Going Solo

Oprah October 2015 CoverMenopause was the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s been nine years since I’ve had sex with anyone other than me, but at 57, I don’t think of myself as celibate or sexless. I’m simply clear-headed.

A promiscuous child of the free-love ’70s and a hard-partier until the ’90s, sex was my currency. If I wasn’t desirable, I felt invisible, and by my early 30s, I was using a color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of all the names, dates, photos, and details. But, I gave up the booze, my estrogen began to ebb, and without them, I lost my sexual appetite. Sex wasn’t making me feel good or important anymore; it left me empty. I started forgetting to be that girl who slept around. Then one night I slid into bed and realized it had been years since anyone else had slid in there with me.

The vodka haze & hormone fog had lifted, and I was left to figure out who, if not that hyper-sexual being, I was. I had to redefine myself. I did stand-up to a room full of twenty-somethings who stared back silently, I got my motorcycle license, jumped out of a plane. Started to love my body for all the other things I could do with it. I chucked my high heels, danced all night in cowboy boots, and went home alone to a new queen-sized bed, sleeping diagonally, corner to corner along with that delightful cliché, a cadre of cats. I posed naked for painters, photographers, and sculptors. I laughed louder, and more often. I spoke my mind. Conversations about life, pain, the world, and hope replaced faceless seductions. The quality of the men in my life changed, from one-night stands to friends and companions. I was free.

Maybe there’s a Venn diagram with my name on it where sex and companionship overlap, but I’m in no rush. I still have sexual desires. But I also have the Wahl All-Body Massager—with two speeds and seven attachments.

 

Previously published in the October 2015 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Verbatim & Translation

Overheard at Juju’s bagels. Verbatim.

Scene: Two elderly neighborhood women–let’s call them Myra and Sylvia – playing scratch-offs and schmoozing. Myra goes up to the counter and orders tea for them both.

Myra,  turning to Sylvia: Sugar?
     translation: You want the boy should put sugar in your tea?

Sylvia: Sugar?
     translation: What? I can’t hear you.

Myra, louder: Sugar?
     translation: What, now you’re deaf? Sugar. Do you want sugar?

Slyvia: Sugar?
     translation: You don’t have to yell, I’m not deaf. Do I want sugar? In my tea?

Myra: Sugar?
     translation: Yes. What? You think I mean a pile in the middle of the table? A ten-pound bag maybe?  Sugar?

Slyvia: Sugar? Yeah. Sugar.
     translation: Sugar? Of course, sugar, what do you think? Thirty years you know me, did I ever not have sugar? You have to ask?

Myra, turns to counter man: Sugar.
     translation: One tea with sugar, for my meshugah friend. A lovely woman she is, but a little deaf she is going.

photo by jshdoff 2016
photo by jshdoff 2016

Knees (and my vagina)

My knees are shot. Partly because they’re supporting 200+ pounds of not very graceful, but mostly because I fall down a lot. There’s nothing wrong with my equilibrium––I just don’t pay attention. I’m looking here and there, look a bird! Trying to stay present, in the moment, look at my surroundings, what would make a good photograph, what can I see that no one else sees. Lots of things. I see lots of things that no one else sees, I also miss a lot of the things most people see. Like potholes:

That time I stepped into one so deep on Bleecker Street that my entire foot got stuck and the rest of my body kept going. I lay there, while people stepped over me.One woman leaned down, “You know, there’s a bench right over there you can sleep on.” I hobbled home.

That time I tripped on a tiny crack on the sidewalk went down on my knees and came up with what was obviously a broken wrist.

That time I was speeding through Central Park on rollerblades and remembered that I really hadn’t learned how to slow down or stop so I just threw myself down on the ground.

That time there was a giant flying waterbug in the house––the only living thing I’m really afraid of––and I lunged at it, landing on my knees.

I keep two bags of frozen peas in my freezer for my knees. They are scarred and bumpy and there is a little blue spot on one where a small pebble is still embedded. They are always skinned, or scabbed, or under a bag of frozen peas.

I have not been able to squat down to get something or say hi to a child or more likely to happen, to a dog, in years. Actually, I can squat, I just can’t get back up. That sent me to physical therapy years ago, the not being able to squat and talk to dogs. I talk to a lot of dogs. A lot of dogs. The physical therapy didn’t do much, so I learned to just plop my not inconsequential ass on the ground to talk to dogs, which is a pretty vulnerable position if the dog in question is: unfriendly, rambunctious, a slobberer.

