young girl who is so thin, I am not sure if the pictures are helpful or on the brink of dangerous. It’s opening paragraph is the description of what went on her smart head before the shoot and how she decided to “eat the cupcake,” beforehand instead of waiting until “after the shoot,” like her friends had told her would have been a better idea. This was the first paragraph of the story. If this story were about a man, does anyone think it would have been about his decision to eat a cupcake before the photo shoot? We have made progress I guess. I open the Athleta catalogue these days and there seems to be more curves, but even those models needed to have a description for some challenge they faced almost implying that the two go hand in hand.

Can we have hips and meat on our bones and be happy? I don’t think the magazines that are forced upon me everyday because I own a business and the companies think that I am going to place them in the waiting area, think that this is a possibility. After all isn’t this what sells them? The need to challenge the weak spot and plant the “you’re not good enough,” thought early on. I know after all the work I have done, all of the surgeries I have been through, all of the loss I have experienced, that when I eat with a vengeance it is to soothe the pain and it feels amazingly fulfilling when I indulge and super shitty a week later. I am not sure if I will ever overcome the constant food and weight and body talk jibber jabber that goes on in my crazy brain, but what gives me comfort is knowing that I am not alone in this. I welcome the conversations and the honesty from the tribe of women who grace my life in both my inner circle and my business circle. We are not alone and the more we communicate, the better our daughters and sons will be. This makes it all part of the party on the road to progress and never perfection. There is great freedom in that.

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TEN STEPS BACK

TEN STEPS BACK

I write almost daily with the theme of the dynamic trio- self reflection, awareness and acceptance. Part of the deep process of life for me is upward to the light, baring of the soul, truth, admitting my vulnerabilities as a dialogue to help contribute to more honest discussion between us humans, especially women. I feel like when we present our insides, we realize together we are more alike than our outsides generally admit.

Coming upon my one year ‘boobaversary,’ this particular year has been like a missile launch traveling through my body leaving the trail of past negative thought patterns in the rocket dust. My double mastectomy has been a surgery of freedom. This has been the greatest surprise and ultimately a most welcome one. Living in the truth sphere is a fulfilling place, way easier since there is never any back tracking. What you see is what you get, vulnerable yes, but liberating super yes.

So this past week when I showed up for my first time on television, The Rhode Show, my less than three and a half minutes of fame, the negative thought patterns came back like that same rocket taking a nose dive back into the earth surface. From the moment I began getting dressed, is this outfit going to look alright on tv to driving to the studio the little memes of self disatisafaction popped their way into my brain. I went into the bathroom when I got to the studio and heard a slight pop sound and immediately thought, what if my zipper just broke on my jeans? What would I do? It didn’t. I didn’t recognize myself and found myself toggling between judgment and criticism like I was in eighth grade. It surely didn’t help that this was all layered with an inner critic I thought I had buried at the onset of my first diagnosis. Buried is the choice word here because by now I am fully aware that nothing good comes from burying. In order for the work to really take flight it must be worked through and released. Part of the movement towards the light, for me anyway, is the upward and outward once it has sufficiently marinated or in some cases fermented my insides. Why am I so hard on myself? When I try to determine who the voice is, where it comes from, suffice it to say being judged is how I grew up. This is how I spent my upbringing and have spent my adult life working on reversing it. For the most part, I have come to peace with the goods, the greats, the bads the uglies we chicks struggle with because we have been told in a variety of ways from a multitude of outlets that we are not good enough.

Television, and it’s not like I was on Oprah, I was on a local very safe and delightful show hosted by a twenty nine year old who totally had her shit together since four am. I am guessing her stint on The Rhode Show will not be her television resting place as she was a strong presence from the moment I saw her handing off the salad to top the pizza on the cooking segment.

In all of my standing in front of hundreds of people, YouTube videos and newpaper and radio interviews I have been part of in my thirty year history in the beauty business, I have never been on television. I haven’t even been on a set to see what it looks like from behind the camera. When the original idea of being on this local show came up, it was presented as a live interview. I declined promptly for the main reason that I quickly learned there was no delay time and I envisioned myself dropping one of the many F bombs that are part of my daily verse. Fortunately they offered a back up idea that I could pre tape the show to be aired at a later time and I said yes with a, surprising to me, slight hesitation.

I generally like being out of my comfort zone, I like the shake up, the nervousness, but this television experience was more than that. It was a total mind fuck that caught me off guard as the negative thoughts, the not good enough mind darts that I thought were gone along with my breasts of long ago yesteryear. When I first found Louise Hay, the guru of positive self talk, in my early twenties, she presented ideas that my young and very fucked up mind had never considered. ‘Your thoughts create your reality’ was a big one. This was the start of some very introspective thinking and I worked hard at convincing myself that I was in fact good enough, whatever the hell that means as I reflect back on it now. Compared to what? Compared to whom? In our short lives none of this matters, but in our day to day operations of moving through these lives, sometimes it seems to matter more than the knowing wisdom of retrospect offers.

One idea that Louise Hay offered to me in my young life was that when you start on the path of introspective work and you think you have passed the test and you can move on to the next lesson, the universe sometimes throws the final test at you. This is like the universe saying aloud, Oh yeah? You think you have done the work and figured it out? Let’s see if this is really true; let’s see what you are really made of! Can you get past this next exercise so that you can truly pass go? This, of all of the many nuggets I gleaned from her books in my early life, was one of my favorites.

Just when I think I have figured my shit out, the gale force winds of my mind come blasting back at me to remind myself that yes indeed it is progress not perfection.

