How to Look Great at 73

It all started when I was watching Big Bang Theory and I saw Sheldon in his 73 shirt.

I was born in 1973, so I ordered myself a copy of Sheldon’s, just for fun. It is reminiscent of Dr, Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts, so when I wear it to a gig, the bass player calls me Thing 73.

Well, last week was my mom’s 73rd birthday. I thought it would be cute if I was wearing the 73 shirt when I picked her up for brunch. She chuckled. When I got home I snapped a selfie of just me. Now I don’t wear makeup, but I took one look at that thing, slapped some concealer on the dark circles under my eyes, and retook the selfie.

I posted the selfie on Facebook with the following text: “Went to Acre with Mom for her 73rd birthday.”

I thought all my Facebook friends knew me well enough to recognize me, but there’s one woman I’ve never met in real life who commented, “Wow I never would’ve guessed her age! Hope I look that good at 73!”

Okay, folks, I’m FORTY-FIVE.

There’s a reason I don’t use a picture of myself for my Facebook profile pic, and the reason is that when I did use my photo, and when I posted my feminist comments on public pages, I’d sometimes receive a disparaging remark about my looks from a man-troll.

So I already struggled with my self-esteem, I mean what woman doesn’t in our society just a little? I mean, I don’t mind being 45 and I don’t mind looking 45, but it doesn’t feel great to be asked if I qualify for the senior discount. But no! I was going to be part of informing people! I was going to be the change!

So I went to Twitter. Twitter, for those who don’t know, is where you can fix society with one tweet.

I wisely posted my picture again with the following text. “Took this of me for my mom’s 73rd. Someone said she looked great for 73. I want to hide away, but no. This is what 45 looks like. #NoMakeup #NoDye #NoBotox.”

I realized the #NoMakeup part wasn’t strictly true, but with only so many characters allowed on Twitter, why quibble?

There. Fixed society.

Logged in the next morning. Someone retweeted me! Here we go! I clicked to watch society changing! I clicked to see history in the making! I clicked for real women everywhere!

There was my tweet. There was my picture. There was the retweeter’s quote. “This is what a no-makeup person looks like at 73!”

I give up. I’m just going to tell people I’m 73. Don’t I look amazing?

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What to Worry About A to Z

There’s always something to worry about. I’m an expert. But how can I use my expertise to help others? I know! Here’s a list for those times you feel disconcertingly at ease. One of these things is sure to strike a chord and get you back to your usual panicky self.

Allergies 

Did you know that you can develop life-threatening allergies at any time? I had a friend who wasn’t allergic to bees, and then she was. She almost died. Next time you get stung, you probably will, too.

Branches

Falling trees kill a hundred Americans a year. Okay, that’s not as many as I thought it would be, but still, one of those hundred could be you. Tread carefully.

Cancer

But if you don’t use those trees for shade, thereby avoiding the branches, you’ll probably get melanoma and die.

Car Accidents 

So you probably won’t get stung by a bee today, and you might not walk under trees, and melanoma won’t get you immediately, but chances are you’ll get in a car very soon. And you’ll probably die.

E. Coli

Did you eat today? Anything at all? It probably had E. coli on it. You’ll probably die.

Fires

Did you unplug the toaster? Are you sure? Did your neighbors unplug their toasters?

Global Climate Change

Hope you can swim.

Guns

You don’t even have to be near one. A stray bullet could come through your living room wall right now.

Hantavirus

Breathe near the wrong mouse’s poop, and bam.

Infection

Is it supposed to turn that color around a cut? You know, some infections are resistant to antibiotics. This one probably is.

Jazz

”Lisa, stay away from that jazz man!” When was Marge Simpson ever wrong?

Kryptonite

I see you smirking at this list, Superman. Not so funny now, is it?

Legionnaires’ Disease 

Breathe while digging in the wrong soil or standing near the wrong water mister, and bam.

Leukemia

If you don’t get melanoma, there are plenty of other kinds of cancer. Do you feel fatigued a lot? You probably have leukemia. You’ll probably die.

Medication

Have you SEEN the list of side effects? If you take a medication, you’re probably going to die.

No One Likes You

You’ll probably die from one of the things on this list, and you’ll probably die alone.

Otters

The one animal you thought would never attack you, right? Think again. (Seriously. Google it.)

