I want to be a dame, damn it

I will never compete at the Olympics.

That’s a hard fact. Not that I had expected to one day find myself in a jumpsuit rocketing down a luge course or to be totally stoked after completing a double McTwist (whatever that is) on a snowboard. But I can’t even dream about it at this point. I’m still in my 40s but I might as well be 100. The Olympics are totally off the table.

I have never had the physical prowess or the discipline to be a world-class athlete. Deep down I know that. But what if I had applied myself?

I find myself asking that question a lot lately. I feel like I should have amounted to more at this point in my life. This must be why men buy sports cars and drive around with the top down. In the town I used to live in there was a guy who had to be in his 70s who would cruise around the river in a black convertible blaring old-timey music. A couple of the older ladies in the apartment I lived in “knew all about him.”

I suppose he was having a prolonged or very late mid-life crisis. I feel one coming on myself. The question is what will I do with it and will I be wise enough to come out of it? I don’t want to be a 70-year-old woman wearing a halter top and hot pants to the grocery store.

I don’t want to be a 47-year-old woman wearing a halter top and hot pants anywhere.

I’ve always secretly wanted to be able to sing. I can’t. I shouldn’t. But I do at the top of my lungs in my car. But what if mid-life fear sends me over the edge and I become a regular at karaoke bars, or worse, try to start a band?

I think this is the age where your confidence shrivels up like a petrified clementine, or you try to recapture your best years (if you peaked in high school, forget it), or, eventually, you become Dame Judi Dench—classy, funny, sure-footed, and undeniably fabulous. And if anyone does deny it, I don’t think she’d care. That’s what becoming Judi Dench is about.

It’s a scary crossroad though. You have to be made of sturdy stuff to tap into your inner  Denchness.

I’ll need to see clearly too. The key is to avoid stumbling around reaching for what is out of reach while recognizing what is within reach even if my vision isn’t what it used to be.

I have to believe some of what is still within reach is a kind of exclusive greatness.

At the Olympics they call that a personal best. Maybe it’s not too late to dream.


It’s the least wonderful time of the year

It’s February—the bottom of the winter barrel. It’s that cold, blowy, snowy month with little to get the blood pumping to combat the cold.

This is the time of year when we’re desperate for hope. Every year at the start of the month, crowds stand in freezing temperatures to watch a guy dressed like an extra from Murdoch Mysteries hold up a bleary-eyed rodent to issue the long-term weather forecast.

“Please let it be an early spring.” I think that every year even though I know a sunny day is bad news as far as groundhog predictions go. It’s just pure desperation.

But I’m so tired of being cold and disappointed by snowed-out plans that I’m willing to hang a portion of my hopes on Wiarton Willie.

The minute Christmas and New Years decorations are passé and slapped with orange discount stickers, heart-shaped chocolate wrapped in red foil and red velvet boxes with sketchy “assorted creams” appear on store shelves.  And then there’s the cards that inspire a full cringe, the kind that make my head do that involuntary bobble and my arms twitch.

There’s something about Valentine’s Day that makes me feel like a zoo animal expected to mate. It’s like being a panda bear. Your busy doing panda things all day then all of a sudden you’re sitting across from another panda at a dimly-lit restaurant. You have all the bamboo you can eat and sparks should fly as you indulge in a meal that didn’t involve a microwave. But just minutes before you were stuck in rush-hour traffic. And it’s Wednesday, which means an early morning. And you can’t stop wondering why your coworker made that snide comment.

I guess that’s still better than when I was younger and Valentine’s Day was a measure of your social status. At my high school they managed to alienate single teenagers with candy-grams and or flowers that were delivered with much pomp and ceremony during class.

I know of at least one person who sent flowers to herself to avoid the shame of not having an admirer.

It was also an opportunity for horrible people to send flowers or a candy-gram to someone who did not have a boyfriend and was therefore unlovable. The idea was to pretend to be a boy who was secretly in love with her and have a laugh at her expense.

If karma exists I have to wonder where those cruel-hearted people are now. Jail? Divorced with kids who hate them? Or do they have a hot date with Taco Bell takeout and Jerry Springer this Valentine’s Day?

I suppose a few successful Valentine’s Days can lead to the next abomination—Family Day. It sounds like a good idea. A day off in February, what could go wrong?

Family Day isn’t like Simcoe Day or Victoria Day–two other holidays that don’t seem to have the kind of gravitas of Christmas or New Years—because on Simcoe Day or Victoria Day you can walk outside without losing the feeling in your face. These holidays, though often spent with family, seem to offer up more freedom, more choice.

Family Day, unless you ski or skate, seems to be a day where you sit inside with your family, especially if they’re teens, and argue about what to watch on TV.  There is no way they’re going out there in the freezing cold, and secretly I’m fine with that, but what to do?

That is the question for February. What to do?

I am worn out by winter. I’m worn out by slipping on ice—my feet going this way and that until I look like an Irish dancer wearing shoes cursed by leprechauns. Though the light is coming slowly, I’m tired of eating dinner surrounded by blackness on the other side of my windowpanes. And I am tired of tripping over boots at the front door and finding somewhere to hang my coat. I am tired of damp gloves and cleaning off my car while the snow blows into my face.