As I made my way on the set with sparkly Michaela, the popcorn thoughts came barreling at me. First off, I looked into the camera albeit briefly and caught a television image of myself and immediately had the yep, you guessed it, the dreaded fat thought. “I look so fat.” I actually said to myself. Not the best positive thought to start my first television interview with. Then I proceeded to get pissed at my self because I had the thought and spent the next part of the interview distracted by this. When she started asking me questions, I realized that I am not in control here; Miss Michaela is. After all it is her party, not mine and I didn’t necessarily want to relinquish the control, but obviously it was too late for this diatribe, I was in the middle of an interview that seemed like it was an hour, but was really less than three minutes. The self defacing thoughts, “I am doing a terrible job, I am looking for words, Am I embarrassing my brand, my team? I am not saying what I planned, People are going to watch this and laugh aloud at how bad I am, I look I sound,” blah fucking blah. I was tired of myself already. I am sure I did a good enough job. And if I didn’t, who really cares, it is cleansers and moisturizers I was talking about. It was my first ever television appearance. For Gods sake, Alayne, you survived a double mastectomy and you are alive standing here talking about beauty. Shut the fuck up.



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IT DOESN’T MATTER

IT DOESN’T MATTER

“Wait until you’re 60,” my beautiful white-haired Carole King looking friend, Julie, said to me a few years back. “You become invisible.” I couldn’t imagine her being invisible with her clear bright green blue eyes vibrant in the purples and turquoises she throws together with scarves and shirts and sweaters she wears. I laughed thinking she was kidding as she went on to further explain that she had started noticing the decreasing looks that were once very common not coming at her with the frequency she was used to. Once she crossed over to the other side of menopause, there was definitely a shift.

She must be exaggerating I thought. I am mostly and have always been mostly blind to being looked at by the opposite and sometimes same sex. Though my seventy year young partner is convinced that I continue to “turn heads,” I often think it is just simply his head I turn as I plow through my days unaware, happily not noticing whether I do or not. I am a grown woman and as long as I am turning his head, this is all that matters to me. This sounds so non feminist here, I was almost not going to write this, but truth be told, I like the energy that is the sensual side and I like the idea of turning heads especially my partner’s. I just know that it is not the head turning that validates my worth, I just enjoy it if it happens and I happen to notice.

But today and this week as a matter of fact I have started to notice the invisibility Julie had spoken of a few years back. When I am at the beach in a bathing suit, no one (except maybe an occassional 70+ man) are looking because I have crossed over with menopause as my bridge to the other side. The side where it doesn’t matter what bathing suit I wear to the beach, there is no one looking anymore. Not a woman, not a man, it just doesn’t matter anymore not that it ever should have mattered, but more on that later. And this is fricking liberating. As I make my way down to the waters edge from my super private spot with my strong amazon Serena Williams like thighs, curvey hips and hour glass figure I was told was the desired shape, I climb between the bikini clad masses. It is like I am Wonder Woman in the Invisible Jet leaving any vestiges of concern that my bathing suit is not fitting properly on the Paradise Islands of Themyscira along with the other Amazonian priestesses. What a difference a week makes.

I get to be the post menopausal now 53 year old woman looking affectionately at the tribe of twenty year olds and smile thinking, this too shall pass. I want to say to their glorious bodies not a one of them seem to be self conscious about in their bikinis that are way beyond what Cheryl Tiegs ever dreamed about, I am so proud of you for owning it. If that in fact is what is really happening as I make my way past one after the other of the firmest tannest asses barely covered by the new semi wide thong bikini bottoms. I wish I had that type of body confidence when my body was like that and I never allowed myself permission to believe it was. (until I look at pictures where I actually thought I was fat and holy shit realize how wrong I was- what a waste). I can hear my grandmother Isabelle’s voice saying, “Don’t they realize they leave nothing to the imagination?” Followed by a tsk tsk tsk sound and a disapproving head shake. Grandma, come on, if you had that ass at twenty in this day and age, you would have wanted it to be a shining beacon of glorious ass light too.

My generation of girls grew up with such negative body shaming and talk so to see young girls owning their bodies, I greatly appreciate it. My generation grew up thinking we were fat when we weren’t, thinking we were supposed to be dieting when we should have been eating. These girls at least at the beach today walked with an air of body confidence and body joy as they jumped around easily in their skin playing Frisbee and volleyball, uncovered exposed in their bathing suits with no shorts or coverups that would minimize their glorious figures. All shapes and sizes, they appeared strong and confident. I hope their inside thinking matches their outside stories because this would be a generation of pure body owning power. Maybe the cycle of body shaming chain we have inadvertently been taught in our generation has finally been broken. I admire them and I smile at them and they smile back probably thinking she looks good for her age.

I used to really struggle with negative body image thinking my body was never good enough. What does this even mean? Not good enough compared to who? Besides the beginning of the week when I was trying to get used to my new upper half in a bathing suit top that was clearly too small now, I actually released this feeling mostly. If this is because of my age and my superpowers are now under the radar because of my aging self then I welcome this new directive, clearly another bonus in the aging process. There are all shapes and sizes of beautiful figures at the beach; the young women stand out much more than the young men. With the invention of the 24/7 camera in the phone, though, I watch the girls take photos of each other like they are modeling for a magazine and I pray it is not for an amateur porn site. I still worry that these girls are grappling with the same issues. Rewind. Repeat. Seeing how we actually look at the beach, I can see the appeal of this. I have been curious if the suit I have chosen is the way I thought it looked when I first tried it on, after all we are in our almost barest of selves, talk about vulnerable. For the most part I am satisfied these days. This is a long way from my old self of feeling “fat” or “not good enough.”

