Up in Arms

I spoke with a former California coworker over the weekend. When I was in my late 20s and she was in her early 30s, we worked together at a trade publication in San Francisco. I was managing editor and she was the director of advertising sales. We were quite a team. We were young, hot, ambitious and successful.

Today I’m in my late 40s and she’s in her early 50s. We talked only briefly about our past and spent most of the lengthy conversation catching up about our current lives—i.e. talking about our kids.

But when we did talk about our past, we couldn’t help but think of our boss. This was a woman who had a profound affect on both of us. And the last time my friend and I spoke, it was when we discovered our former employer had been killed at the age of 60 while touring the country on her bicycle.

We both agreed that while this woman would have preferred to live to a healthy old age; she ultimately would have approved of her obituary. It was because she died while doing something to stay in shape and defy her age. I believe she ran the Boston marathon on the event of her 40th birthday and then the NY marathon when she hit 50.

She hated growing old.

My coworker and I knew this woman at 50. At the time she both loved and hated us. She loved us because we were successful (and she had A LOT of fun with us); and she hated us because we were young, hot and ambitious. I think her first husband left her for a 27-year old hottie—not an unusual story for Marin County marriages in the 1980s—and therefore, she felt resentful toward all ambitious 27 year-olds. I didn’t take it personally until she left town in the middle of a publication redesign and I had to face a tight deadline without her input. When she returned, she accused me of “taking over” and petulantly stomped out of my office.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my former employer a lot lately. She was my current age when I worked with her and I remember how often she expounded on what was happening to her body, and how one day it would all happen to me too. It’s not that I didn’t believe her—I did—however, I hated hearing about it in such a resentful tone.

“You don’t know how lucky you are,” she often said. She complained about not being able to wear sleeveless tops without exposing flabby arms. She complained about not being able to sneeze without having to change her underwear. She complained about not being able to go anywhere without lipstick and she used to love having her photo taken—but no longer did. And whenever she spoke about her neck, I had to leave the room.

I’m turning 50 this year, as are many of my friends, and am definitely feeling the prophetic nature of my former publisher’s predictions. And while I’m tired of working out so hard to stay in shape and genuinely bummed at the condition of my upper arms (how the hell did that happen?), I don’t hold the slightest feelings of jealousy and resentment toward younger women.

I do, however, resent my dead publisher and all the people who’ve often found it necessary to utter the words “just wait . . .”

I’ve heard them all my life:

“You think high school is challenging . . . just wait until you get to college.”

“You think college is expensive . . . just wait until you try to buy a house.”

“You’re think you’re busy now . . . just wait until you have kids.”

“You think diapers are bad . . . just wait until they’re teenagers.”

“You don’t like car seats . . . just wait until they’re driving.”

Blah-blah-fricking-blah. My life has been speeding by so quickly that I’ve never had time to “just wait” for anything.

It feels as though it were only yesterday when I was 27 years old. No, I don’t feel 27—nor do I look it. (Hopefully, I don’t act it.) And I know I’m not alone. All my friends are saying the same thing. “How did we get here so quickly?”

Meanwhile, what I’m sitting here contemplating is whether or not any of these ample “just wait” warnings I received have served any real purpose. Have they made me feel any better about my arms or not wanting to look in the mirror? Not really.

I do wonder, however, what I’m going to be hearing from my pals who are on the threshold of 60. Will any of these “just wait” warnings carry with them something POSITIVE in which to look forward?

I certainly hope so. I just can’t wait anymore for things to get easier.

2 thoughts on “Up in Arms”

  1. My yoga teacher and I were talking this evening after class about the physical changes that take place as we get older, and how no matter how much you might work out, there's nothing you can do about some of it. We were discussing how we wished we'd been more appreciative of what we had when we were younger, and that she tells her daughter not to fret about her perceived physical imperfections, but to feel blessed with her perfectly beautiful and healthy body. Then I told her we needed to remember the same advice, because five and ten years from now we'll wish we appreciated how we looked at our current ages!

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