Fall has always been my favorite time of year, even when I was a small child. I love the brilliance, the crispness, the change from the heat-formed, clinging odors to sharp and pungent ones. I like to see the squirrels busy getting ready for the coming winter and the trees doing the same. Of course, I regret the passing of summer, as I regret the passing of each season, but I rejoice the most when it’s autumn on its way in.
I was also born in the fall…in September, so I suppose that may play a part in my love of the season. However, as I’ve reached old age, I find myself with mixed emotions about what another fall means to me. If I were religious, I’d give any deity thanks for my still being around. Since I’m not religious, I’m just glad that I am here. But here’s the rub: I’ve found that there are more associations and reasons for regarding seasonal changes with a bit of a jaundiced eye than there ever were when I was younger…or, at least, ones that I am more conscious of than when I was 30 or 50 or even 60.
Let’s get right to today’s reason. Everything I read about older women seems aimed to make me even more aware of oldness. Whether it’s telling me it’s okay to be old or telling me it’s not okay, but here are the ways to make me seem younger so I’ll be okay. Or that it’s okay, get over it. Or that it’s not okay and I should get over it. Or that I don’t exist as a real human individual anymore, get over it. But it all stems from being categorized as “old” and “other”.
I’ve pretty much been “other” most of my life…just being a female made me “other”. Not quite accepting the full role of women as defined in the 50s and 60s made me a little more “other”. Deciding not to have children made me “other”. Refusing to wear heels (and I’m very short) made me “other”. Being determined to have an academic career made me “other”. Wanting to drive a semi-truck when I was kid made me “other”. Not being a sports fan made me “other”. Still, these were all choices that I made and don’t regret, although I’ve spent a lot of time either defending, explaining, or both, these choices. But there are things that have made me “other” that I didn’t choose, and it’s those that stab at me now, some of which have become more obvious as the world has seasoned me.
And it’s that age thing that I’m thinking of right now…the age is not choice, but how I am in it mostly is….and I am finding that vanities I have thought don’t matter do matter now. The change from summer into fall is a good example. I’ve always liked clothing that was a little different, but comfortable (thus the mention of high heels above), but kind of reflective of who I think/thought I am. And this year, as the coolness of the season whispers its arrival, I found myself feeling relief…why? Because I didn’t have to search for clothing that would be cool enough for our Indiana humid summer heat, but which would cover up my wrinkly upper arms! I could not believe that all-of-a-sudden, I cared about wrinkly arms…what the heck??? Yet, I am looking forward to warm long winter sleeves. I don’t care about my wrinkly face…I refuse to wear make-up; almost always have, hate that greasy stuff, including lipstick, anywhere on my face. So let the neck sag and the eye pouches puff and the lips narrow…no seasonal change can do much about that, and it’s an otherness that is part of my self-definition. Bare ankles? No problem! Bare toes…well, there are those socks I love with my sandals…and my toes get cold really easily. More otherness. Socks in the summer season…why not? But those arms…no, no, no! Sometimes, at home alone, when they are bare, I get an accidental glimpse of them, and the hanging flaps where muscle used to be (and to be honest, a bit of fat) just stop me in my tracks and I look away at what I think is ugliness, even if my reflective self says “so what”…Ugh. No amount of self-talk has convinced me to go sleeveless, or cap-sleeved. Nope. No way. Forget it.
And oh, are there remedies for this. Plain old exercise and weight lifting are supposed to do the trick. 50 pound barbells. 50 reps. Seven days a week. You don’t have barbells or belong to a gym? Then just heft a couple bags of flour in each had…those big bags. Or put a rod up in your doorway and do 500 pull ups. Or get down on the floor, careful of the creaky knees and do 1,000 push-ups. That, old woman, will get rid of those creepy upper arms.
Don’t want to exercise? Have we got a solution for you ! For just $99.95 plus shipping for a 5 ounce tube, we have this miracle cream, made from secret herbs that will do the trick. All natural, of course. Just rub it on (ignore that herbal odor…just put it on on a day when you’re not going to wear anything but a bra, no other top). In ten days, bingo! No more crepe! Arms toned like a 20 year-old ! If it doesn’t work after 10 days, sorry. You can’t find us anywhere to get your money back.
Or, we have these magic bands. Just wrap them around your upper arms every day and the heat from them will melt that extra skin away. Just be careful of burns.
The arms still sag and wiggle and mock me. Most importantly, they mock my vanity, my vanity about not being vain. They mock my attempts to just accept my almost-76-year-old-body. And, most importantly, they mock my attempt to like all seasons equally…because of them, I just can’t like summer as much as its three siblings. Sorry summer, but that’s just how it is. So I’ll bid you adieu today. Maybe next year we can try again.
Fall, my favorite, bring it on and know that this old other has an arm up her sleeve as well as a few tricks and treats.
Bev Hartford for The Poplar Grove Muse