Paranoia

Is it true that no one likes you? When you tried to think of something to worry about that starts with “P,” all you could think of was “pee.” Are you paranoid to worry about what people would think of that? Will people think this blog is funny? Are you paranoid because you don’t want to go inner tubing on the river anymore because of that otter thing? There’s also that dangerous bacteria in the river sometimes. You should definitely worry about whether or not people think you are paranoid.

Rivers

See above.

Strangers

This is a handy one because strangers are almost everywhere. If you can’t find something to worry about, you’ve always got strangers. One seems to attack someone about every week in my town. And don’t think you can stay in your house with your doors locked to avoid worry, because you’re more likely to fall in your bathroom than be hit by a falling tree branch.

Tubs

See above.

Tubas

Obvi.

Worry

Still worrying about whether people think you’re paranoid? If worry doesn’t make everyone not like you, it will at least give you a heart attack or something. You should be worried about your worry.

Zoos

I put this because I said it was A to Z. But now that I think about it…

 

 

 

 

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Why You Should Never Tell Anyone Anything Ever

ONE. THEY TRY TO HELP.

I answered the phone. My parents are, of course, the only people who make actual phone calls anymore.

“How is your ear?” My mom asked. “Do you feel tired in general?”

“I think it’s mostly mental,” I said. “I’m just so tired of appointments.”

“Well you have to go.”

No shit. Note to self: Always say “I’m fine,” to Mom.

I was 18 when the movie White Men Can’t Jump came out. I remember exactly one thing from that movie. Rosie Perez and Woody Harrelson are in bed and Rosie says, “Billy I’m thirsty.” Billy (Woody) says he’ll get her a drink, and she gets mad because instead of offering to get a drink he should have said “I, too, have thirsted.” At 18 I thought this was ridiculous, and it kind of is, but I didn’t understand the truth behind the circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, I accept my mom’s help a lot, but people don’t always want to hear solutions. They want to hear, “That sucks.” Or in this case, “I, too, hate having eight doctor’s appointments in one month.”

I messaged a friend with my mom irritation. No reply.

TWO. THEY DON’T TRY TO HELP.

I guess there’s no pleasing me. My mom said the wrong thing, and my friend said nothing at all, leaving me to feel like I’m a needy friend who messages complaints too much. I’m a terrible friend. And I’m a terrible daughter. My mom does so much for me! She brings me food and drives my kid places and takes me clothes shopping! Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?

The next day I ditched the doctor, because no one including my mom tells me what I have to do, and also it was going to be one of the last summery days at our Northern California beach.

Someone else texted me before I left for the beach. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m going to the beach instead of the doctor, and if I die of infection, oh well.”

A minute later I received MY TEXT QUOTED BACK TO ME, followed by, “Sorry, wrong button.”

“Did you just try to send my text to my sister?”

“I’m concerned about you.”

“Well please don’t do that.”

“Well when you talk about dying…”

“Okay, I won’t say things like that to you anymore.”

THREE. THEY TELL OTHER PEOPLE.

That is not the first time I’ve found out someone told other people what I’ve said to them. I’m keeping some doozies of secrets, people. It is possible. But what I’ve realized, rather late in life, is that if you don’t want everyone to know, don’t tell anyone. Not one person. I have considered going to counseling for the secrecy aspect, but 1) they don’t keep EVERYthing a secret, and 2) I know what they’d recommend, and the things they’d recommend that I want to do, I’m doing, and the things they’d recommend that I don’t want to do, I don’t want to do.

It turns out I’m a pretty good person to tell my stuff to. I never ignore myself, and if I say the wrong thing, I just tell myself to shut up.

So how am I? I’m fine. My ear is fine, my relationships are peachy, and life is fucking great.

How are you?

 

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Nine Books That Changed My Life

M.L. Millard Books and Writing

If I were going to list my favorite books, this list would include Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, the novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and some of Wendy Mass’s middle grade and young adult novels, but I wanted to make a list of books that positively changed my life in less subtle ways than the change that comes simply from reading a beautiful book. These are in no particular order.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

As a kid in the early 80’s, there weren’t too many girl main characters I could identify with. These days, great girl characters abound, but not so long ago they were almost as rare as female American presidents. And the secondary female characters were never anything like me. Then came Harriet. Harriet, much like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Madeleine L’Engles’ Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, was a MESS. I loved her. I loved…

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You have pee in your bladder.

You’re stuck in the car.

You hope there’s a bathroom.

You hope it’s not far.

So with pee in your bladder and awkward-crossed thighs

You stop at McDonald’s and guilt-buy some fries.

