Monday, June 13, 2011

I do feel bad about my neck

I haven't read Norah Ephron's I Feel About about my Neck, and I probably should. When I ask myself why I haven't, I think, "What on earth would I have in common with a rich, wildly successful woman like her?"

The answer is probably "plenty," as we all have something in common, but beyond that, I don't know. I just read How to Not Go Gentle into that Eileen Fisher on Salon, and there was much I did relate to, but a part of me simply did not.  Mary Elizabeth Williams talks about being in one's early forties as a time of being at the height of one's life; the "career apex," and all that other good stuff she assumes a women in her forties is experiencing or has done. I suppose this is the average Salon reader.

I forget that I'm not average. I've been spectacularly unsuccessful financially. Twenty years ago I chose to "drop out" of society by moving to a poor and rural area. I consciously opted out of not pursuing anything called success. I have not had children.

Lately, I'm starting to see that there are indeed more people similar to me than, say, Norah Ephron and Mary Elizabeth Williams. Does the average woman in rural America relate in any way to the articles in the national magazines? How can she relate to articles written by those who live in Los Angeles or New York City? I can't fathom it.

I do feel badly about my neck, but I am not worrying about how it might impact my earning ability. In the city, this is a big concern, as last year's brief sojourn back into city life showed me. Here in Maine, feeling bad about one's neck seems absurd. Truth is, no one else truly does care about how anyone looks (unless one is in real estate), so concerns about looking old, or looking bad, become simply personal vanity issues.

In my knitting group, we joke about these issues. We notice when people start habitually wearing turtlenecks. I'll admit to a ridiculous thing I love about living in a cold climate: the fact that I can wear long sleeves and turtle necks most of the year without appearing to be simply insane.

Guess what? There's others that feel the same.

Norah Ephron does have some good things to say. In this article about her, she says, "when you're young, you're indulging yourself by feeling too bad about what you see in the mirror because you're going to have plenty of time to feel really bad about it, and you're also indulging yourself if you think that the pain in your hip is kidney cancer, because it probably isn't." Pointing out that a time will come when you will truly have reasons to worry is true. Of late, I hear story after story about some minor complaint that turned out to be cancer or any number of wretched illnesses.

I've loathed my neck since I can remember. It's been a running joke with my friends. "Julie, there's nothing wrong with your neck." There is now, and there's no denying. Trivial? Perhaps. Unattractive (in a purely aesthetic, unemotional way)? Yes. I got together with an old friend after years of not seeing her, and I must admit I noticed her neck had collapsed. As they say, "So? Shoot me."

Mixing up aesthetics and life-threatening illnesses seems just plain wrong, but there it is.

This is a mixed-up post indeed. There's so much I'm trying to pack in here, and perhaps it's not even related: How one should and could feel at middle-age when one has never been a success, aging, both the aesthetics of it (so to speak) and the realities.

I suppose what ties this all together is this: How does one face the reality that there's no do-over? Realizations that one was indeed beautiful when we were oh-too-self-conscious are simply an exercise in retrospection. Except for the very (very) few who are abounding in energy, going back to school and getting that Ph.D. one should have gotten is just not going to happen. The ability to see one's past mistakes may be crystal clear, and the desire may be there to try once again, but time, energy (and money, for those of us who've made a few too many mistakes) are just not there.

I suppose, in the end, I'm talking about living with regrets. I am starting to realize that living with regrets is fine. It's not an indictment. There's sadness, of course. Sadness is okay. Sometimes it feels like all together too much, but hey, I think there's more of us who live with regrets than not. We may just not want to yell it to the world.

Image note: I almost hate to use this one, for designer Sam Frenzel got a helluva lot of press for it, under the ad copy "Now, that's a turtle neck!" A brilliant piece of marketing that I now realize designers have used for ages; design something so bad, or so ridiculous, that you're sure to have people comment. Now everyone knows your name.

That's another thing. Lately I've been seeing exactly how easy it is to market oneself, or what one does or makes. Why on earth I didn't see all of this before is beyond me. Now, if I could only figure out how to do that with my blog meanderings. Still haven't figured out that one. I'm starting to think I'll know when I'm 100 (if I live that long).

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