Talk about body deterioration. It's as inevitable as a long line at checkout. Certain aging atrocities -- wrinkles, cellulite, turkey neck, crow's feet, age spots -- have been talked to death.
Is there anything left for women to whine about? Well, yes. It's that one aging body area that hasn't received its just due. Print journalists ignore it, talk shows don't dissect it, women don't seek out plastic surgeons to correct it;,and infomercials don't hawk miracle products to erase it. In a word, it's a poor cousin to women's other obsessions with their bodies as they age.
But it's a fixation of mine. It's my dry, slightly wrinkled upper arms caused by years of exposure to the sun. My once velvety-smooth, toned arms have oddly taken on texture -- a sort of upper body cellulite. Now texture is highly desirable in curtain fabrics and slipcovers, but not on a woman's upper arms. Patterned arms are not a preferred choice of embellishment.
Today, women flock to plastic surgeons like birds to a feeder. A good one can lift your face and eyebrows, tuck your tummy and tone your butt, perk up your breasts and flatten your ears; he can liposuction flab from the back of your arms, but he can't erase the motif on the front. Is there even a procedure for it? If so, I'd like to hear about it.
I tried lots of possible fixes -- body lotions, deep massages, exercise. I lifted 6-pound weights and developed a frozen shoulder. I applied wrinkle creams that softened my skin but didn't erase a ripple. I consulted several dermatologists and, after a few misses, thought I had discovered a cure-all. The first one scoffed at my request for better arms. "I'm a doctor, not a magician," she said. Since I wasn't asking for levitation, I left discouraged. Another doctor, who had seen so much skin cancer in her career, sneered at my vanity. Then, finally, I found a dermatologist, who spoke my language. "I have an extraordinary new product for you. It knocked the socks off of scientists in clinical trials." Well, if this rendered researchers hose-less, I was all for it. As quickly as I could have mumbled "fountain of youth," the dermatologist handed me a prescription for a miracle therapy to tighten crepe-paper arms. I lost all cynicism. Who was I to doubt? New discoveries are made every day like advances in mattress technology. Who was I to suspect flimflam?
Euphoric with possibility, I went to the pharmacy convinced that I would be able to withhold the further ravages of time. The price tag for this just-from-the-lab cream was a steep $128 that my drug plan wouldn't cover, but then you can't put a monetary value on turning back the clock. Daily thereafter, I applied the elixir and waited for signs of improvement. At first, it didn't come, nor did it come later. After a few weeks of applications, I still had wrinkled arms and half a tube of "miracle" cream. Snake oil. I had been bitten.
Why all the neurotic fuss about aging arms, you might ask? "Just wear long sleeves," friends said with impatience. Oh, here we go again with that old chestnut: "What winter hides, summer throws in your face." I was being sentenced to cloth-covered arms forever.
Obviously, this is one of those "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" topics. In my 20s and 30s, even my 40s, I didn't appreciate my sleek upper arms. They were always toned and tanned, and I took them for granted. But I can't go back. The lesson learned is that I should take stock now. What do I have today that I had better appreciate because it might not be around forever? Well, for one, I am grateful that I still remember what I ate for breakfast and which movie I saw last night. I treasure the slight trace of wit and wisdom I didn't have when I had perfect arms. I value my ability to put words on paper in a way I couldn't do when I had lower LDL. I am many "better" things: a better friend, a better cook, a better conversationalist, a better driver -- the attributes I didn't have when I had thicker hair.
Even with the compensations of age, I still, and will, always mourn the loss of my young, unblemished body. But the least I can do is become coordinated. I plan to shop for new curtains and will make sure they match the designs on my upper arms.
Barbara L. Smith is a published, produced playwright, and corporate speechwriter. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.