Does My Body Really Need Fixing?
From the soles of my feet to the top of my head, someone can find something wrong with every part of my body.
The first subhead I wrote for this story was: “From the soles of my feet to the top of my head, there’s something wrong with every part of my body.” But when I got less than halfway through writing, I realized, NO THERE’S NOT! There’s nothing wrong, but there’s a provider or company or marketer who wants me to think there is; someone whose livelihood depends on selling me a product or service promised to fix it.
Why does it take so long for women — and for humans in general — to figure this out?
Given all that, let me begin with my feet. The skin is cracked, especially at the heels. According to ads that interrupt my news feed, I need Ultra Heel, $50 for 1.7 oz., which promises to effectively dissolve the intercellular cement that holds together the dead keratinocytes, leaving behind a renewed skin surface. Response: Report ad.
Moving up to the top of my feet, my right foot has a bump that a podiatrist said should be removed. The problem is called ‘Accessory Navicular Syndrome,’ and fixing it can involve removing the boney prominence, surgically reshaping the area, and repairing a tendon. Can’t imagine this costing less than $8000 and leaving me partially incapacitated for several weeks. I’ll live with the syndrome, thanks. (See ‘knees,’ below.)
As for my toenails, they always have to be ‘done.’ Not only to look pretty in sandals, but to cover the evidence of an ancient case of toenail fungus. Thanks to the advice of the podiatrist, I bring my own tools and polish and my $50 bottle of Penlac, a prescription antifungal base coat, to the nail salon. “Don’t get pedicures,” the doctor recommended. Well, that’s not a first-world option.
Moving up to the ankles and calves, they’ve been called spindly and shapeless. As a kid, I was teased relentlessly for being too skinny. Back in the day when zaftig Mouseketeer Annette Funicello set the standards of teen beauty, I was called ‘string bean,’ ‘walking toothpick,’ and ‘broomstick.’ Now, alas, my ankles and calves are the only parts that retain the toothpick vibe. However, the skin on my calves is getting that crepe-y look, the horror that launched a thousand infomercials for Crepe-Erase, an expensive product that gets mostly terrible reviews. But they keep advertising and women must keep buying.
Moving along… about 15 years ago my left knee stopped working and started hurting, bad. Diagnosis: torn meniscus.
Funny how we take certain things for granted until they start acting up.
Treatment: arthroscopic surgery, several days on crutches, prescription for physical therapy 2 x week. Leg presses, stand on toes while pushing wall. Long-lasting scar that looked like three dots. Insurance company billed thousands. Five years later I slipped on the front-porch stairs and tore my right knee. No surgery. I went to the gym and did the exercises on my own. My knee got better in a shorter time. Now I take Osteo Bi-Flex Triple Strength and watch my step.
My thighs and hips. That’s where the weight has settled. I believe my body type is called ‘pear-shaped.’ According to a recent piece in the New York Times, a study shows that being pear-shaped is associated with lower risk for cardiovascular disease (than having all your fat around the waist). Yay.
My butt. Now we’re getting to the really uncomfortable, embarrassing parts. This is where I have to be fearless and segue from my body’s exterior to its interior. Suddenly, several years ago, the results of the digestive process were not ‘normal.’
One evening, I was dressed up, on the way to a party, and had to stop at the first gas station I passed. I went home, crying, because I knew I’d never make it to the party or through the evening if I managed to get there. My GP sent me for a colonoscopy at the local hospital. Do you know what happens when you drink a full bottle of Miralax and take half a dozen laxative pills? No? Lucky you. When the ‘prep’ was over, we had to hire a company that cleans up after natural disasters to scrub and disinfect the bathroom all the way up to the ceiling. It was a natural disaster. They should put you in a tiled room at the hospital with built-in shower. In any event, the GI doctor gave me a diagnosis of ‘microscopic colitis’ (does means they didn’t see anything?), gave me a prescription for something that made things worse, and then told me to take Imodium. I hope you’re laughing. I wasn’t. I went to a nutritionist and (temporarily) went on a low-fiber diet. I found a better GI doctor who prescribed meds that worked. He used the phrase, “The natural progression of the disease.” Did that mean it will get better? I asked. “Yes.” He was right. After about six months I was fine.
We baby boomers are worried that suddenly something will happen, something that means that life as we know it will be over. Around us, friends and family members have serious conditions, are being treated for cancer.
