Once you have passed your peak of attractiveness and settled into a slow, steady, relaxing downhill slide, the body becomes no longer a bombshell or magician or villain, but something more along the lines of a wisecracking sidekick who mostly hangs back only to deliver a barb when you least expect it.
For example, one day not long after I gave birth, I looked down and noticed that my ass was gone. It had just cut and run -- didn't say good-bye, didn't even leave a note. (Evidence suggested that my breasts had started to give chase but tired by the time they reached my lower ribs.)
"BUTT DISAPPEARED!" I frantically typed into my Google search bar, which has recently suffered through such wide-ranging queries as "celebrity photobombs" and "Outside of cheese wheel edible?" Alas, the Internet offered me no solace, only a variety of links to weight-loss message boards. And yes, I had lost weight: thirty pounds of baby weight plus seven extra pounds of constant breastfeeding, acute postpartum anxiety, and a diet that consisted almost exclusively of infant tears and orange Fanta. But still, it seemed unfair. I still had a belly as soft and pliable as fresh pizza dough, which merrily jiggled when my kid climbed into my lap for story time. Why couldn't that have magically melted away? Why should my butt be the one to pay for what my uterus had wrought? And where did it go? It could have at least left a note.
As I encounter the first signs of real aging, I've started to wonder why the What's Happening to My Body franchise deals only with puberty. Because while adolescence may be the first time our bodies play tricks on us, it's certainly not the last. What of the postpartum period Perimenopause? Hospice? Herewith, a summary of my findings thus far, both from personal experience and extremely unscientific observation, otherwise known as "A Short(ish) List of Physical Betrayals."
No matter where you fall on the color spectrum, from Nick Cave to Nicki Minaj, chances are that by your midforties you will find enough shades of gray to create, if not a bestselling trilogy of erotic novels, then at least a gross scrapbook. (Note: they're not all on your head, these gray hairs. Get excited!)
Imagine a flipbook of John McCain's cheeks as he shoots through a wind tunnel. Beginning at age thirty-five, each page represents one year of your life.
During your twenties, you can call them "bright." If you can manage to say anything bitchy or insightful on a semiregular basis, your thirties and forties can coast on the sassy adjective "gimlet," no matter the depth of your crow's-feet. After that, it may be best just to keep them closed.
Never stops growing, regardless of truthfulness. Some individuals attempt to camouflage this ever-enlarging protuberance with a garden of colorful gin blossoms, which are permanent and aggressive perennials.
Derived from the French word décolleter, meaning "to be forced to wear crewneck sweaters due to the fact that the sun spots on your chest have joined to form one giant leather patch, sort of like the trash heap floating in the Pacific Ocean that can be seen from space."
Evolution has taught us that primates are our closest mammalian relatives. But considering the slow transformation of once-youthful fingers into brittle, gnarled claws, I say: remember the bird.
As you age, most parts of the body look better lying down, because the excess skin recedes into the blankets, revealing your original shape. Not so with the chest. It is only at this point in life that the true purpose of armpits is fully revealed: supine breast rests.
The media encourages us to strive for "six-pack" abs, and while that dream is deferred for most of us as we pursue loftier goals like incubating humans or finishing a plate of mile-high nachos, it can be helpful to think of the torso as a six-pack of beer. With each decade, beginning at birth, take away one can, until they are all gone and you are left with a warped, stretched-out set of rings.
Begin winking. This is less delightfully coy than one might hope.
The Dreaded Q Word (Ladies Only)
Ugh, I cannot say -- or even type -- this word. It makes me cringe with humiliation. But you all know it. It starts out like the band fronted by Freddie Mercury and ends like Joaquin Phoenix's original hippie name, which also happens to mean the thin, flat, often green-colored organs of vascular plants such as trees. It also rhymes with the last word of John Grisham's bestselling legal thriller The Pelican Brief. It happens sometimes when your vagina simply has too much to say and gets flustered, or when you attempt an inverted yoga pose. It is, quite simply, the worst.
And those are just my external findings. I haven't even mentioned the decrease in serotonin that can lead to the unironic purchase of cross-stitch patterns or Isotoner clogs, or the inexplicable popping noises that sound off whenever you squat.
No one tells you these things. Nora Ephron tried to, but her report was too specialized. What we need is a textbook, something with a quick-reference index for things like "wattle" and "thuttocks" (the unfortunate result of a vanishing border between upper thigh and lower cheek, a term coined by noted anatomist Alyssa Milano). Because as it stands -- or falls, since that's much more likely to be the case -- it's a shock to the system. If you're anything like me, one minute you're trying to pick out the right size Super Ball to even out your training bra, and the next you wake up to find that some part of you has gone inexplicably missing -- and you just can't find it anywhere.
Not even on Google.