The midlife crisis is now an equal opportunity occurrence. It’s no longer just the prerogative of paunchy men using sex and speed (via trophy wives and sports cars) to drive off the deep end. Now women, once too busy bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan, are jumping into the proverbial fire with their own midlife meltdowns. We’re springing for botox and dreaming of beefcake. And we’re just as desperate as the guys to stave off the ravages of old age.
My midlife crisis was triggered by a pocket probe and some nearly carnal compression. I was already suffering from emotional malaise brought on by yet another birthday and inflamed by a comment from my teenage son.
“Woa, Mom,” he said, peering at me closely. “You’ve got, like, a whole tic-tac-toe grid under your eyes.” It was probably just such a remark that led to the creation of boarding schools.
Then I arrived at my dentist’s office for my regular checkup, and I was ushered in by The Happy Hygienist. You know the kind of creature I mean, young and chipper, with a smooth face no one would be tempted to mark with Xs and Os. Undoubtedly, she’s a trophy wife in her off-hours. She put a cute little bib under my chin and informed me I was overdue for a periodontal workup.
This procedure would measure how far my traitorous gums, seeking to disassociate themselves from my aging body, have pulled away from their assigned teeth. Once you hear the words gums and receding in the same sentence, you have passed the point of no return. The gums are the middle-aged body’s bellwether, signaling to the other organs when it’s time to start heading for the hills.
My dental inspector propped open my mouth and began to probe my periodontal pockets, calling out numbers that identified the depth of my deterioration.
“Four millimeters….five millimeters, oh my…,” she shook her head in grave concern. Then her voice brightened. “Oh, here’s a three, very good!” She praised me in the exact tone one would use to train a puppy, and I responded in kind with a line of drool that soaked my bib.
I departed soon after, too weighed down by my new long-in-the-tooth status to notice that my wallet was considerably lighter.
In a moment of medical masochism common to women my age, I’d scheduled a mammogram for the same week. This delightful experience was delivered by a close cousin of the hygienist, an insufferably cute girl barely out of her teens (or so it seemed) with a personality that could only be described as perky, an obvious affront to the over-40 crowd.
The mammogram was clearly invented by a man, possibly one who spent his youth in a boarding school after saying something stupid to his mother. For those who have missed the pleasure, stand in front of your open refrigerator. Insert some particularly sensitive part of your body. Then ask Hulk Hogan to slam the door as hard as possible and lean on it for good effect.
Pamela Anderson and her well-endowed ilk probably have no problem with a mammogram. But if, like me, you are a private in the bosom brigade, it’s not pleasant. Miss Perky did her best, mangling my mammaries in a most professional way, compressing each between two cold plastic plates until I felt one of us should propose marriage.
“I haven’t been squeezed like this since I went to the high school prom with a boy named Bubba,” I joked through gritted teeth, trying to add some comic relief to the situation. She just rolled her animated little eyeballs. “I guess you’ve heard that one before,” I added lamely. Telling stale jokes is, apparently, the second symptom of impending geezerdom, right behind truant gums. My destiny was now determined.
By the time I got home, I had a pronounced limp, caused by dragging one foot that was already in the grave. Glum over the prospect of a steady slide into decrepitude, my glorious youth squeezed out by an endless parade of medical maneuvers, I decided to fight back. I would not go quietly into the night. I’d join the Peace Corps, learn to ride a Harley, tackle my tic-tac-toe lines with shots or surgery. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I paused in my planning to take a call from my elderly mother, who is trying to tame her aches and pains with massage therapy. She shocked me by describing her new, 25-year-old male masseuse as “gorgeous, my dear, absolutely gorgeous.” Suddenly, I felt the onset of my own ailments that would definitely be eased by a healing touch.
“Don’t worry,” my mother assured me in all seriousness. “He didn’t try anything with me.”
Darn it. Maybe I’ll have better luck, especially if I keep my game face to the ground.
© Jackie Papandrew 2006