A few months ago one (knee, not dog) swelled up like a cantaloupe, even though I hadn’t fallen in at least two weeks. Convinced I had kneecap cancer, I went to my osteo man to check it out. That’s how often I fall. I have an osteo man. His assistant moved my legs and knees this way and that, twisting, knocking, bending until he finally stood up and said, “Wow, you have a really shitty knees.” My big-sports-medicine radio-show osteo-man-to-the-stars came in, did the same bending, knocking, and twisting, albeit in slightly different order, sat back and said, “Well, you have really shitty knees.” The X-rays tech refrained from the descriptor “shitty” and simply commented under her breath, “Oh, wow. Those are bad.” The MRI technician insisted on taking more images than originally ordered, because, “It’s bad, and it keeps going up your thigh.”

“It” turned out to be osteonecrosis, something that occurs when the blood can’t get to the bone, and so the bone (osteo) starts to die (necrosis), and apparently it’s kinda uncommon. It can be caused by: excessive alcohol consumption – check; high doses and extended use of steroids – check; and repeated trauma to the area – double triple check.

The choices are surgery––no thank you, or the non-surgical answers are building up the muscles in my thighs so that my knees aren’t doing all the work, and reduction in weight bearing, by which we mean, why the hell am I asking my knees to lug around 200+ pounds? Wouldn’t they be happier dragging around 150 pounds? Wouldn’t the dogs be happier?

Numbers

I’m oddly superstitious, by which I mean I’m superstitious about odd things, like red cars, green motorcycles, and numbers. I have favorite numbers: 7, 23, and 57. No real mystery, I was born on 7/23/57.

So this year, I was 57, and two days ago I turned 58 and it feels like what I just finished? That was my last great year. There are no more good numbers.

I got to be 23. I got to be 57. I’m never going to see 723, so what is there? There is me turning 58 and I have real hate-hate relationship with 8s. First of all, eight is an even number, which, unlike most of the world, I don’t like. They’re doubly bad because they’re symmetrical. And being 58 means I’m practically 60. I’m this close to being a sexagenarian, and I’m pretty sure there will be less sex happening when I convert to sexagenarianism, than there were veggies when I converted to vegetarianism

I worked for a woman who used to say that nothing was a big deal unless it resulted in bringing a baby into the world. That was the kind of thing you couldn’t take back, that everything else was re-doable. You could get married, divorced, then married again. Buy a house. Sell a house. Everything had a do-over.

I amended that to:  if no one died, no one was born, and no one sold a baby into porn, it’s not that big a deal. Giving a life or taking life, those are the deal breakers. Everything else is re-doable.

Except it’s not. Time. There is no do-over. I’m practically 60 and while I don’t regret anything I’ve done, I do regret things I haven’t done. I regret wasting time, because there isn’t a do-over, and I can’t go back and study veterinary science ten years ago. I can only do it now, which means I’d actually be 60 by the time I was able to be certified as even a vet tech––a highly underpaid job that would make me extremely happy and which I would have a helluva a time finding work as since it involves lifting heavy things like Great Danes and St. Bernards.

I’m not loving the numbers. I know I have a good thirty years ahead of me, if not more. But, still, there are a lot of sixes and eights in there.

a woman of a particular age

I never knew what that meant, a particular age.

Then I got there, to that particular age. I’m not sure that it connotes an actual number, but more a state of being.

All my life I’ve looked 35. Not just any 35, but a 35 year old school teacher. It sucked when I was 11, but  became advantageous when I was still underaged and wanting to buy booze. It didn’t make me big bucks when I worked in the Naked for Money business, because I looked, well, I looked solid & reliable. Which is what you’re looking for in your accountant, but not in your hoochie cooch girl. It was, however, helpful when I switched to the Sitting in a Cubicle for Money business where they’re actually looking for solid and reliable. Finally, I’d found a place where my look matched what was expected of me.

I stayed looking 35 well into my late 40s, which was just lovely. Then I got sick, really sick and two bouts in the hospital and extended steroid treatments really took their toll and suddenly, I was ten years older, or more. I used to love to tell people my real age because they never believed me. When I was 45, there was no way you could imagine me being older than…you guessed it, 35. Those surprised looks have since gone away.

Now I look my age. I am a woman of a particular age. And that particular age is an age that want’s to look ten years younger again.

And this my friends, is why God invented Photoshop (expensive). Or Gimp (free). And any number of online tutorials on how to manipulate images, soften edges, gentle the ravages of time. Do it. Learn it. It’s cheaper and healthier than a face lift. You can change your mind at any time, and your hair color, your eye color, the size and shape of your breasts.

Let me stop talking – the evidence speaks for itself, so you be the judge.

Now if someone could just invent a Photoshop suit one could wear out and about….