The bathroom is customers only, you see

‘Cause God forbid women do something for free.

You’re back on the road for not half an hour more

When your bladder sends signals you cannot ignore.

And because your cloth car seat you don’t want to douse

You wonder if someone nice lives in that house.

“It might be a murderous, creepy ex-con,”

You think to yourself and decide to drive on.

“Fuck this small bladder, its two-teaspoon yield!

Am I gonna have to squat down in a field?”

You wish once again you could pee in a cup

Or had one of those things where girls pee standing up.

You wonder if this is where all your pride ends.

You wonder if you should start wearing Depends.

But what’s that ahead? A remote port-a-pot?

Do you care who it’s for? No you fucking do not!

No, you screech to a halt and though part of you dies

You just hold your damn breath and you ward off the flies

And you open the door and you don’t look below

And you think to yourself Oh the Places You’ll Go.

 

 

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Master of Tai Chi (warm-up exercises)

Several years ago I bought a tai chi DVD. Aerobic exercise makes me feel like I have a heart problem, and I know I’d hurt myself on exercise contraptions. (Friends no more clumsy than me have broken their feet dropping weights and injured joints falling off the treadmill. The threat is real.) Walking always seemed like enough exercise to me, so I don’t remember why I bought the video, but I ended up loving it. Not aerobic, no bone-crushing items.

One thing I loved about tai chi was that you always keep your spine straight. Your hips, shoulders, and head stay in alignment. You never twist or bend. Knees stay slightly (or more) bent, and you breathe deeply and slowly at all times. Some of the warm-up exercises involve staying in a bent-knee position and staring straight ahead for as long as your legs can do it. Perfect for me! I can stare at a wall for hours and not get bored. It’s one of my strengths. Unfortunately my legs can only handle it for a couple minutes.

Another thing I love about tai chi is that when I do it before leaving the house, for the rest of the day I breathe more deeply and do everything with better posture than usual. I’m one of those people who will melt into your couch when you invite me over. I might lie down. Sitting up is exhausting. But if I’ve done tai chi, I’m a model guest. Not nearly as embarrassing unless one of your other guests voted for He Who Must Not Be Named.

The video has six or seven warm-up exercises and then the “form,” which is what you see people doing in the park and think “Hey there’s someone doing tai chi,” but if you think about doing it in the park yourself you imagine everyone thinking “Hey, there’s a crazy person.”

So I stayed in my living room, blinds closed, and did “play guitar” and “snake creeps down” and got better and better at crouching lower and staring at the wall longer. The prep exercises were going great, so I moved on to the form. The guy in the video did a move and then pivoted. I pivoted, too, and here’s where the problem with tai chi videos becomes evident. At this point you have to turn your head to see the TV. I thought, “I’ll just turn it for a second and then get right back in position.” I turned my head and everything felt out of alignment. My body said “THIS is not tai chi, you idiot!” It didn’t matter anyway. Looking for a second didn’t help. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing by looking for a second.

Next I tried watching the video for a few seconds, pausing the video, and doing that portion of the form. It was no use. I had to watch each three second clip dozens of times and still wasn’t sure I was moving the right way. Short of having a TV on each wall, I’m not going to be able to learn the form from that video. A class would be nice, but there are none near me during the day, I’m busy evenings, and I’m cheap anyway.

So years later I’m quite the tai chi prep expert. Coming to a park near you.

 

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Mary Did You Know? Why Yes, I Did

Long before I heard the word “mansplaining,” I had a vague dislike of the song “Mary Did You Know.”

I can’t be the first to point out to the song’s (male) composer what the angel said to Mary in Luke chapter one:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

I can hear the conversation between Mary and songwriter Mark Lowry now.

“Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?”

“Yes, that’s almost exactly what an angel told me. So, yes.”

“Mary did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?”

“Well since he’s the ‘son of the Most High’ it doesn’t take much imagination to guess that. Also, angels have trodden the earth, so, you  know, haven’t we all.”

“Well, did you know that he’s come to make you new?”

“Listen, have you ever had a baby? Have you ever known a woman who had a baby? It changes your life even if you have a run-of-the-mill baby. Women don’t tell men this because we don’t want you to be envious and because you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway. So, yes, I knew. Yes.”

“Well did you know—”

“An. Angel. Talked. To. Me.”

“Okay, okay, forget about the song. Hey Mary?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know you were blessed.”

“Yes. Also, I knew you were going to say that.”

“You did?”

“Yes. Read Luke 1:48.”

 

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