I am tired of winter.  Valentine’s Day and Family Day aren’t going to change that. So move over Wiarton Willie, I need a nap.




Falling for perimenopause

My friend Janice says going through menopause is just going back to the person you were before puberty.

It’s a nice idea. I think most of us have fond memories of the time before bras and maxi pads. Of course, the bras get more important every day but the idea of being free to wear light colours every day, if the spirit moves me, is a nice one. I like the idea of not having cramps or headaches or bloating or unfettered rage.

I loved being 10 years old. I had all the freedom I needed, I had mastered diving from a diving board, I didn’t know it was possible to be self conscious in a bathing suit, and I had a fabulous red 10-speed bike. I remember being perfectly content and having no interest in turning 11.

But before I was 10, there was a year when it seemed I couldn’t stay upright. I don’t know how old I was, 8 maybe, but I remember falling constantly. One minute I was running, the next I was watching the pavement rise up to meet my face. I had enough scabs on my elbows and knees and so much road burn on my palms that summer a call should have been made to the Guinness Book of World Records people.

Ski falling rather than stair falling.

I’d rather not go back to that version of myself but I fear it’s where I’m headed. Lately, I’ve had a habit of wiping out, especially on stairs.

This past weekend I fell down the very hard stairs at a sports complex. One minute I was walking the next minute I was thumping down on my heinie, my right leg stretched out behind me as if I were practicing the splits. Had I had the wherewithal to raise my hands to the sky and smile broadly I think the bystanders at the bottom would have applauded.

That’s not how it went. My head was thrown back and I remember some vague flashes of ceiling lights, my arms were over my head but also thumping down the stairs.

I remember thinking, “What’s happening?” then “I’m falling,” then, “Ow,” then “where the hell is my leg going?” then, “I need to stop,” and finally “I’m not stopping, just give into it.”

I tried to relax and went down the last few steps like a big piece of putty in a red coat.

I lay there at the bottom like a slug. My right leg still three stairs higher up than the rest of me.

Tony stood in front of me and leaned over me to ask if I was OK. I tried to tell him I needed to get my leg down but couldn’t get the words out. So I just stared back and yanked at my leg until it was below me instead of above me. I felt as though I might vomit or faint for a minute so I sat on the wet step and waited.

As I sat there, an older woman and her middle-aged daughter made a big fuss about having to reach over me to get to the railing to climb the stairs.

If it wasn’t so painful I might have been embarrassed. Or maybe, because I’ve left anything resembling dignity behind in so many places since puberty I’m less prone to mortification.

If I am to look on the bright side, maybe we do get back to some version of our young selves only we get to go back with the wisdom and attitude only middle age can give us.

But if my future involves going back to my past, I better drink a lot of milk.






When tights are not tight

I’ve never been one for “casual Fridays.”

The idea that if someone deals with you on Thursday they get the professional version but if they deal with you on Friday they get the almost-Saturday-one-foot-out-the-door you, makes no sense to me.

For some employees maybe it’s considered a perk. Maybe somehow it’s less stressful to wear jeans and a sweatshirt than a skirt and blouse to work. Even if that’s the case, as perks go, I think this one is lame.

When I worked as a journalist I always tried to look like I was well-groomed and professional. There were times reporters from other cities would swoop in looking like they just rolled out of bed and were still wearing a pyjama top. It always shocked me. I couldn’t imagine facing the world like that. We had a dress code anyway so I would never have gotten away with it.

Having said that, there were a few days when I was having a casual Friday no one was privy to.

It was winter and I was covering a big announcement at the local hospital. I was wearing a skirt and heavy winter tights and moving through the crowd interviewing key people in the lobby when my tights began a slow and agonizing descent.

Normally, that’s not unusual. By about 10 a.m. gravity routinely worked its magic on the crotch of my tights. The waistband stayed put while the crotch sagged and sagged until it resembled a hammock between two trees.

There’s no graceful way to yank the crotch of your tights back up, though there are different methods. Leg out, grab a fistful of tights and pull then follow up with the other leg, or the tug and squat.

When I was a kid we used to get those pantyhose that came in the cardboard package. When they were unfurled they were about six inches long and daunting. I rarely got them on without my finger poking through.

My cousin Jenny used to tie the ankles to her bed post, grab the waistband and run as far as she could before she was yanked back. They looked like what I imagined the legs of a tanned 86-year-old would look like in a bikini—thin yet flabby.

I would have been relieved if the only problem I was having with my tights that day was a droopy crotch.  Somewhere between the presentation and an interview with the hospital CEO the waistband gave out. With each step I could feel my tights shimmy lower. I had hoped my hips would keep them up so I stood with my hip jutting out like I was carrying a toddler.

All that was keeping them from hitting the floor was the elasticity on the legs and abdomen. All I could think about was that there was a very good chance I might trip on my tights on the way out. I put my coat on carefully to give me enough cover to get to the parking lot.

By the time I got outside the blown elastic was below by butt, forcing me to walk like I had been at the hospital seeking treatment for poison ivy on my nether regions.

By the time I got to my car my tights were at my knees. I was so mad I pushed the seat back, ripped my boots off, tore my tights off, and then flung them into the back seat.

It was cold but at least I had my dignity. Casual Fridays? Pshaw.