Probably ninety-nine out of every hundred books having to deal with puberty contain the phrase "Your body is changing," and I don't even want to imagine what the 100th book talks about. The problem with that phrase is not so much that it's perfectly obvious, although it is perfectly obvious if you've ever been through it, but that it tends to associate itself in your mind with your adolescence: okay, that's over, now I never have to worry about body changes ever again, and thank God for that. God, of course, has other ideas, as we find out entirely too soon.

I'm of two minds about the current crop of changes. I'm definitely not looking forward to frailty, or to whatever unspecified ailment (if ailment it be) that ultimately ushers me off this plane of existence. On the other hand, I'm going through another inexplicable bout of shrinkage. You may remember the previous one:

[T]he belts that used to be just a hair too tight on the third hole are now just a hair too loose on the fifth. Pressed for an estimate — in this diet-crazed era, everyone wants to know the particulars to the third significant digit — I reckoned that I'd dropped off thirty-five pounds.

When I checked into surgery two weeks ago, I made sure I got the official reading, and it was down, by gum, thirty-seven pounds.

That was seven years ago. After that, things stabilized a bit: I stayed within about a ten-pound range thereafter, and didn't think anything more about it — until this year, when, perhaps inspired by the late Colin Chapman, I started to "add lightness" once again. I am down about thirty pounds since the first of the year. (Presuming that the camera adds ten pounds, I have to believe that somewhere along the way I got rid of three cameras.) And I still have one of those old belts, which now has not five holes, but eleven. (Doesn't everyone own a leather punch?) Apart from necessary wardrobe adjustments, the weirdest aspect of this is automotive: my car has one of those memory gizmos that slides the seat forward into your preset position when you insert the key, and backs it up when you withdraw it, and it takes twice as long as it used to — because, of course, the seat has to travel twice as far.

To women, this sort of transformation is very likely Not News. The Guardian has taken on as Vintage Years fashion columnist someone identified only as the Invisible Woman — in your middle fifties, she says, no one notices you anymore — and she has all kinds of changes to report:

This body that I've grown so used to, even taken for granted, has over the last few years been quietly laying traps, morphing into a shape that sort of looks like I remember it but at the same time has been adding a few flourishes of its own. My (slightly thicker) waist is not quite where it used to be — it seems to have moved upwards. Other things, sadly, have gone in the opposite direction. My arms still look great from the front, but what's happening around the back? Is that a hint of flab?

And I didn't see this coming, either:

I was reduced to the same paralysing indecision about clothes and self-image that I'd had as a teenager. In fact that's what this menopausal nonsense is; a reverse adolescence. Not hormones rushing in but hormones rushing out.

But of course.

I have no idea what's going to happen in the next several months. Right now, I don't feel bad: my right arm hurts a bit, but I've had quite a bit less annoyance from the knees of late, no doubt because they're being subjected to less of a load. I have to figure, based on past performance, that eventually this spate of weight loss will level off, and start up again somewhere down the road. It will surely help if I don't assume, as I did as a teenager, that I'm just this side of indestructible. (I was sixteen the year I rode the bicycle up — and then down — the mountain.) On the other hand, sitting here typing for hours on end can't be good for my physical health, however salutary it might be for my alleged mental health.

The Vent

  9 October 2011

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 Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill