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UP, UP AND AWAY

UP, UP AND AWAY

There they were, the trio of family making their way through security together headed for sunny Florida. Perhaps to see the grandparents like I was for a precious visit not knowing if this would be the last time they may have the opportunity. Or maybe they were trying to get that Disney family trip in before their only son became too old to want to go with them. I don’t really know, but the airport is one of those places where I can make up stories about every person I watch while I wait for the plane’s boarding call.

I am the person at the airport two hours ahead of time, much to my friend, Ken’s chagrin who is an expert traveler like George Clooney in that movie whose name escapes me, Up? I don’t remember, but I marveled at his character’s pride in packing, his superiority complex in his expertise narrating each step as he made his way to the airport for one of his many business trips. My friend Ken is like this. He travels almost monthly for business, Germany, Hawaii, Denmark, Australia, and his experience leads him to arrive almost minutes before the flight takes off. I have anxiety even writing this. This behavior drives his wife, my dear friend, Ro absolutely bonkers and each time they go into battle over this, I am reminded of how happy I am solo in my ability to decide the whens of travel time. Though I am a seasoned traveler, I feel calmer waiting at the gate two hours ahead of time rather than waiting at home to leave, distracted enough so I can’t get anything accomplished because I am thinking about getting to the airport. I have traveled with Ken and it is a whirlwind, but also invigorating knowing that if shit happens, his experience will get us to the proverbial church on time.

I was not traveling with Ken, however, on this early Saturday morning, but my partner, instead, who is equally as happy to join my time zone party and make our way to the airport, relaxing, using the restroom, getting our tea and reading our books inches from the gate. Today though, we really got there early, like two and half hours, which gave me plenty of time to people watch and make my tales come to life as I watched the dynamics and interactions between the vast majority of people traveling at the same time as we were. I try not to stare, but they are likely thinking the same thing, hopefully their curiosity has been peaked too and they are staring back while I am not looking making up their own stories.

I was intrigued by the family in front of me. First of all, the parents were only about five feet give or take a couple of inches and they looked so much alike. Their very sweet son, who seemed to be about seven or eight was tracking to follow their footsteps in the height department. The entire family looked alike, plump, sandy brownish hair, sweatpants, t shirts, sneakers, ready for travel with their freshly purchased brown bags filled with Dunkin Donuts lore. Leaving the house as early as one needs to get to the airport requires planning if you don’t want to eat the slop that is served in the wee hours. The healthy options are limited so many families just decide well this is vacation so we’ll just start our party time with our first meal once we get there. I of course am a food snob so I pack a nice blend, (yes eye roll here, I know)

I am watching them respectfully to see what snacks will be flying out of the magic bags, they were overweight and their son was too, making me cringe at the first sight of the green bottle that suddenly appeared. It was 7:30 am. I am thinking as I am watching them that the three of them couldn’t be more than late thirties and they were headed for the diabetes and heart disease path faster than a dozen chocolate munchkins heads down their digestive tracts. The boy passed his mother the bottle to open it and to my judgmental horror, my worst fears were confirmed, Sprite. For breakfast. For a chunky eight year old, and the parents who each were each about to drink their own bottle demonstrating the poor and obvious example of bad nutrition. Bottles of soda don’t come in small containers either. I was willing to bet that the bottles they were about to guzzle were at least twenty four ounces. I couldn’t believe that these seemingly nice parents had not received the soda memo that in my world of reading seems to be at every turn. I feel the same way about soda that I do about cigarettes. Super bad. But what does this innocent boy know about bad nutrition choices as his own example of his plump parents set the tone. Soda shouldn’t even be a special treat, it has sugar, caffeine and all kinds of dyes that are hard to pronounce, it doesn’t quench thirst, it is addictive and shoots up insulin levels to the point where children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes like a common cold. I know as I write this, I am offending the soda drinking households out there, but if weight is a struggle, just simply switching from soda or juice to water could make a difference from an unhealthy road ahead to a healthy one. At least the start of one.

Parents need to take some ownership of the food examples they set, soda, sugared cereal for breakfast, processed foods before school all lead to lots of distracted kids and wired up energy making it hard for these same kids to learn or stay focused when they get off the bus and into the classrooms. I have seen this myself as I used to volunteer in the middle school lunch room and the crap not only that the kids were eating, but the food they were being served by our own institutions gave me a birds eye view into some of the troubles. Often these same kids get misdiagnosed with ADD and all of the other three letter diagnosis we have placed on our kids along with a pill to fix them. If we could just make a shift in their nutrition, many of the issues can be solved, but our medical system seems to ignore this in any consultation. Sure nutrition can’t solve all of the problems, obviously I know this as someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and I can’t remember the last time I have brought a soda to my lips or a bowl of apple jacks for that matter. As I watched this young family though, I wondered how long it would be before each of them made their way to the doctor for their own medical futures.

I was feeling a bit smug with my assessment of them, but I just know that they were all going down an alarming path and I felt like I was watching the beginning of a train wreck knowing it was completely out of my hands. But I guess this is life anyway, no matter how much we think we are in control or think we are controlling our destinies; none of us really know the answers. So maybe drinking the soda and eating the donuts is a happier place than the worries looming overhead. Kind of like a plane ride. We all make our way jam packed into a tube of metal thinking that we are going to land where and when the airline says we are, but we really have not a clue as we make our way up up and away. Look at my grandfather, here he is and here we are getting ready to celebrate his 101st birthday. Wine every day at five, crackers and cheesesticks for appetizers along with the wine, apple cinnamon lego waffles for breakfast and here he is. Still strong. But he never drank soda either, Just saying.

my friend ken, travel expert extraordinaire.
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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.