Comforting Words: Aging, Marriage and the US Elections

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Aging, Marriage and the US Elections

My skin has been itching so much that I began to wonder whether my two dogs had contacted fleas – somehow – and passed it on to me.

I say somehow as it has been a while since they have been out in the grass for a good long run. My work and commute schedule is as such – all of twelve hours a day – that by the time I get home at nights all I want to do is plop on my couch and catch up with the United States election campaign. Once caught up, I haul myself to bed for a few hours before the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m.

After spraying the dogs, the couch and in fact the entire condo with ‘flea and tick spray’, although my brain was telling me that that was not the issue, the itching moved to my head.

Looking at my almost bloodied fingers after what felt like 10 minutes of intense digging of my scalp, it was clear to me that something bigger than fleas was my trouble.

“Hey,” I said to the nurse at work, “you must know this…what can I do to stop tearing my skin off?” She had this amused look on her face as I pulled up my sleeves and raised the end of my skirt to show her my arms and legs. Just before I ripped the blouse off my back to expose my red skin, she laughed and said, “It’s dry skin my dear.”

Dry skin? No it could not be that simple, after all I use Dove Pro-Age Skin Cream on a daily basis. Furthermore, my scalp felt like it was peeling off too and I also use Dove Pro-Age Conditioner everyday!

My nurse-colleague stuck to her prognosis, saying that the air in southern Alberta is much drier than in Edmonton, particularly in the valleys where I work, and so my skin was drying out. Her advice to me was to lather my body with cream immediately after a shower and that should relieve the problem.

“What about my head?”
I thought.

I knew she was probably right – that the weather conditions had something to do with it but I was not entirely convinced. After all I spend 7 – 8 hours a day in the valley, commute there five days a week and spent the other 2 days in Calgary. Nevertheless, I tried her suggestion and for a few days felt some relief.

Then I noticed something else. And the truth finally sunk in.

My body, my skin is aging.

This recognition hit me in the same place where my most inspired ideas always do – in the shower. As I reached forward to regulate the water pelting me, the truth of my itching crisis dawned on me.

Years ago, a senior citizen who hated to be called that shared that her doctor had told her to stop or reduce the amount of hot water she used when showering. She also had to change her bath soap to goat milk soap as her skin was too ’mature’ to process the perfumes, etc of regular soaps.

At almost half her age, 43, my own skin was going through the ‘maturing’ phase. Mid-life is proving to be quite a handful – and hard on the pockets. Now, not only am I dealing with the mid-life spread of my tummy, my skin is shriveling before my eyes.

I guess this is the type of thing that causes mid-life crisis in some but for me it is another curve ball to deal with. And I am not going to rush out to buy a basket full of anti-aging products – what’s the point. Age we must. Youth is totally over-rated.

In the words of Marya Mannes, author of More in Anger,
“the process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth.”


As my skin dries and my investment in Dove Pro-Age Skin Cream doubles, my hair grays, my battle with 'the spread of the midriff' rages on, in other words as my maturing process deepens, Robert asked me to marry him.

Why would he want to do that? There are so many young, smart, thin women out there who would be very attracted to what he has to offer. Why me?

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met – inside and out,”
he declares.

I could not help but remember this poem that counsels women to “Find A Guy Who Calls You are Beautiful Instead of Hot,” that was shared with me while I was dating. At first read, you might think it was written by some loser who could not get a date much less someone for a long-term commitment.

Upon second or thirtieth read, if you are like me, you begin to realize the greater point of this poem. I have been married and/or in long term relationships that were brought about by the notion of ‘hotness’. What I have come to learn at the end of relationships formed on this basis is that when the fire ebbs, it takes great inner strength to rekindle it.

After the huffing and puffing – is there material for a conversation? Is there strength of personality, character and wisdom to cope with the long, cold and very dark (winter) nights? Do you know and like the person who you are enough to be happy in your own company? Can you smile without reason, smile without the help of a drink, smile at the sound of your lover’s snores? Is caring for your neighbours something important to both of you – be it with money, a kind word or a shoulder to lean on in time of trouble? Can you talk through your differences without ill-will and harbouring of resentments the next morning?

