You’re so vein: when seeking a medical treatment feels like self-betrayal

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What my inner left thigh looks like. Aging ain’t for sissies, people.

When you’ve kept a specific part of your body hidden for years, it’s terrifying – to say the least – to make arrangements to expose it to a series of strangers, and have that area not only studied from close up, but touched, repeatedly and extensively.

Yet that’s what I did a few weeks ago. I called a medical office that specializes in varicose and spider vein treatment, made a consultation appointment, and said nothing more about it. To anyone. Because I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Not just about my left leg – the area most plagued by the errant veins – but also because I’ve spent my life thinking that I’m someone who embraces the idea of natural aging. I always wanted to be Helen Mirren, not Cher.

Yet after several years of sheathing myself in leggings, pants, capris, and long flowy skirts, something I couldn’t look away from so easily arose, which is: now when I go running or do yoga, I feel some achiness, some pain in those varicose areas. Plus, I’d seen ads that suggested that health insurance companies usually covered varicose vein treatment, so I thought: “They wouldn’t do that if it was just a cosmetic procedure, right?”

With this in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I did a web search for local options, took a deep breath, called for an appointment. Continue reading

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Making peace with the egg: Accepting my postpartum, post-40 body

rippedpantsA few weeks ago, I had a “wardrobe malfunction” – but it was way, WAY less sexy than the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip.

No, my clothing mishap involved a pair of body-hugging capri pants that pre-dated my first pregnancy.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yes, when flopping down into my chair at work one morning, I felt the pants’ seam strain – maybe even rip a little. But I happened to also be wearing a long, lightweight cardigan that day, so I thought, “Well, even if there’s a small tear, I’m covered. And maybe I can fix it.”

But then, later in the day, after going to get a carryout meal for a friend recovering from back surgery, I heard (and felt) a more decisive rip occur up my backside as I climbed into my Fiesta.

Oops. (Thank God for that cardigan, because I still had the meal to drop off, and I also wanted to chat a bit with my housebound friend. Which I did.)

Upon arriving home, I lifted the cardigan and looked over my shoulder at my dresser mirror, assessing the damage: my underwear was visible in a straight line down my backside.

So I took off the pants, wadded them up, and threw them in the trash.

And that was it.

No tears, no gnashing of teeth, no dark night of the soul, no impulsive pronouncements of dieting. Just acceptance that I no longer have exactly the same body I did before I had children, and before I turned 40. Continue reading

Confronting the past, in jack-ass form

On a recent spring day, when it was a little too chilly to spend time outdoors comfortably, Joe, Lily, Neve and I headed to a nearby shopping mall to buy a few gifts. Not long into the trip – which involved going up and down escalators several times (escalators are for Lily, as they were for me as a child, a thrilling amusement park ride) – Lily spotted the play area and made a beeline for it. Neve had fallen asleep in her stroller, so we decided I’d follow Lily while Joe finished his errands with Neve.

I halted Lily at the play area’s entry point, reminding her that she needed to remove her shoes. She asked for my help, so I squatted to pull them off; but in that same moment, I also got that feeling you get when you’re low to the ground and someone moves into your line of vision. I looked up. And when I did, I locked eyes with a man I’d known since he was a not-so-nice young boy in elementary school. He hadn’t lost any of his hair (curses!), but had shaved it down to little more than a shadow; his eyes still had that same condescending, humorless, looking-past-you-to-someone-who-might-matter expression; and in terms of his body, this former football player (of course) looked like he was still in rock solid shape.

The two of us stared at each other a beat or two longer than would complete strangers. I was making absolutely sure he was who I thought he was, and vice versa, while in the same moment, we both made a kind of unspoken pact not to acknowledge each other verbally. Why? We weren’t friends; we weren’t going to be friends; and pretending otherwise achieved nothing. So I finished getting Lily’s shoes off and sent her toward the equipment to play, while I settled into a seat on a nearby bench.

While watching Lily trying to walk along the edge of the play area’s rowboat, as if it were a balance beam, I stole glances at this man and his young son, who kept running to his father to eat a spoonful or two of ice cream from a cup. The man was dressed in dark jeans and a dark shirt that flattered his body, and his boy wore a clean, polished-looking play clothes. I started to spin a tale in my head, wherein this was the man’s only time each week with his son, thanks to a bitter divorce. (Cue it: “And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…”) But who knows? This storytelling impulse is just something we tend to do when a person who was unkind to us during our childhood has the nerve to age beautifully. Continue reading