Since my last post on this topic, I’ve accumulated more proof that getting older and becoming curmudgeonly/peculiar are inextricably linked (but maybe the self-awareness is somewhat mitigating?) The latest evidence:
This is not mine, btw.
This past weekend I decided to wear a bracelet that I haven’t worn in years. No big deal, really, except that the bracelet was from R, and for a long time I boycotted most of the jewelry he gave me in a misplaced, don’t-mention-the-war type attempt to protect myself from sentiment. (Plus, the books say that removing physical reminders of the spouse is necessary to heal and rebuild.)
The downside of my jewelry boycott (mancott?), though, is that I have been wearing the same wimpy handful of non-R-associated necklaces and earrings for two years now and I’m getting bored. About 80 percent of my jewelry collection was given to me by R, and,whatever one may or may not think about the man’s other facets (tee hee—get it, facets?), one can’t deny that he had excellent taste in baubles. In fact, it instilled in other females the kind of awe and envy that is usually reserved for that lone remarkable dad pushing his kid on a swing at the playground on a weekday morning.
My friends routinely expressed amazement. “R got you that? He picked it out himself? All by himself?” Then would come the sad stories of having to return–or, worse, keep–ill-chosen husbandly gifts of jewelry, or of having to actually accompany one’s husband to the store so as to avoid faking an “Oh, honey, I love it!” moment.
I never understood this stereotypical cluelessness among men, because it seems that if someone truly knows you, he also gets your style and sensibility. Right? It’s so simple. (The truth is that toward the end of our marriage, R’s jewelry prowess began to falter, and I ended up returning a pair of whimsical, but not wearable, antler-shaped earrings. Something was clearly amiss.)
At one point during those stormy pre-separation months, I weepily gathered every last bit of jewelry that R had ever given me into a tangly mass and chucked it into the wastepaper basket next to his dresser. Fortunately, a sliver of my rational brain was still functioning and knew I would regret that move. I dug it out and tossed it into a drawer instead.
And now that I’ve lifted the ban, it’s like I have all this new jewelry! There are a few key pieces that give me a pang, but it’s amazing how time has diluted most of the voodoo.
Once I found the bracelet, I started sifting through the other stuff. I even reluctantly opened the gray suede box that now serves as a tiny coffin for my wedding and engagement rings. I put the engagement ring—one of my favorite pieces of jewelry (and yes, R chose it all by himself)—on the ring finger of my right hand. Then I put it back in the box because that one’s still a little fraught, plus it seems wrong to wear a symbol of a marriage-to-be when the marriage is now a has-been. But IS there any real reason not to wear it, now that it’s not so much my engagement ring as just a pretty ring that happens to have been given to me during a prior engagement?
What do you think?
I try to steer clear of whining about the physical decline inherent in midlife, because it’s so cliche.
Me, formerly flawless and well-lit.
But I recently experienced a moment of reckoning in a fitting room at Lord & Taylor, where I was all alone with fluorescent lighting and a three-way mirror. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. My 46-year-old self stared back at me in all directions. Who knew I had a little pouchy chin thing, plus the beginnings of the weirdness that happens to one’s neck–not to mention less-than-taut upper arms? Not me. Until then.
I walked out of L&T dazed and confused, and without having purchased anything. (I might have bought something had the lighting been less brutal. Seriously–has no one done market research and found that women will buy things if the dressing rooms are designed to flatter, not to appall??)
In my disoriented, highly vulnerable state, I wandered into one of the three Sephora stores near my office. (There seems to be a 1:1 ratio of Sephora to Starbucks stores lately.)
I’ve worn makeup since I was in junior high school, back when my skin was a creamy, smooth blank slate, open to subtle enhancement via a bottle of Maybelline Kissing Potion roll-on lip gloss and a streak of eyeliner inside the lower lids (remember that technique, gals my age?) A spritz of Love’s Baby Soft and I was good to go.
Now, at my advanced age, enhancement is the least of it. Correction is what it’s about, and Sephora is all over that, with displays devoted to wrinkle fillers, concealers, and the newest word in corrective makeup: Primers. These are all designed to bring your face back to a flaw-free baseline so that it can receive the more frivolous embellishments like eyeshadow and lipstick.
It seemed exciting at first, to think I could erase all my facial flaws simply by purchasing a few tubes and jars, but I soon experienced what I call the orange-juice dilemma, which goes like this: When I was a girl there was one kind of orange juice. From concentrate, period. Now, you can choose from OJ with some pulp, no pulp, a little pulp, tons of pulp, with calcium, without acid, with other kinds of juices, etc. Should you want no pulp, yet tons of calcium, or a little pulp with a soupcon of pineapple juice, you are screwed. It is truly panic-inducing (or is it just me?) and I often find it easier to go without OJ than be forced to prioritize like that.
With the face-fixers, it’s the same thing. Sure, you can have a perfect face, if you can decide which flaw to prioritize. Wrinkles? Redness? Age spots? Crepey eyelids? Dark circles? Shrinking lips? Acne scars? Oily skin? Dry skin? No skin? No one product seems to do it all, yet the time and money commitment involved in covering even a few bases seems mind-boggling.
I decided to start small, with a concealer that has two components. The first one “neutralizes” discoloration and the second layer does, um… something else. I forgot what, exactly, but I know it works because it cost $28, not including the special brush, which was only half that price.
I am so clueless when it comes to understanding the many machinations of money (yet admirable for almost always being able to alliterate?)
During our last couple of sessions with the mediator, money’s what we talked about–proving that, as with so many things in life, divorce ultimately comes down to cash: where it used to come from, where it will come from, who owns what, who owes what to whom, and who bought the girls their last pair of snow boots. (I did.)
My understanding of money has always been very basic (i.e., you earn it, you spend it, you need it), and being married to R enabled that blissful ignorance. From the moment we moved in together on my 27th birthday, financial matters were his responsibility. I was elated when we got our first joint checking account that year, partially because I felt so grown up and also because–honestly?–it felt comforting to have a man’s name on those checks. In fact, R’s name was printed above mine even though both of my initials precede his in the alphabet. I’m not sure how that happened, but so it did.
For all of our married years, it was mutually understood that R was the one who knew the difference between a 401K and an IRA, between a variable interest rate and whatever the other kind is. The fact that he received a regular paycheck, while my income as a freelancer was unpredictable, followed suit.
Hence, being forced to discuss matters financial for two hours in the mediator’s office is not my idea of fun. During the last session, I spaced out as the mediator tapped frantically on her calculator and R scribbled furiously on a pad. At one point, my gaze wandered to the solid metal paperweight shaped like a bunny on the little table next to me. I wondered what sound it would make if I threw it at the side of R’s head. (Yes, even we amicable couples have our moments.)
My bunny-paperweight-tossing fantasy was interrupted when the mediator asked me if I understood what we were talking about. I, too ashamed and polite to say, “NO, I have no f**king idea what the word equity means,” cheerfully responded: “Yes. Yep. Absolutely.” I felt as dumb as Jeannie (as in I Dream of).
But, hold on, here comes the optimism: Tomorrow I start my full-time job. Even though I am well aware that cubicle life is not everyone’s idea of joy, and even though single working mom is not the label I’d pictured for myself, the thought of earning my own regular paycheck is empowering, relieving and kind of cool.
Soon, I plan to be a financially savvy force to be reckoned with.
(BTW, if you think you can describe the sound a metal bunny paperweight makes when it hits the head of a middle-aged man, by all means let me know.)