Can’t stop the calendar
It’s August, as you’ve noticed, and there are a couple of birthdays at our house, mine and our Border collie Sonny who’ll be five years old (35 in dog years) on Aug. 17. It’s not necessary for the purpose of this column to divulge my age, but I’ve got plenty of high school classmates in town who will. I’m not at the point yet when I want to stop acknowledging birthdays, but many people, and I know some, ultimately reach that conclusion. I respect their decision and may do the same one day, but there’s no denying the calendar whose months roll over relentlessly. The collective “we” progress through decades when in our youth we eagerly anticipate the approach of revelry and gifts, followed by decades when we’d just as soon look the other way. In a sense, that makes us a bit like the Roman god Janus looking backward and forward at the same time.
Birthdays and New Year’s Eves are similar to my way of thinking. Generally, they are times for merry-making, but I prefer to see them as times to assess what has transpired in the year gone by and make ready for the coming 12-month period, to make some assessments, to mark personal growth and to resolve not to make the same mistakes twice. They are times to hold a mirror to my face and have a frank conversation with the person looking back at me.
Oh, but that mirror is not always kind. He doesn’t always turn out to be the kind of “friend” you want to keep and nurture, someone who’ll point out your good points and minimize your faults. Instead, there’s a moment during one of these frank “conversations” when I’d just as soon see this fair-weather friend flying through the nearest window. Or perhaps smashed to smithereens on the bathroom floor.
Another columnist for this paper suggested some weeks ago that people were probably happier and more satisfied with themselves in the times before mirrors were ever invented. Then, he said, you’d never notice the sagging belly or the thinning hair or the yellowing teeth. I made the mistake recently of picking up a magnifying mirror to pour over my complexion as I tried out a new foundation in a windowless department store lit by fluorescent lighting that’s never forgiving to one’s mien. It was all I could do to remain calm and not run screaming to the car. The store might sell more if it made its customers look better than the truth.
My driver’s license was up for renewal this month, and fortunately the long lines and confusion that reigned with the imposition of new rules and requirements had passed by the time I showed up to the DDS. I had taken great pains with my hair that day. I had the bangs arranged just so and sprayed into tornado-proof immovability. I placed my blusher high on my cheekbones to de-emphasize the lessthan-taut rest of my face. I chose a pink jacket, pink being one of my best colors, and turned the collar up jauntily to effect the appearance of a longer, more elegant neck than I have. Everything was properly in place when the desk person told me to back up and look at the blue dot on the camera. I smiled slightly, somewhat enigmatically, and didn’t blink my eyes. This would be the year I banished the curse of the driver’s license photo.
When he handed me the paper copy of the new license that would come by mail shortly, it was another moment when I wanted to run screaming to the car. I looked like some wan, gray-haired not blond (for which I pay dearly) woman-of-acertain age that had left home not wearing any makeup. My best efforts had failed, and I’ll have to live with the photo for another five years. I pray never to be stopped for a traffic infraction when I’d have to reveal my identity to some young, much younger, buzz-cut officer. It would be embarrassing to me and frightening to him.
This month, there’s also the annual visit to the doctor’s office. I already dread it, not because I suspect anything’s amiss, but because I’ll have to step onto the heinous scales. Your own bathroom scales may tell an acceptable story, even a few triumphs over the temptation of cheesecake, but prepare for a slap in the face when you step on those scales. Doctor scales are no friend to anyone because, I firmly believe, they are calibrated to add a few pounds or more to anyone’s weight. It’s an evil plot meant to unnerve you and undermine your best efforts. So tell me, just where can a girl get a break these days?