These young girls think nothing of posing out in front of the world at the beach taking photo after photo of each other, tousling their hair like they are auditioning for a Victoria Secret Catalogue. I, along with two other women I have become acquainted with this week at the beach in passing, sit there watching, mouths open thankful they are not our daughters we have to deal with. But they are. They are all our symbolic daughters as they have watched their mothers and us take our own selfies as we get dressed and look at our own selves in our mirrors. We are between smiling at their incredible adorableness and worried like moms that this is indicative of a new generation of women consumed with their outward appearance as proof of their worth in the world. I wonder what they will be doing with the pictures. Do they think they look as incredible as we think they look as we watch them sass in front of the camera posing for a frontal and a behind the scenes photo shot? Or do they look at the photos they immediately review and think “fat, not good enough, could be better here or there?” We doublespeak our body talk. I do it here in my writing as I reread. Happy to be invisible? That is kind of fucked up, that I need invisible to be liberated? Eeek. We tell our girls (and our boys who are watching by the way) one thing from our mouths, “you are beautiful, you are good enough, you are strong and smart!” We think that our words speak volumes, but it is more often our actions that are the teachers as we fidget our clothes in the mirrors, look at our backsides with disdain and outwardly mock our appearance by thinking we don’t look right in something as we once again judge. And they watch. And they learn. And no matter what we say, the cycle continues because what the media expects, no matter how many Dove commercials showing “real women” come out, Weight Watchers is coming out at the same time with Teen programs to get them “healthier and fitter” (aka thinner) whether they need it or not. Rebecca Scritchfield wrote a great piece in The Washington Post that I have copied here about the problems with Weight Watcher’s intention and messaging.

If you are reading this and have a child especially a daughter who is constantly looking at herself in the mirror or doing these poses for selfies and with friends at the beach, we need to make sure it is not turning into those early patterns that were or still are likely part of our own world. We need to pay attention to our own under the radar messaging in the way we look at ourselves in our own mirror. This is at least part of the way they are learning and literally mirroring. It has taken me three surgeries and the literal removal and replacement of my breasts along with fifty three years to get to the place of body acceptance and I still struggle. Images are powerful and Weight Watchers Teen program is not the only problem our children are facing. How I have struggled with my own constant battle of negative body self talk and then ultimately being “happy” to be in the under the radar invisible realm is itself a negative. The previous self induced pressure I no longer have is off of me to have my body be at some unattainable bar that I will never reach. The irony now is it doesn’t matter and I care so much less. Not in a give it up and eat till my heart’s content kind of way, but just letting it go and allowing the next generation of young women to figure it out.

One of the glorious elements of writing is that as I get to provoke thoughts about a variety of topics and in doing so I get to unveil my own personal challenges, hopefully solving some of them along the way. Maybe by sharing my own vulnerability and personal issues, I am in some ways helping others identify and work through theirs. Or maybe not. Maybe all of this superficial talk is causing eye rolls among my sister friends out there in the world. Who knows, all I can do is keep writing and sharing and this is my freedom every day.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/weight-watchers-is-targeting-teens-with-a-new-free-program-thats-a-problem/2018/02/09/ae277826-0d21-11e8-95a5-c396801049ef_story.html?utm_term=.601bbde45927

being here with my 100 year old grandfather is my self love. There is nothing that gets much better than this.
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WHY AM I SURPRISED

WHY AM I SURPRISED

For anyone who knows me, I am on a constant partnership with myself. I am like my own science experiment when it comes to indulging in sugar, bread and alcohol. My composition and personal affirmation of yesteryear has been to label myself as an addictive personality. Drinking or not drinking, eating sugar or not, eating clean or not, the question from my friends when planning a dinner party is humorously, “are you eating sugar?” I roll my eyes at the tedious and boring person I had become. Notice the word had. Besides, labeling myself as any one thing just affirms that and I don’t know about you, but why the hell would I want to affirm addictive as a trait. I prefer charitable, kind, generous as my personal affirmations.

I made a conscious decision this 2018 to stop the madness and try to live in a more grey area. This is a big change for me, but as I had several epiphanies as of late regarding the concept of DAY 1, this notion of living in between appeals to me. So as many of us plod into January with our back pocket list of resolutions, I chose not to. I decided to just be more gentle with myself and seeing what that felt like. So as I gave up the sugar and the bread and the alcohol (like the three basic food groups of women I know) like I most often do, I made the decision that I would allow the occasional without the usual label of failure (again). What a load of crap. So the first eighteen days or so, nothing really came up that would cause the detour. Then this past week was to be the last week my son was home before headed back to college and as usual I had a menu plan that would make Julia Child proud or in this case, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the authors of my favorite cookbook as of late, Jerusalem.

I perused the page after page delectable choices, food porn, mouth watering at every turn when I came across a full two page recipe. No pictures either, just words and directions of a recipe called Chocolate Krantz cakes as the first recipe in a section categorized as Yeasted Cakes. I love a good cooking challenge and yeast is one of those ingredients ‘who’ has been my personal nemesis. I use the word ‘who’ because I seriously think of yeast as my personal antagonist over the years as I have attempted numerous times and ended up with a pile of flour mixture that resembles Playdough that had been left out for a few days. Not pretty and surely not worthy of serving warm to my twenty year old son on his last week of his holiday break of his sophomore year. Yeast to this yeast virgin is a risky proposition and mastering yeast has become my New Year resolution. So I jumped into this recipe that I would say is like a combination of streudel and chocolate babka. Two pages of directions followed by two pages of photos on assembly. Intimidating to say the least. But my new cookbook paramour, Yotam, promised me the end result would satisfy. This was followed by these opening lines: Making a krantz isn’t easy or quick (see pictures on pages 283 and 286–287). You need to let the dough rise overnight and then fill and shape it which is an elaborate process…. You know when a recipe has three pages of pictures, well say no more.

Because I am on a constant quest for mother of the year status, I decided to dive in. I mean chocolate, butter, sugar and flour, what could go wrong? So I started the night before prepping, which thank you pink Kitchen Aid and dough hook, took only about twenty minutes and went to bed. Next morning at my usual 4:30 am wake up, I got up and felt the connection with the women in the old world who didn’t have the luxury of a grocery store or Seven Stars bakery to get their bread and even if they did, wouldn’t cross their thresholds as their own cooking would always be superior. I saw Yotam’s mother or grandmother in Israel waking up before sunrise, adorning her apron and having her morning meditation along with her coffee before the kids and the bustle of the day started. I was part of this tribe as I dove in full-hearted with the hopes and dreams of a successful babka.

This was my second attempt at a Yotam yeast recipe so I had some confidence going in, but surely not a cocky one. This recipe though loaded with flour of course, didn’t have as much sugar in it as one would think looking at the dripping chocolate oozing out of the six layers of gooiness. As I made my way through the rolling and the layering and rolling and twisting, I had made the decision I was definitely chowing on this. The recipe made three loaves! I made a chocolate almond, a plain chocolate and a cinnamon sugar. Yotam, my friend and pretend lover, you did not disappoint again. I wish I could describe the taste, the smell and the joy I had in my success yesterday. I shared pieces all day with my clients, my friends and my neighbors, of course my son.. and me. Super Yum. It was that good. My friend, Morgan and I promptly named the potential store in my barn the Babka Barn.

Here’s the “why am I surprised’ part of this story. Because I barely eat sugar or bread anymore, when I do, I get the blaring reminder by my body. The tell tale signs of what I did to it that I have no regrets and would do it all over again, but this is what happens to me as I know my body so well now it is like a fine tuned machine of awareness. First off wake up two or three times in the night, 2:11, 3;11, 4:15, yes. Achy all over, yes. Swollen eyes, joints, yes. Inflamed thyroid nodule in my throat area, yes. This is not bullshit. I have tested this for the past five years and I am never wrong with the link between flour, sugar and body aching and mind spinning. The scattered thoughts, the lessening of assuredness, the questioning of decisions I never questioned just a few days ago, and the weird desire to shop come into my being like an uninvited guest who shows up at your door and you know you don’t want to spend time with them, but you let them in anyway.

The thing about food as thy medicine is that when you are hyper aware of what makes you tick, when you dive in, you know this is going to be how you feel. You also know that like a bad hangover, this too shall pass and in this case, it was worth every buttery bite (or bites in my case). Food is powerful, it represents a surplus of emotion. Food can be our worst enemy and our best friend in times of sadness, grief and celebrations. Women have a much twisted relationship with food as it comes at us at every turn tempting our weak spots like a pharmaceutical commercial. Like sex, it is all around us, but we seldom have the conversations about it. In my family, food like shopping was a loaded gun. It represented lots of love but layered with shame and lack of willpower and control as the same time. I have been my own science project and have loved the experiment in self awareness. Every buttery sugary bite brings me closer to a positive connection as I move into my 53rd year, I have made peace with my body and this is worth the occasional detour for sure.


i have this wonder woman doll since my first diagnosis and my son pointed out that her face is actually mine, for real. how did this happen and who gave me this? i can’t remember! Isn’t that hilarious? And how about these cakes! #crushonyotamottolenghi
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ROMPS AND RECONSTRUCTION

ROMPS AND RECONSTRUCTION

No. I am not going to get too deep into my bedroom experiences, I mean my son may be reading this and I don’t want to freak him out (more than he is already likely freaked out by his mother’s blatant in your face truth serum writing). But I have such a clear memory of my beloved Dr. W. with that very serious face she has when she is about to forewarn me about something possibly life changing gently letting me know that with reconstruction comes a loss of sensation in said upper half. Now for you chicks out there who are looking in the mirror at the probable southern heading portion of your upper body who have likely been married for well over fifteen years at this point, weighing the loss of sensation with a sporting new 36D porn star rack may seem like a no brainer. Easy for any of us to say when we are not in the drivers seat contemplating our female body parts.

Taking away the life or death decision part of this (humor me for just a moment here), and focusing on the other two elements, #1 being the cosmetic element- new boobs, upright, and forward facing (definitely an upper body game changer as it relates to swimsuits, form fitting shirts and walking around naked, for sure) and #2- the romping element. Cosmetic comes into play surely here, but so does participation and with no sensation, what does that really mean for my romping future?

Let’s start off with the fact most obvious in this overall big picture, I AM ALIVE. So let’s just put this aside for now and talk about the other things that really mattered once I determined that I would in fact be living. I actually do feel comfortable in my skin for the most part, (though I think the lululemon saleswomen working today that I just spent the last hour with may not agree). I mean come on, I am self body loving, but I am also a body realist. I do not have long legs so trying to cram them into a pair of size 6 (thank you very much) Lululemon compression workout bottoms was a bottom half sensation I didn’t feel much like forcing. I already have the constant companion of a triple a training bra with a padlock that is now a permanent fixture on my upper body. I have nothing to prove by feeling slightly uncomfortable in a size 6. Though they did slide on nicely, they surely didn’t slide on like a glove and as I contemplated my reflection back, rather then them slimming my bottom half like the young lovely lulu women insisted, I, instead, thought I looked more like a sausage. They interpreted this as ‘negative body talk,’ as they said with their sweet and fem pride tone, “Now come on Alayne, that will be enough of that negative body talk here.” Like they were schooling me on body security after completing their most recent class on female body shaming at Salve. Did they even know that that phrase never existed until they were born like 22 years ago when we started having to name everything with a dysfunction?

