The Perils of Growing Older

Even as I squeezed the paste onto my toothbrush, I could tell something was weird. It came out much quicker and thinner than usual, curling onto the bristles in a pleasing twirl — like frosting being piped onto the top of a cake.

I’d rushed into the bathroom to both brush my teeth and throw a tissue away and once there, quickly paused at the sink to get the tooth brushing going before I went the additional two feet to toss the tissue into the trash can under the counter. So, I’m noticing that the toothpaste doesn’t seem right even as I’m lifting it up to my mouth, and as I begin to brush the outside of my teeth, it dawns on me what I had done.

One of the things nobody tells you is that when you turn 50 it’s like an internal timer goes off — akin to, say, a Butterball turkey and somewhere on my back there’s a little round plastic doohickey that popped up two years ago— and your body starts to feel the half century’s worth of shit you’ve been doing to it. All the running up and down hills through the woods and along the hard sidewalks of your town before dawn. Burpees, jumping jacks and lunging across a fitness studio holding 10-pound weights in each hand. Your resistance to hydration and preferring beverages containing caffeine and alcohol over the prescribed 100 ounces of water each day. All those high heels you toddled around in for 30-some-odd years at cocktail parties and dinners out with other couples and later, for a few summers after your divorce, to dance to songs on crowded dance floors that reminded you of younger days.

It’s like how, when I had my first baby 26 years ago, I had no idea how sore my bottom would be after the delivery. That I’d have a latex glove filled with ice tucked between my legs for the first few days and that I’d be introduced to something called the sitz bath. Or that taking my first poop post-partum would be such an important hurdle. So many things about parenthood have come as similar surprises over the years.

Even with Google readily available nowadays, I’m still surprised about changes to my 50-something body. I cracked up watching Pamela Adlon in the season 3 premiere of Better Things trying on clothes in her closet.

“Really?” she says, squeezing into a pair of white jeans and grabbing the muffin top hanging over the waistband, “How did this happen?” The actress told Terry Gross in an interview I’d listened to earlier in the week, “I decided that it would be a very generous thing for me to kind of illustrate it in my show, so everybody doesn’t feel so alone.”

To all my lady friends hurtling through the end of your 40s towards 50, take note. And take comfort.

And then there’s how my aging body feels, which is to say, “not great.” My feet in particular act like they are way older than 52. The arthritis in my big toes is making it hard for them to bend, so now they are completely unwilling to conform to a curved high heel. I had surgery on my left foot two years ago thinking I’d recover and be back teetering around in my favorite heels, but alas, that is not the case. Honestly, I can’t even wear some flat boots I used to wear all the time, because they are just too hard on my aching toes.

To manage these new aches and pains, I’ve loaded up on various over-the-counter analgesics: Motrin and Aleve, a CBD rub that smells like lemongrass that a girlfriend dropped off a few weeks ago when my back was particularly tweaky. I’ve also got some roll on thing that I rub on my feet sometimes at night. But my favorite pain relief in the last month is Icy Hot, which I rub on whatever part of my body hurts: neck, lower back, feet. Yes, it smells like … old people and clings to my pajamas and bed sheets. But after you’ve rubbed it on whatever ails you, an icy feeling begins to mask the pain and it’s very pleasing.

You need to be careful during the application process that you wash your hands really well when you’re finished rubbing the Icy Hot on yourself. It’s the same type of precaution you need to use when working with jalepenos. I found this out the hard way a few years ago when I finished seeding one to add to a meal and immediately rubbed both my eye and my mouth with my spicy fingers, which were then on fire the rest of the night.

I sat on the toilet the other night to rub the Icy Hot across my aching lower back, and then figured while I was there I should do my business as well and then wiped myself accordingly. As I was wiping I was starting to think, “I should not be doing this,” but alas, it was too late. I went to bed that night feeling very tingly down there, which was not entirely unpleasant.

You also need to be careful how you store your tube of Icy Hot, which is what I discovered last week. You should really put it back in the closet in the basket along with all your other old-lady pain remedies, and you definitely should not leave it on your bathroom counter next to your tube of toothpaste, which — when both left lying upside down with just the backs of the tubes facing up — can look exactly alike.

Had I been a little less distracted rushing into the bathroom the other night, I would have immediately realized that what I was squeezing onto my toothbrush did not look or feel like Crest. But my brain was about 3 seconds behind. All of the pieces were clicking into place in my brain as I was lifting the toothbrush up to my mouth. I stared at my reflection in the mirror in horror as I realized I was brushing my teeth with Icy Hot and dropped the toothbrush into the sink and began furiously rinsing my mouth out with water.

After I recovered from the horror — and terrible taste in my mouth — I started to laugh like a crazy person and thought, “this would make a great blog post.” Plus, my mouth felt very fresh and tingly after I brushed my teeth 3 times with toothpaste.

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