Not too long ago, I walked out of the shower past the bathroom mirrors and stopped dead in my tracks, aghast at what followed me in the mirror. I blurted aloud, “Whose @ss is that? Whose @SS is that…because I know it ain’t mine?!” And then, folks, yes, I did the unthinkable. I rotated my body further so that my rear-end now faced the mirror square-on, and then…I clenched those cheeks. Ohhhh, the HORROR. Somehow, overnight, my once-perky, atypically (for Asians at least) round and buoyant Benita Applebum had dropped a couple inches. And when I clenched, dimples that would’ve been so cute…on my face, rippled across the vast expanse of what was once a great ass-et. And then, because my shamelessness oft has no limits, I called DH over to lament with me. “Honey! L.O.O.K. Whose butt is that?! What happened?” [Side note: DH, as you’ll get to know later, is not so much the romantic, sensitive, emotionally mushy type as he is the nice but no-nonsense, reliable, tell-it-like-it-is type.] Immediately, he turned away practically gagging, and choked out, “Honey. Please. PLEASE….don’t EVER do that in front of me again.” (I’ve since been scolded by wiser married friends for having done this to, or in front of, my husband. Of course, the way I see it, we’re stuck with each other for life (thank God) either way. MWAHAHAHAHA!!)
Now, I like to think I look pretty good for a 39-year-(give or take 51 weeks or so)-old woman, but let’s face it. There’s only so much any of us can do to delay or fight the effects of time and age on our appearance and our bodies. Every two months or so, I get together and catch up with old college girlfriends (who, by the way, all look pretty stinkin’ young, slim and fabulous in my totally unbiased and objective opinion) and we feast, laugh, and commiserate over a beautiful restaurant meal. Anyhow, inevitably the topic of conversation will, at some point, turn to skincare — the latest, or best, anti-aging, miracle-working creams, serums, masks, you name it. And sometimes, our cheerful conversation expands to laughing or lamenting over new wrinkles, hair loss, aches and pains, or my personal favorite – the ever-haunting loose belly skin. (Disclaimer: Each of us has birthed two or three little cherub-fiends apiece). Sometimes we even dare question, half-jokingly, whether Botox, collagen, face lifts and/or plastic surgery are options. Fun times, I tell ‘ya.
Now I’m not going to lie and claim that I love and embrace all of the physical tolls of aging. But what I will celebrate is that I’m finding age and motherhood to bring with them a certain autonomy, self-possession, and insensibility to life’s smaller annoyances or affronts that is refreshing and freeing. Perhaps we all recall feeling mortified by the most trivial matters as adolescents, or even young (er) adults. How many times did we groan, “Mo-om” when, looking back, whatever Mom was doing (e.g., fixing our face or hair in public, sending back a bad meal or reporting a customer complaint, however valid, wearing her hair or clothes a certain way, just being seen near/with us in public or with our friends, dancing or singing in the car, talking about – even praising – us in front of others ), was not a BIG DEAL, or even a small deal. As a high schooler, why did I have crushes on boys, only to feel terrific embarrassment if they returned the sentiment, which embarrassment would immediately and inexplicably mutate into indifference and sometimes even revulsion towards said boys? How immature, asinine and absurd was I! And how miserable and perplexing for the boys who caught my eye in the first place! And then, as young singles in the dating scene, why did the dumbest things disconcert us? I recall my great chagrin when a guy took me out for BBQ ribs (granted, that kind of was a bad call on his part) on a first date and I couldn’t figure out how to eat ribs ladylike in front of him. Are you kidding? If DH took me out for ribs now, I might grub down on a full rack and not even look up at him ’til it was all gone and my fingers were licked clean.
But nowadays, I find my slowly evolving self-possession and imperviousness to others’ opinions or attentions (with periodic limitations and relapses, of course), even about some of those BIG DEALS, to be rather refreshing and I wonder if that only comes with age. We are who we are – flawed, imperfect, contrary and temperamental, stellar in one instant, a complete failure the next. Certainly, I’m not advocating that we accept, settle for, or make excuses for our own character flaws and errors in judgment. But if I’ve learned anything from my own life experiences, relationship ups ‘n downs, friendships, intimate conversations and moments of shared vulnerability, I think I’d prefer to comfort, encourage, and make connections with others than to judge, tear down, or pretend to be superior to them. The latter seems a very lonely place. And we can only hope others would be so kind to us if and when the tables were/are turned.
Today, very little personal news passes through my ears that has serious shock or horror value to me. While my life has in some ways been sheltered, I feel like I, or someone I deeply care about or admire anyways, have/has seen, or heard, or done it all. So the “juicy stuff” or gossip that could get some people all excited — mama drama, rifts in friendships, divorce, marital troubles or affairs, coming-outs-of-the-closet, drug, porn or other addictions, kid problems, kleptomania, neurosis, narcissism, celebrity status or villainous notoriety, scandal, who knows what else — just doesn’t incense or excite me as much as it once would’ve. I wonder whether, if I had lived in the shoes of “the other” (whoever that “other” may be), might it be harder to judge and easier to sympathize and forgive? As Jesus once said in defense of a known adulteress about to be stoned by a mob of angry, sanctimonious men, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7) Oversimplistic or not, maybe mean people are just spreading their misery because they didn’t receive enough kindness, grace or mercy in life themselves. We all have different coping mechanisms; and I accept that life is often unfair, such that sometimes we don’t get what we deserve and at other times we get what we don’t deserve. But more often than we may recognize, that “unfairness” probably works to our advantage. In other words, sometimes we don’t suffer the penalty or negative consequences our mistakes or bad choices deserve (which I personally attribute to God’s mercy), and sometimes we receive benefits and privileges we didn’t earn and don’t deserve (which I believe to be His grace). I don’t know about you, but I sure am relieved about that. Phew!
Now let me get back to smothering on that anti-wrinkle cream…