Did they know that my generation grew up during a time when there were no female doctors in a television commercial ever. I grew up with commercials saying things like, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Yes that was really a commercial, maybe for contact lenses? I grew up in a time when the latest perfume on the market sang out, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never ever forget my own man…” Enjoli. In case that name escapes you fifty year old chicks reading this. These chicks had no idea about the negative body image bullshit we grew up with. Actually now that I think about it they are probably the product of us since a few of them could have been my daughters now that I realize our age gap. Although in all fairness they were born of Brittany Spears and post Madonna boy toy generation, so maybe they do have their own issues afterall.

No not negative, I assured them, pragmatic. I am totally comfortable with my body as I have mentioned numerous times. I have worked hard to get to this self body acceptance that make any modern woman proud, but trying to fit into a size 6 lululemons when there is no reason to because the fact is that an 8 is my happy place. Frankly I can’t even believe that I easily wear a size 8. What is cracking me up now is that I have to go up a size for my upper body now. The girls were telling me that I could wear these leggings with a cute wedge boot and a sweater. I guess they didn’t understand that the words ‘cute wedge boot’ is not happening and surely not happening with skin tight leggings that make me feel like a piece of kielbasa. They were adorable and I seriously wanted to take each of them home to be my pretend daughter (no offense to my son, here but I just can’t see him being my sidekick shopping at Lulus on a snowy Saturday unless I was bribing him with a trip to Mission or Winner Winner speaking of legs looking like Kielbasa).

I love wearing Lulus when I work out. I actually feel stunning and lengthy as I blast through burpees with Nicole Toppa and minute sprints on a six incline with Queen Kath. I can’t even believe this is me who is staring back at me, shiny and sweaty and wait, happy. Happy to actually be working out, but even better, happily enjoying my workout. Like I actually look forward to it. Like I can’t wait to sign up for another class. I don’t dread it. I used to hate exercising. Now I love exercising. I love it because I really believe that it has saved my life. Exercise is what made me so healthy that when I got a shitty diagnosis I recovered at the speed of light because of my health. I know that this is ironic, but let’s be real here, most of us will get something coming at us and if we can stay as fit and healthy as possible, if shit comes at us, we are ready like the female warriors we are.

Now back to the bedroom because clearly I digressed into a completely different direction, but my writing always comes around as a process. A process because the fact is that a happy bedroom experience absolutely hands down (no pun intended) equals a positive body experience. If I feel heavier than usual, or flabbier than usual, a romp is a head game and this is a buzz kill with a capital B. So back to the reconstruction now that I am eight months to the day since my mastectomy, I am not so sensitive to touch anymore. Here is the thing though, touch is a funny word here because there is no sensation here at all just like my brilliant and thoughtful Dr. W. warned me about. BUT, with a capital ‘B’, I LIKE THE NO SENSATION. The no sensation is actually a new sensation and this adds an interesting layer to the connection that I would never be able to describe to anyone who has not experienced this. Don’t misunderstand, though, I would rather have sensation, but I kind of like the exploration of something that shakes up a potential romp. What I have known since my earliest foray into the first set of young hands I allowed to creep up my shirt as he prayed that he might get to first base with me back in OMG was it sixth grade? Maybe seventh. Maybe sixth. What can I say, I think I was born a young boy in a female body. If I had a daughter who told me this now, I would probably freak the hell out, but I seemed to turn out fine so who really knows.There is something so exciting as I reflect back to those young early days of sexual curiosity and the feeling that arises as I remember the innocence of it all.

Maybe this new sensation I am experiencing with my almost seven year seventy year young partner is kind of like this, that newness we long for in long term relationships that shake up the predictable. For those of us who would never venture out from our monogamy and I am one of those women- loyal, traditional and kind of old fashioned which likely surprises many who don’t know me that well, shaking things up in the bedroom is what keeps things fun and interesting. Who knew a new set could be this much fun?

Gotta love cancer. Medical marijuana cards, porn star status and I am alive, a trifecta perfecta. I am so lucky.





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THE SCALE

THE SCALE

“You can get on the scale or you can tell me what your weight is and I can write it down,” the lovely medical assistant chirped as I got ready for my umpteenth doctor’s appointment in the past three years. Ahhh. The scale. The fucking scale. I loved her immediately for the ‘choice,’ but we all know that we women love to torture ourselves with the occasional dictator of our self worth for the day- the scale. I am not really serious, but kind of. The scale has been part of my love hate journey for most of my life and I have learned in the last three years to give myself a major scale-cation. So much so that I have removed it from my bathroom. I barely get on it when I have the opportunity to which is daily since there is one at every turn at the gym I go to, tempting my fate.

