Mick Jagger said it: What a drag it is getting old.
Okay, so I’m not that old yet. But I am old enough where the doctors do that thing where they quit trying to fix you and instead start saying “Well, these things are to be expected at your age,” or “Yes, that’s common in people over 40. You’ll have to ice it.”
The first time my pains were poo-pooed, I was a little put out. Why was my doctor refusing to fix me!? My baby-carrying shoulder hurts! But evidently people my age are expected to play through the pain, rub some dirt on it. I’m now the little Dutch boy with my finger stuck in the dyke, holding back a flood of inevitable, age-related physical decline. Good times.
There’s no dignity to this middle-aged war against time, either. The good news is that any decorum I had was lost during the birth of my children, anyway. There is no etiquette to a postpartum shower with a nurse you’ve never met, your stomach stapled shut and taped over with saran wrap, your innards sliding out onto the tile in chunks (sorry, guys, but actual childbirth ain’t cute). I was mortified, but to her credit, that nurse made that experience seem as natural as taking my blood pressure. But I digress.
So just when I think there’s nothing more embarrassing the medical community can do to me, I am told by my lady-bits doctor it’s time for the rite of passage every woman must endure: my first mammogram.
No problem, I thought. I’ve breastfed three babies. I’ve whipped out these puppies to do so in front of my father-in-law and hosts of other friends and relations. I’ve breastfed in exotic locales: the Dallas World Aquarium. At a staff meeting at a counseling agency. On the side of the road in the rural Mississippi delta. In the Collin County, Texas courthouse (making some officials nervous with the sound of my breast pump in the handicapped stall. I might have argued at the time it WAS a weapon, but again, I digress).
How humiliating could a breast exam be? I thought smugly. And with this bravado and not a clue about what to expect, I rolled up my local hospital to present the girls. After being greeted by a couple of women who had me sign more autographs than Justin Bieber at a bat mitzvah, I was then whisked into a dressing room. No deodorant or perfume allowed (who knew?), so I am then treated to an invigorating upper-body wet wipe. Besmocked, I join the other ladies in the waiting room, and we are all resplendent in our matching pink flowered fashions and with our awkward, limited eye contact.
As this is a family publication, I will not go into too much detail about the actual procedure. Let me suffice to say it included small Vietnamese women, kneading, and what I can only describe as boob patties. There really are not words for the experience of seeing a tender, very private part of you flattened like a cheek cell from eighth grade science on a glass slide. Surreal doesn’t quite cover it.
The following sonogram to take a closer look was also a tad Kafkaesque. Let’s just say I’m glad the cold gel of the pregnant belly is mercifully warmed for your more northern regions. I was also relieved the time I spent alone on the table, draped with a towel, waiting for the doctor to come tell me what he saw, was short. Fortunately for me, the news was good: an all clear. I said a silent prayer for the women who had been on the same table who weren’t. And thankfully got the goo off my chest.
So I’m patched together for now, and I’m starting to get convinced if a doctor asked me to strip down and tap dance while singing an aria from Tosca, I’d obediently disrobe and begin vocal warm-up. I know this getting older thing is not for the feint of heart. There are more medical indignities to come. There is the inevitably, of course, of the dreaded colonoscopy to which we all must eventually succumb. But I’m telling y’all: I might need my doctor to buy me dinner and a movie before THAT seems right.
Oh, well. In the end, having your every orifice probed and your fleshy bits squeezed by the docs are acts of self-love. It beats the alternative. So I will not go gently into that good night. I’m living to a hundred, dammit, if for no other reason than to give my children hell as long as humanly possible. You do the same. Turn your head and cough. Take care of yourself despite the un-stateliness of it all. There’s no stopping the march of time. I just wish it would stop marching all over my face.
To quote the great David Bowie: time may change me, but I can’t change time. There may be more and more upkeep on the temple (cathedral?) as I ripen, sure. I refuse to be in denial. It may take some humbling experiences with gowns in which the dimpled, stark whiteness of my heinie cannot be obscured. I may indeed need to require a level of intimacy with med techs to which I will have to grow accustomed. Accoutrement to stay healthy and young at heart may be necessary.
But hey. At least my bifocals will allow me to read my bar tab accurately.
TSB Momma Drama columnist Eliska Counce appears weekly on our site.