Switching gears, not a moment too soon, and moving to the front of the body, I’ve learned from seeing photos of Kim Kardashian modeling her not-called-kimono-anymore undies that pubic hair is back in style. That’s good. I was never into shaving it or having it waxed. Neither was (or is) my husband. But any hair that sticks out of a bathing suit has to go. Before trips to the beach or pool, the electric razor solves another first-world problem.
Otherwise, internally, things are good.
If you consider being without a uterus and one ovary good. Menopause was a bitch. It was like the great flood and the great depression combined. I fell into a black hole. I grew cantalope-sized fibroids and an fist-sized ovarian cyst. On the MRI, my bladder was squeezed into a pancake. No wonder I had to pee all the time. All’s well that ends well (see my story, “Getting Old Doesn’t Have to Suck,” because after menopause, sex can be better than ever.
Belly. It’s not flat. I really need to lose 20 lbs. Those commercials for CoolSculpting (approximately $3000) can seem mighty tempting. But no thanks. I’m cutting carbs and calories, logging in everything I eat, drinking more water, walking more, and doing more cardio. With the Noom app, $195 per year. And a soon-to-be-purchased FitBit. Well, after less than a week on Noom, I’ve lost 2.5 lbs. And feel hungry a lot of the time.
Breasts. As you might have discerned, I’m not a walking broomstick any more. I’m a perfect 36C, at least according to Victoria’s Secret’s sizing. It’s part of their marketing genius that they make women think, not just look, bustier than they really are. But my cleavage is getting that crepe-y skin. Uh-oh. And my breasts are a little less perky. Oh — I almost forgot — there’s a three-inch diagonal scar on my left breast where a lump was removed. The diagnosis: LCIS, Lobular Carcinoma in Situ. Luckily, no further treatment was needed.
My shoulders are my worst feature.
All through childhood, the three words I heard most often were “Stand up straight!” And the two words I heard most often were “Shoulders back!” In seventh grade, my posture was so bad they kicked me out of regular P.E. and stuck me in an adaptive class with kids who had polio and other disabilities. In high school, I sewed well, but they wouldn’t let me model the outfit I made in sewing class in the school fashion show. The teacher said, in front of everyone, “What is wrong with your shoulders?” Nothing like that to deflate the ego, forever. Apparently, no one considered helping a child or teenager by prescribing physical therapy or a targeted exercise program. Or trying to figure out the cause. I’m still working on it, but sometimes I see photos of myself, slouching, or reflections in mirrors or shop windows, that make me cringe.
There’s a reason the phrase “a pain in the neck” is used so often. If I have any pain now, it shows up in the back of my neck, my weak point. Travel, work, stress, whatever. The cure: an ice pack, CBD cream, and a few sessions of hands-on PT with deep massage ($75 per session) to untie the knots. Do I feel bad about my neck, about the way it looks? Not really, yet. But wouldn’t it be nice to tighten up the folds that seem to be appearing across the front?
Time to change the subject to arms. Nora Ephron hit a nerve with her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I feel bad about my upper arms. The lower parts are starting to sag. Last summer I looked in the mirror and said “I can’t wear sleeveless any more.” I started doing arm raises with weights, swimming a few more laps.
And then I said, fuck it, I’m wearing sleeveless dresses and tees when it’s this hot. Or whenever I feel like it. So there.
Next: the face: one part at a time. Chin: Too pointy. Lips: Too thin. Need plumping. No thanks. But I’d love to find a lipstick that stays on for more than a couple of hours. Upper lip: Springs unwanted hairs. Nose: Boring, with freckles. Eyes: Too deep-set. Eyebrows: Where did my thick, luxurious brows go? Now they need pencil to show up. I don’t go anywhere without concealer, a dusting of powder and blush, eyeliner.
I could be a plastic surgeon’s dream.
Except everyone says I look pretty damn good.
Especially my husband, who tells me he has fantasies about the gorgeous woman sitting across from him in the living room.
Why is that so hard to believe?
Let’s keep going. Hair. It’s at least 20 percent gray. In my world, gray roots are like bra straps; they must not show. For me, color, with auburn highlights, every five weeks, is a must-have ($165 + tips).
In my world, gray roots are like bra straps; they must not show.
And now for the really important part. My head. Still in good shape. I’m working as hard as ever. I’m almost finished with a rewrite of my first novel. Teaching design at the college level. Having fun writing for Medium. Launching a Shopify store for the reading materials I designed. Drumming in several ensembles. Trying to keep senior moments at bay.
However, yesterday I ran around like a crazy person looking for my phone. Finally I used the“find my phone” app, only to find it in my bed, under the covers.