What is it about the scale? Why is it that I feel better than I have ever felt? I easily fit into a size eight pant and am now sporting a 36D upper half thank you very much. (cancer has to have some benefit). But it’s like the scale is the ultimate proof that I feel as good as I do. I knew that if I got on that scale yesterday it was not going to give me the number that would have made me feel good, but the temptation that I outwitted its power with my desired number was too much to ignore. So I took the bait and took off as much of my clothing as seemed reasonable (we all know that the Lululemon yoga pants I was wearing had to have weighed at least 5 pounds, right?) It would have been too bizarre to take them off for a breast exam- drats why wasn’t this my annual pap smear appointment? See the craziness that goes on and I have done the work. I am a bright woman who most often accepts myself for who I am. I get body image and self sabotage, but the scale continues to torment even the most grounded of women. So there I stood in my doctor’s appointment with the choice- to step on or to not. I mean I am still really swollen as my plastic surgeon reminded me of at my other Dr. appointment last week (aka Dr. Hottie, also known as the amazing Dr. Michaud for those out there who need a stellar breast reconstruction referral). As a matter of fact, he reminded me that I will be swollen for a full three months. And that I won’t be totally healed for a full year. No shit. My deep intellect absolutely knows this and I feel so great that I actually keep forgetting that I AM STILL HEALING. The scale is bullshit. I know this. So the choice to get on should have made a self-aware chick like me who likes herself run for the hills or jump on anyway and say FUCK THE NUMBER.

I got on and held my breath and as usual the scale didn’t let me down. It is my most loyal enemy never giving me the number I think it should. The number that would reflect how I feel inside, the number I see when I see my reflection back in the mirror. That number, the number that it should be is never the number that it is and for all of my hard work at the gym and in the kitchen, it still continues to be unforgiving. I don’t know why we think this silly number should define our day. Isn’t it all so crazy? I am not alone. Almost every woman I know has a love mostly hate relationship with the scale and their weight. It is never the weight we want. I have learned or rather taught myself to accept my body with love and admiration.

This has been a learned and honed in skill because I was raised by women who were always dieting. Weight Watchers was their go to diet and back then it was lots of broth, lots of baked chicken and salads. I was raised by women who felt that exercise was a chore and the enemy. The notion that exercise could actually be a joy and something to look forward to was a foreign one and I know that I have overcome this. I have overcome my relationship with food and all of its negative energy that my grandmother and my mother taught me inadvertently because of their language around it. Eating, starving themselves with diet type food and simultaneously having a freezer full of homemade ice cream parfaits lined up like soldiers. Mixed messages? Check.

The conversations women have with themselves as it relates to the scale are those weird hidden conversations we casually mention jokingly to each other in our occasional self-defacing commentary. They are deeply ingrained in our beings because of so many darts coming at us telling us the shoulds and coulds of how we are supposed to be, look, think, feel. One minute there is an ad on television for a diabetes pharmaceutical and the next minute is an ad for chocolate cake, usually a woman looking like she is having sex as she devours the gooey mass. This ad follows with another one about feeling depressed and of course a pharma solution to that. There are so many body, weight and diet messages coming at us that it is one big pile of confusion and the scale is our loyal companion. It is not helpful that the archaic BMI chart telling us how obese we are based on weight and height hangs glaringly over the scale at every turn. As I have found myself a regular participant in weekly and monthly doctor’s appointments these tools are taunting and not helpful. These charts never consider that muscle weighs more. This chart doesn’t take into consideration the silicone implants that now reside in my upper body. I mean isn’t it bad enough that I had to acclimate myself to this new normal of over the top frequency of doctor’s appointments? I have had to get used to looking at this new body staring back at me and find myself getting fitted for 36D mega support bras at Ruth’s in Cranston. Even though everyone tells you you won’t have to ever wear a bra again, the jiggle factor I now have with these new implants has created a psychological mindfuck. The first time I went to work out it felt like my breast was going to move into my underarm or land in my neck somewhere. As I write all of this, our beloved country seems to be unraveling with hurricanes and terrorist attacks and indictments. This of course puts all of this silly dialogue with the scale and the world of body image into perspective. The idea that I am even speaking about this as a unique topic is almost embarrassing.

As I got off the scale waiting for her to take my blood pressure, (kind of funny they take your blood pressure after the scale) I took a look at the monster I just let send my spirit down the rabbit hole and commented on its antiquity. The contraption looked like it has been there since the office inception or was pulled out of some kind old Doctor’s office who had retired back in the fifties. “Wow that scale is a vintage,” I commented to the medical assistant who had kindly given me the choice I chose to ignore. “Yes, I can’t stand that scale, it is always about five pounds heavier,” she said.

Now she tells me. Sigh.





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THE LOCKER ROOM FOUR MONTHS LATER

THE LOCKER ROOM FOUR MONTHS LATER

After sleeping until 7am yesterday morning which meant that I slept through my 6:30 am beach boot camp, I decided to head back to the Y to do my own workout. This was just as well with me since it turned out that it was freezing out yesterday in this early month of June. The beach would not have been fun except for the badge of honor it would have given me for showing up, but this double m life I lead has released my need for that type of glory.

As I walked into the Y, a place I seldom go to but am quite happy that I share my partner’s membership. The Y is an easy place to get a workout in and they have a sauna and I love a sauna. I love even more a sauna in the buff. Of course I am conscious of the other women who may be in the sauna and always have a towel handy to wrap myself, but if I am solo in there, I am home free.

As I walked into the locker room with my bag in hand needing to change into my gym clothes, I realized that the last time I had been in this very locker room was the beginning of February. The first time I posted a writing was THE LOCKER ROOM dated February 4th. Back then, there was not even a thought that my breast cancer had returned so standing in the locker room yesterday contemplating my last four months was a bit of yet another catharsis.

