Each year of my forties brings something new. Things expected and unexpected. Women of my generation, post 'women’s lib', have the benefit of more open and honest scientific explanation for the weirdness that is ‘middle age’. Yet there are still things that no one warned me about.
This year, at 43, the peri-menopause phase has begun. Hot flashes? Sure, I’m starting to get those, but I knew to expect them. Drying up a bit? Bring on the lotion and all things moisturizing! At least I no longer have to wash my hair every day.
Speaking of hair...Thinning hair is something I heard about, but was certain would never happen to me; the proud bearer of a very full head of thick hair. It was a wicked pride I felt when a hairdresser would have to go back to mix up more product because I had too much hair. Or ask me to please let the front desk know to schedule extra time for my appointments, “Because you have so much hair!” My vanity left Sampson in the dust.
But something went wrong this summer. The hair that came off of my head when I washed it grew from a handful of strands into something akin to a small pet. I cringed every time I washed my hair, trying not to pull them out. I deleted countless photos with the flash shining from above, onto my thinning hair…making my part appear to be an inch wide! All in vain.
My hair is just tired. Through research and an array of negative medical tests, I determined that my hair follicles are simply tired. Too many of them are taking a ‘telogenic’ rest all at once. I am mildly sympathetic, as I understand tired. My MS fatigue is with me every day. I drink a lot of coffee and take naps. Cat naps though, not Sleeping Beauty naps like my follicles! In an effort to wake them up, I purchased a shampoo designed to fight ‘fall out’ of hair with caffeine! I’m not sure it’s working.
For each hair that falls off my head, there seems to be a rogue one popping up in the most inappropriate places. I’m pretty sure this is how dementia starts. Follicles wander off and don't know the way home. You find them confused and disoriented, under your chin or halfway down your thigh.
My skin is getting tired too. Unable to find the willpower to ‘bounce back’ from another round of gravity, it sags, begging for a nice long nap. As these things, along with the mood swings of peri-menopause, threaten my joy and appreciation for all that is Just Only Judy, I am reminded of a poem that I wrote.
Can I love the skin,
Hanging on my neck like a tired linen curtain?
Eyes shadowed by a year of fears,
Chipped teeth shifting in my mouth,
My mother’s hands,
A mother’s hips,
These lines that deepen around my lips,
That sing goodnight to who I was,
Can I love?
Oh the drama, despair and angst. The horrors of the aging process, striking at my very heart. Who will love me? Can I love myself? I have to laugh a bit at this poem. Because I wrote this 8 years ago! I was 35 years young. What in the hell was I whining about?!
Ten years from now I hope to be laughing about my distress over thinning hair. My poem gives perspective and reassurance from the past. I am not opposed to easy and safe beauty remedies. I am not shy about my vanity. But I am afraid of dangerous surgical procedures.
So here is my advice to you ladies in your 20’s and 30’s. Wear sunscreen! Remember your face, neck and décolletage! I do not want anyone to die on an operating table because they were trying to lift their face!
When you are middle-aged, you can try Rogaine or buy a wig. You can get Invisalign. You can Spanx your stomach and Spanx your butt. But ladies, you cannot Spanx your face! So wear your sunscreen! Chin up old gal...