I have discovered that, since I celebrated the milestone almost two years ago, 40 truly is the magic age when your body starts waging a Sandinista-style rebellion.
Oblivious to the damage you’re doing to yourself in your youth and all the time-tested literature on the natural effects of aging, you dismiss the warnings of your parents and middle-aged friends, thinking, “I’ll be fine until WAY into my 50s.”
And then 40 sneaks up on you like a kitten under the covers at 3 a.m. Forty has TEETH, man.
Your skin suddenly says nuh-uh to collagen production and yes to saggy jowls and eye wrinkles. Your stomach starts screaming “Hell to the no!” when you dare to eat anything greasy or (burp) spicy.
And your metabolism says, “Fuck you, that tiny piece of carrot cake WILL go straight to your ass if you don’t get up off of it right this minute and kick the shit out of those calories at the gym.”
Another fun little byproduct of aging that I would swear happened a mere few weeks before my birthday in 2012 was this: The computer screen started to get blurry. And the restaurant industry started making the print on their menus smaller. And my iPhone reset itself to a font designed for a Lilliputian.
You know where I’m going with this… I had to buy cheaters — those clunky reading glasses from Walgreens —in order to read anything smaller than a freeway sign. What the fresh hell is this?
Now, I don’t really mind wearing glasses. I managed to find a cute pair, for one thing. And for another, one fabu bonus to getting older is that I do not give a rat’s ass what people think. I’m not the geeky teacher’s pet in the front row everyone calls four eyes, so if you don’t like my choice of eye wear, you can just suck it.
But see, I totally was that kid. For most of my childhood. And then I took the glasses off. I was so proud of being magnification-free. No contacts, no nothing. And now here I am almost 30 years later with jacked up eyeballs. The insubordinate assholes.
Let me prevaricate, enumerate, exfoliate … er, tell you the backstory.
I was born with one crossed eye. (Yes, I realize this explains a lot. Shut your pie hole.) When I was three, my parents took me to what I later learned was a world-renowned eye surgeon to correct the problem. Dr. Harry Stephenson was a kind, soft-spoken man who did not scare me at all, which is saying something for a toddler who was about to get a muscle in her eye severed and then extended.
Being in the hospital for that surgery is one of my earliest memories, and not altogether an unpleasant one. I remember how cold the operating room was, and I remember being carried to my room afterward by a nurse, her soothing me along the way because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see.
I also remember her holding my arms down so I couldn’t rub my eyes because HELLO? That’s what you do when you feel something foreign and gooey up there. Also vivid in my memory is that she carried me through a field or woods, because I felt the wind in my hair and heard birds chirping. But I realize now that was probably just the drugs.
I also remember the blue, frilly nightgown and robe my mom bought me especially for the hospital … because a girl needs to feel pretty when she’s about to be violated by a man in a white mask. Seriously though, it was a sweet, lacey nighty, and I adored it.
My parents also surprised me with a brand-new Family Treehouse before surgery. That toy was one of my favorites, and it’s still lovingly packed away in Mom’s basement.
In those days, all surgery was in-patient, and there was no special kids’ wing, so not only were my parents trying to assuage my fears about the big, scary hospital through bribery, they were also trying to occupy me. You try entertaining a child under age five for three days in a semi-private room. Speaking of that, I remember getting shooshed a lot so as not to disturb my roommate. So, correction: YOU try keeping a three-year-old occupied AND quiet for 72 hours in an all-adult facility.
But I digress.
The surgery was a success, and my entire family survived the hospital stay without killing each other. Bye-bye, Charles Manson eye.
But there was a long rehab afterward. My right eye, which had been the wonky one, had diminished vision compared to my left. Dr. Stephenson was a brilliant man, so he spent the next few years working with me to bolster the slacker ball.
So… wait for it … I had to wear an eye patch. The thinking was that, if I covered my good, left eye, the right one would have to work harder, and therefore its vision would get stronger.
My mom, bless her heart, was more affected by the fact that her first born had to go out looking like a pirate than I was. She would get so upset when people at the grocery store asked her what was wrong with me.
Apparently, while wearing an eye patch was only for the purposes of correcting my physical disability, a lot of folks made the leap to assuming I was also mentally challenged. And boy, that really pissed my momma off.
So what did she do? She made my eye patch pretty. This darling woman embroidered a pink rose onto a white background. It was a masterpiece of fine art on a 1-inch circle of fabric. Keep in mind that I was wearing glasses at that point, so the rose patch had to be affixed to the right lens. I’m pretty sure her adhesive of choice was the very sophisticated Scotch tape, but one can’t always have aesthetics AND function.
I wore the patch for what seemed like an eternity. I did not love it, but I lived through it just fine. It worked, by the way. Every year until eighth grade, my prescription got weaker until, at my last visit with Dr. Stephenson, he decided that my need for glasses was negligible and I could QUIT WEARING THEM ALTOGETHER.
It was a joyous day with much, um, rejoicing. I recall a cake and balloons. Or a Ho-Ho. Something.
Anyhoo, perhaps you can see why I was so reluctant to get glasses again after so many years of hard-earned, damn-near-perfect vision. (For the record, at its best my lazy eye had 20/30 vision, while the old, reliable left one was 20/20).
Today, I don’t quite need coke-bottles to see my screen, phone, book or menu, but I’ve already had to bump up the readers once since the big 4-0. It probably won’t be long before I’ll need to wear cheaters AND use a 15x magnifying mirror to pluck my eyebrows. (For the love of God, if I start to go all Frida Kahlo, someone SAY something because I probably can’t tell.)
I know this kind of sounded like a bitch fest, but I’m really OK with my 40s so far. The good stuff about this decade more than makes up for the structural decay. I am the proud owner of glasses, a gym membership, Rolaids and wrinkle cream, so life is dandy.
Plus I may be 40, but I’m not dead … wonder if Mom still has that old eye patch somewhere? Wouldn’t it be fun to wear it and fuck with people at Kroger? Avast, and shiver me timbers!
Mentally challenged, my ass.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.