The first item on the agenda was changing into my workout clothes. I always change out in the open, after all we are all women and we all have bodies. I have these crazy scars on my back now and my boobs are obviously fake and weird to the average Jane. They are more normal to me as is my back, but the other day when I was helping one of my new team members with a back treatment I realized just how disconcerting my back is. Comparatively speaking to the first week after, my back is amazing, but to a young woman seldom exposed to scars and breast reconstruction it was a bit of a shocker. This was going through my mind as I began undressing. The Y is filled with women of all ages, it is also filled with little three year olds getting ready to go with their mamas in to the pool for their morning swim lesson. I was hyper self aware of my body in an almost self conscious way, but also a, “Go ahead take a look,” way which was interesting to me because usually I do not even think twice about taking off my clothes in the locker room.

So here I stood, consciously aware of how my body may look to someone else and changing with much more deliberation. As it so happened, I must have caught the locker room in between swim and aerobic classes because there was not a soul in there. Ahh divine intervention. Always comes to the rescue at my dark times when I am open to its kindness. My hip was still killing me and my hot upright stationary boobs and I limped our way to the treadmill hoping that some walking may help loosen it up. It just had to be a pulled muscle, right? It couldn’t possibly be cancer all over my bones, right? So I did my very painful walk for only ten minutes, did some weights on my upper body and then stretched and rolled for at least a half hour.

There were a lot of people in the gym and the thought crossed my mind, “Doesn’t anyone work?” I made my way back to THE LOCKER ROOM and stood at my locker waiting for a kind grandmother to change into her suit while her patient two year old granddaughter waved at me. I realized that my body means nothing to anyone. The world does not in fact revolve around me as Ann always liked to remind me in my childhood and frankly no one was looking at me. Even if they were, why would I even care? I am a warrior.


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JUST WAIT

JUST WAIT

I have been teaching and talking the beauty business since I was in my late twenties. I remember like it was yesterday, women who are my age now, saying, “Just wait.” I looked in the mirror as I do everyday and have done for most of my life and realized, it has happened. The “just wait” has happened. The weird lines forming in places I swear weren’t there yesterday, the hairs sprouting from places other than my head, eyebrows and eyelashes. The white wiry hairs showing up in my eyebrows, my eyelashes and yes my vagina hair, what the fuck.

I somewhat defiantly decided to stop coloring my hair over ten years ago and it is whiter than ever, quite the beauty trend these days, who knew? At least this is one part of my hair growth I can say I love. People regularly tell me how much they love my hair. I often reply that there has to be some benefit to the quantity of hair growth because along with this thick attractive mane I am blessed with, comes regular appointments in the magnifying mirror with the tweezers. I keep the local electrologist in business and thank goodness I own a beauty business because waxing is like a full time job. Have I mentioned that when I decide to tweeze one of those wiry white eye brow hairs, my eyebrows lose their shape pronto.

With all of this obsession of hair removal which by the way will never be finished, comes that pesky problem of a weaker eye sight. Perhaps part of the divine order of things is that the weakening eyesight means I can see less so therefore can stop obsessing about the perpetual removal of the never ending hair supply. Could this be an unintended blessing? Doubtful, since now nighttime driving is becoming more and more challenging. So much for divine intervention.

The other life changes that fall into the ‘Just Wait’ category are the belly bloating that happens after one glass of wine and seems to now last well over a few wine free days. Then there is that weird creppy dry skin no oils or creams seems to remedy and believe me when I tell you I have access to the best. Though in all truth here, the rose and jojoba oil I sell is hands down the best I have found. The weird skin texture change, thought is in the infancy stages and I am guessing my years of continued sun exposure have something to do with its residence and there is simply no stopping it.

Add to the abundant supply of visual body changes all of those sun spots showing up on my face, my hands and my chest. I can just hear my grandmother Isabelle’s unsolicited stay out of the burning sun advice I will likely pass on to my granddaughter if I ever have the good fortune to have one in my life.

Of course no matter how much I work out, eat better, my body shape is forever different. One because of my age and my life experience, but also because of four surgeries in two years. Scars, indentations, lumpiness all contribute to this new body shape I have come to really admire and embrace like a warrior wound. At least my breasts are upright and super rocking. Not too many of my fifty something girl friends can say this. (On this note, thank goodness.)

The deep inherited lines that seem like a genetic rite of passage and not necessarily in a good way, have also been a new observation. There is this grown up woman in the reflection staring back almost daring me to question their placement.

“Stop frowning,” I can hear my mother saying when I was a child (back when Ann was speaking to me), “We’ll never find you a rich Jewish husband if you have frown lines. It makes you look old.” The fact was I wasn’t frowning, I was squinting because my eyesight since I was in second grade was always weak and I just squinted to see better. Oh yeah, and then there was the actual commentary that likely requires its own separate writing at a later time. How about instead of looking for a man to supplement me, giving me a message of my own ability to take care of my own lovely bad ass self? I am guessing that this would have required my mother to feel this way about herself and this was likely not the case in her twenties, married with a six year old and a newborn. There was always an underlying half joking/ half seriousness to the one liners like this. They undoubtedly found their way into my belief systems forming opinions of myself as I foraged my own self worth and my ability to provide for myself. Instead I got married way too early and no, he wasn’t Jewish or a doctor, but his kind heart was spectacular, certainly a most important criteria for a partner at 24.

In my cleaning of the closets and of the stuff, I came across a book that my mother had given me when I first opened my business and it seemed as our relationship was in the ebb and flow of better for a moment. The book was, The Easy to Read, “The Little Engine That Could,” by Walter Piper. I opened it knowing there would be an inscription. Her familiar writing stared back with its kind encouraging words, “Dearest Alayne, Whenever you doubt your decision, just read this book. I love you, Mom.” Even though it was a children’s book, there is definitely a memory of this book in my early childhood. I often wondered if my mother gave me this book because it triggered a memory of a happier time in her life where she remembered the love she had for me then, before it got all wonky and foggy from years of alcohol abuse. There were times in the ebb and flow my mother probably tried just like there were probably times I tried too, it’s just that at the times each of us made the attempt, it was in gestures, but never a healthy discussion to repair the wounds. Gestures are like bandaids, at some point you have to take them off and let the air in and we never did that.

