Disclaimer: This tale will not be true for everyone. Either you will understand its sentiments, or you can treat it as a cautionary tale for what happens after you turn 40. For the record, I am not obsessed with my weight. I love Oreo cookies too much for that. No need to send me links to "age gracefully" or "love your body no matter what" memes. /end disclaimer
Mother Nature -- she's a fickle cow.
Picture this: You're 25. You're the hottest you're ever going to be in your whole life, legs strong, arms chiseled, pants fit right, no blubber roll around your middle to remind you that you've had two babies too young. When you want to lose weight, you stop eating. You decide you're a vegetarian, only you hate vegetables so your diet consists largely of Red Vines, bread, and Diet Coke. Losing weight is easy, thanks to a genetic gift and years of athleticism in childhood, but also because you're young. You're very busy chasing toddlers, doing theatre, working several jobs, fighting with ex's. There is never a dull moment, and your metabolism rewards you for your industry.
|Breakfast of Champions.|
Mother Nature's ploy is to make us the most desirable when we're the perfect breeding age, from, say, 17 to 28 or 29. Some can stretch this into their 30s, and some reach their prime at 45, but not all. Not everyone's that dedicated. Not everyone's so gifted to have skin like my friend Carmen and an ass/legs like my friend Danielle. I had gray hair and the first signs of crow's-feet in my 30s, despite the fact that I was still not done breeding. But I also wasn't out on the market trying to find a partner with whom to continue breeding. I found him at 29, so the slide began. Slowly, slowly. (However, I did not acquire my first yoga pants until age 40. No, my yoga pants have never seen the inside of a yoga studio.)
When you're young and everything is in the right place, gravitationally speaking, you go to the gas station or the market and upon handing you your receipt for something you likely paid way too much for, the helpful clerk says, "Have a nice day, Miss." You smile, say, "Thanks, you too." You climb into the car for the drive home, crack open the sweating can of Diet Coke and the yellow wrapper of the peanut-buttery Butterfinger, and you know that if you skip dinner, these calories will not land in the foundation of the wee fat condos blossoming on the exterior of your thighs. It's early days. You can get ahead of those condos before they become a full-fledged, size 12 housing development with pools and pleasant tree-lined walkways and grassy knolls where you can read your tabloid magazines. A few laps around the block a few times a week? Finally breaking the seal on the Wii Fit disc? You can handle that. (You won't. But you will tell yourself you will.)
When you're young, you get sick and you drop two pants sizes. Pneumonia? Bring it on! You'll be able to wear that red dress! Stomach flu? Yes, please! Emily Blunt's character said it best in The Devil Wears Prada: "I'm one stomach flu away from reaching my goal weight." When you get sick, Mother Nature rewards you with a flatter stomach, thinner thighs. Some say that a single drink of water will reset you to the prior weight, but still -- it FEELS like there is a consolation prize. And when you drag your coughing butt to the pharmacy for codeine cough syrup, the pharmacist says, "Here you go, Miss Sommersby. Feel better soon."
The world is still calling you "miss." Mother Nature is still offering consolation prizes so you will be hearty and good-looking enough to go forth and multiply.
And then ... one day ... September 21, two days after your 40th birthday, you're sitting at the gas station, waiting for the attendant with the overstretched gauges in his ears and the scary, might-be-infected lip piercing. What is taking him so long? You look into the rearview mirror -- OMIGOD IS THAT A GRAY HAIR?! No. It's TEN gray hairs. And a singular white one that grows STRAIGHT out of your head like it's reaching for the International Space Station. You swear you will pluck it the moment you get home. Your Diet Coke is warm, and it's making you nervous to drink it after reading an article about all the chemicals they use to replace the sugar (thus making it diet), that it can make your bones hollow and the aspartame/phenylalanine causes cancer in lab rats. Maybe I should stop drinking this stuff ...
|This rat had too much Diet Coke.|
But you're young. The world still calls you "miss." There is time left. You can remedy the err of your ways.
The attendant, finally finished staring at the boobs of the younger girl in The Car That Is Not a Minivan, comes and takes your money. He smiles, that lip piercing very worrisome up close, so much so that you resist the motherly urge to say, "You might want to get that looked at." He hands you the receipt and says, "Have a nice day, ma'am."
OMIGOD HE CALLED ME MA'AM.
The end is nigh.
Once you've become "ma'am" instead of "miss," the gray hairs multiply like bacteria in blood-red agar. Those Red Vines aren't sitting so well, and you find yourself reading nutritional value labels and standing, wide-eyed, in the vitamin aisle, wondering if you should supplement with Ensure, recalling the Geritol commercials of your childhood.
And Mother Nature gets stingy. Remember those consolation prizes mentioned above? Yeah. When you reach "ma'am" status, the consolation prizes are rescinded. No more. Nada. Gonzo. Not for you, babe.
When you get the flu, which might turn into bronchitis and pneumonia, you don't lose 10 lb., despite the thunderous coughing that scares the neighbors so much, they seal their windows in plastic film; despite the megadoses of antibiotics that are clearing your lungs but ravaging your intestines; in between begging for death and praying to live, you're hoping that this drowning sensation goes away soon so that you don't die because your kids are still really little and PLEASE GOD/BABY JESUS/BUDDHA/UNIVERSE DON'T LET ME DIE I PROMISE TO STOP EATING SO MANY RED VINES.
Mother Nature -- she's a fickle cow. You get pneumonia, but you don't get the consolation prize. And the much-younger pharmacist with the great hair, Crest Whitestrips teeth, and the very large, sparkly engagement ring says, "Here you go, ma'am. Feel better soon."
Ma'am? Really? You don't punch her. She has a pretty nose. Instead you cough in her direction, and smugly stroll from the store.
|This. Is. My. Future.|
Xs and Os, lovelies ...
P.S. If you're not yet 40, go do some sit-ups post haste. You will thank me later.