These are but a few of the test of ‘meaningful’ as far as I am concerned. To hear Robert say that to him I am beautiful “inside and out” – is heart stopping as it means finally I have found someone who does not need me to hide my light.

I knew that I would say “yes,” looking down from the podium into his proud eyes as I give a speech; as I caught those green eyes looking back at me across the room as he interacted with a transgender woman; as I heard him saying he would make a 5-hour drive to see my daughter through her crisis.

What the last 28 years of challenges, turmoil and even despair has taught me about marriage, as Joseph Barth notes, “is [my] last, best chance to grow up.”

The U.S. Elections

Speaking of growing up, if you are like me and glued to the television every day and checking every chance you get to see what is the news about the Presidential Campaign in the United States, you will recognize that the States is in another growth phase in its history.

And I am not talking here only about the historic nature of Barrack Obama’s candidacy or even Sarah Palin’s. While those are important milestones, as well as Hilary Clinton’s run in the Primaries, the real growth has to do with the choices facing that country.

Here we have what is often described as the most powerful country in the world challenged by two wars on its hands, the most serious meltdown of its economy since the Great Depression and a rapid diminishing of its influence in the world.

The decisions facing the US electorate are not unlike those aging (or maturing) women like I have to deal with on a daily basis in different aspects of our lives.

As the glory days of our youth rapidly recede into the past and we do battle (wars) with our teenage/young adult children (India and China) and try to fully capture our place on the economic sphere, i.e., careers, retirement funds, health care, the landscape changes.

It is no longer okay to approach life with a “business as usual” attitude. We have to adapt to new technologies and the fact that those we consider out juniors (India, China, Russia) are gaining strength, have a modified vision of the future and are not shy about letting their voices be heard.

As maturing people, we can either reject these ‘newbies’ out of hand, yet realizing that times are changing we try to present our arguments with the help of Pro-Age Skin Cream (Palin). Or, we can embrace the changes; negotiate our place at the table as we work with the new kids on the block to shape this new world.

Whether Obama is the best voice for change and hope in this new world I do not portend to know for sure. What is obvious to me though is that the US is maturing (aging) in terms of its influence and status in the world.

And like me, no amount of moisturizer is going to turn back the hands of time. Neither is dressing up in mini-skirts and daubing my face in make-up going to fool anyone that I am not fast approaching 50 – which is what John McCain seem to be wanting to do with his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

What is clear is that on November 4, 2008 the world will have a clear sign as to whether the United States will be a gracious or a vicious old lady.



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Blogger said...

Oh god -- I'm only 8 short years away from 43!

Goat's milk??? Where'm I gonna ge that???? LOL

Living in the US I can tell you -- I fear for us.

Mon. Sep. 29, 12:48:00 p.m. MDT  
Blogger Claudette said...

And it seems to be getting worse -- with all the recent bailout collapse and Palin' misstatements...

Tue. Sep. 30, 07:00:00 p.m. MDT  
Anonymous James Tyler said...

Great reading Claudette. I am sorry I have not written sooner. I am so glad to know you and Robert found each other. The photo on your August blog is great.
I drove across Canada from Ont. to Vancouver in '90. When you speak of Calgary I recall the tower and later the drive to Banff. I so much enjoyed the lodge and then on to Lake Louise. You must go and have TEA. It is served with a great view of the glacier. I am so glad to hear and feel the joy in your writing. Luv, JIM

Wed. Oct. 22, 12:30:00 a.m. MDT  
Blogger Claudette said...

Thank you so much Jim!

Robert and I have been to Banff a couple of times at least since we have moved here...I absolutely love the place!!! Wish there was work there for me, I would move in a heart beat!

Yes, I am truly blessed with someone who seems to not only love the idea of me but who I truly am!

Love you too,


Thu. Oct. 23, 04:30:00 p.m. MDT  

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