My hair and skin texture have changed, but so has my personal texture. These physical changes that have become a regular occurrence in my exterior are ironically creating a deeper meaning on my insides. I amaze myself at how much I have come to really enjoy the changes. This has surprised me the most.

Maybe this is the point of aging and releasing the peripheral image of our youth we have equated with beauty, the work of letting go of what we thought of was beauty at one point in our lives in fact goes within simply because there is no alternative. My hair is not going to get darker, my stomach is not going to be a six pack, my eye sight will not improve and the spots on my face from too much sun worshipping that I still continue to indulge in will surely not lessen. The only thing I can do is to work on my insides with patience, love and admiration. The calmness and joy I feel just by looking up and looking out these days is both refreshing and liberating. I recently hired three new employees who are in their early twenties. As I speak with them often and listen to their language about life, I realize our huge age gap. Not just in numbers, but in outlook and thought patterns. I can say with absolute truth that I would never want to go back to that time in my life. This is a wonderful aspect of aging, knowing that you couldn’t pay me to go back to that age, no matter, no matter how smooth my skin was and how tight my ass was. I way prefer my aging and peaceful head any day.

Though I haven’t said it aloud, I have found myself thinking, Just Wait.



The book from Ann and my bad ass lovely 52 year old self. Just Wait.

Uncategorized

YOU LOOK GREAT

YOU LOOK GREAT

As I changed into my gardening clothes yesterday to finally begin cleaning out my barn on the first spectacular sunny summer type day, I took a long hard look at myself.

The day before I had done my weekly traipse to the good Doctor (Dr. Hottie in case you forgot) for my second fill. Apparently when you are the size you think you think want your breasts to be, he needs to go a bit bigger for some stretching reason that will be important later at the next surgery. The general consensus was that after one fill, my new breasts were big enough. It is funny because the shape of them is so different than they were prior to the mastectomy; I think it is the upright standing to attention factor that has changed them so my perception of big enough is skewed. I wish I could put a picture here but no can do. I mean technically they are not real so I should be able to, but why risk whatever I would be risking, (getting booted off the internet?)

So the second fill really created full boobs, one I don’t think my upper body had seen the likes of even in my fullest breast years. When I put on my tank top, I was kind of startled by how great my upper half looked. This presents an interesting dilemma for me. I have always been a form fitting tshirt kind of gal. I always liked cleavage. I used to love push up bras, but gave those up when they were just too uncomfortable and lulu lemon workout tops became my go to support system. My mantra was always that if you have boobs, show them because women were having them lobbed off left and right and you may as well. I must have known that I would eventually be on the chopping block in these early comments I jokingly but somehow knowingly made.

I stared at myself trying to decide if I should continue on with the form fitting shirt (what a dilemma) or keep this new and in my opinion obviously fake, somewhat disguised. My previous experience of women having cosmetic implants was that they really maxed out the visuals with lots of tight shirts. I always thought this kind of odd, but now that I am a twice “survivor” I chose the first. I mean what the fuck, I just had major surgery only FIVE WEEKS ago and the fact that I was staring back at a legitimate upper body should have made me run to the tank top store to stock up. So I put the tank on and enjoyed the view. I mean holy shit. I looked great.

I have been writing so much that now I have a new dilemma. People seeing me out and about knowing I had a double M and their first human nature glance is where else? Not my face for sure. I get it, the curiosity factor is just that and I actually welcome it. The miracle of this surgery in this 2017 is that a mastectomy is a choice that can be either no reconstruction or yes reconstruction. Many young women are choosing no reconstruction, maybe as a statement or a fear or even a welcome opportunity to not think about breasts ever again. Many women don’t even know that there is a FEDERAL mandate for all 50 states that require insurance to cover reconstruction after a mastectomy. This is such a personal decision and it is not a light decision. As the good doctor reminded me on several occasions, this is elective surgery and lots can go wrong. Lots can go right too (knock on wood here) and lots is going right as I navigate this new part of my body that I am so grateful to have had the choice to add or subtract.

What I have noticed in this short time with this latest fill is I LOOK GREAT, people tell me this because cancer usually implies sickness and people’s perception of how I should look is usually different than how I really look. Remember this was caught super early so I didn’t have to deal with chemo and the things that make me otherwise look sick. The other thing I notice and I did this myself BC (before cancer) is that you forget what to talk about with someone who has been diagnosed and you end up having some awkward silence after the first few comments,

“You look great!”

“Thank you.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Great!”

That is the end. The weird ‘what do we talk about next’ sits in the air, waiting. Even though I am aware of this, I try to come up with some other conversation that does not pertain to AC (after cancer); trying to make it easier for the person on the other side. Maybe it will get easier as I get further away from this experience. But the fact is that I will never be away from it, my very perky upper body will not allow this to be forgotten and I am now on the other side of cancer. Survivor, alive, happy, changed, humbled, open book. I love discussing this experience because as Michael my partner says all the time, LIFE COMING AT US.

Life comes at everyone and I think talking about the down factor lets the proverbial cat out of the bag softening the blow of hardship. I know for me when someone says, YOU LOOK GREAT, I think, “damn straight, I own it.” So if you see me strutting around in a tank top take a good look. I am ok with it because I earned these fuckers and I can’t wait until I can go to the beach and really sass my boobilicious self off.


Just sayin….