If you like it, put a ring through it

In December, my daughter turned 18. In October, I’ll turn 50. Oh, how old I feel.

Aging sucks but, as they say, it beats the alternative, so I’m attempting to embrace it with good grace. Part of that good grace is accepting the reality of my first statement, which is I am actually the mother of an adult-age human being. And being such, she announced that in honor of her birthday, she’d like to do “something 18.”

Uh-oh, I thought, steeling myself for a discussion about tattoos. But no, she had her sights set on piercing her nose. So what ensued thereafter was a long amusing conversation wherein I questioned her desire to be tagged like an animal, and indicated that my approval would only be forthcoming if she’d consent to have the procedure completed by a qualified veterinarian.

Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t particularly amused.

But after torturing her a bit, we agreed that the piercing would be accepted, but only after I’d extracted the promise that she wouldn’t nag, cajole, beg, or plead that I agree to a tattoo and the subject was taboo until such time that she’d both earned a college degree and was self-supporting.

And lo, it was decreed that a piercing of the nostril shall occur.

We hied ourselves to Bleed Blue Tattoo and Piercing, a dubious choice based upon the name alone. Seriously, can’t people in Lexington name a business without inserting indecorous body parts, functions and fluids? Apparently not. But to explain a bit for those without the benefit of living where I do, “bleed blue” refers to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the local religion which inspires in its fans a stigmata of fresh blue blood.

In our company with the piercee, Claire, was her beau fantastique, Graham, and sightseer brother, Christopher.

Here we are, ensconced in Chez Bleed Blue, awaiting the piercing by one Zak, a multi-tattooed and pierced personage who, truly, was a delight to meet. I asked him about his facial piercings, which he referred to as “surface” piercings, which I misunderstood as “circus” piercings. Ha, ha! But no matter, turns out Zak actually IS a member of a circus, and serves as ringmaster for a small local troupe.

And so we proceeded with the procedure. These photos, by the way, were ably snapped by the aforementioned Graham on his iPhone, and don’t represent the breadth of his photographic ability. Boy’s good; look at his website and you’ll see.

Zak sterilizes the area:

Zak crams a long, dangerous looking needle up into her nose:

And finally, Zak tags the young heifer … ahem, excuse me, places the nose decor into the nostril of the 18-year-old young lady:

As you can see, it’s a painful and horrifying experience, especially for the mother/witness.

Aw! Poor pierced pup!

Honestly, the whole thing didn’t alarm me very much; I myself possess several piercings, though all are confined to the ears. I just have five, and they’re in the usual places: the lobes and one perched at the top of my left ear. Years of allergies and the accompanying dripping and sneezing have rendered me totally without interest in poking holes and jewelry into my own tender nose.

But as you can see, a puncture wound seems to have made this gal happy.

May she forever be moooooved by the experience.

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Love and the application of lipstick

Like a good many women, I like to look my best.

Therefore, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom each morning, applying lotions, makeup, hair-styling products, and other mysterious unguents in a (more or less successful) attempt to make myself look slightly better than I would in the natural state. Which in my case would be a pale face accompanied by tired freckles, less-than-luminous eyes, and thin, non-luscious lips.

It’s the lip portion of my face that I’d like to discuss today.

My lipstick-wearing has changed and evolved since becoming a mother lo these many years. In my teens and twenties, I slathered on the lip color with abandon, never worrying about its potential effect on others. Sure, I was careful not to unintentionally give cherry-red lips to the men I loved (or at least smooched), but other than that, I lacquered up the lips anytime I felt the kaleidoscope that was my eye-shadow palette at the time — we’re talking The Cyndi-Lauper Eighties here — needed the balance of some glossy hues.

Then came the nineties, and my entry into The Childbearing Years. Once I’d produced an infant, I gave up wearing not only lipstick but also perfume, after experiencing the shock of receiving back perfumy infants when I’d allowed them to be held by over-scented female relatives.

But mainly I kissed my sweet babies so often that there never was time to even think about lipsticking myself. Occasionally I’d dab on some Carmex to ward off winter chappiness, but otherwise my lips were completely au naturale.

Later, with preschoolers around, the high-volume kissing tends to be reciprocated. You love to kiss them, and now they’re kissing you back. Double the smoochiness and lipstick-wearing its pretty much down to zero.

Then there’s the period in the middle years where they don’t seem to want you to kiss them all that much, say from around the age of 9 until about 14. Oh, they’ll put up with it a little, if there is no one important around — that is, one of their friends, someone around their age, or anyone who remotely resembles a human — and you get to sneak in a good-bye kiss now and then. But by and large, during these years, kissing your offspring is over.

Then come the teen years where they seem to crave it — then abhor it on alternating days. But never, ever, kiss them and leave your lipstick behind! That’s a death sentence from a teenager, right there. They will rub their face until it’s raw rather than having something as embarrassing as Mommy Lip Residue on their cheek, forehead, or whatever part you can snag before they flee. But oh how they hug and kiss when they themselves are in need of affirmation and affection! Mama’s need to kiss ’em and show these ingrates how much she loves them? Fuggedabowdit!

The only good thing I can conclude about these many-changing periods in the life of a kissing mother is that is spreads out the cost of purchasing cosmetics. Right now, with kids at the 8, 15, and 17 levels, I’m doing a moderate amount of kissing, and thus only remember to apply lipstick every third day or so. I’ll probably make it until Spring with this tube I’m on right now.

With no female relatives either in the possession, or in the manufacturing phase, of an infant currently, I don’t envision having babies to kiss on the regular, so my lipstick-wearing will doubtless increase.

But whatever the state of my lips may be, I’m happy to report that I am the satisfied owner of a husband who allows me to kiss him whenever the mood strikes, and I don’t remember any complaints as to whether my lips be lacquered or bare. He seems to appreciate any and all affection I throw his way, irrespective of whatever the state of my war paint may be.

Goober shoes

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shoes. Hey — don’t judge. It doesn’t hurt anybody, and looking at shoes online, looking at other peoples’ shoes, and mentally upgrading the shoe wardrobes of others give me something to do while I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, driving, or otherwise without mental stimulation.

So I’d like to go on record with the startling information that I absolutely loathe a trend shoe of the moment — the Sketcher Shape Up and its attendant clones.

This horror represents the apex of the goober shoe movement, which began innocently enough back in the sixties, I believe, with the introduction of the Birkinstock. Germans and others schlumped along in these things for years without much notice, and then sometime in the ’90s they became popular in the U.S. and suddenly everyone looked like Jesus, but with arch support. I myself endorse Birkinstocks and have two pairs of them — but I’m not saying they’re adorable or anything. I call them “serviceable chique” and will argue their merits to my dying day.

Same with Dansko clogs. Or, as I initially called them, Frankenstein shoes. These thick-soled numbers were favored for years by chefs and surgeons until, again, the general public caught on and they began popping up all over the place. I shalt not hate on the Dansko either for, like the Birkinstock, I have several pairs. I might even have a custom-designed pair with sunflowers on them. Maybe.

So that brings us to Crocs, those giant, rubber/plastic cloggie monstrosities that are so comfortable that I think that we shall never, ever be rid of them. They are too beloved by grannies and jammie-wearing Wal-Mart shoppers. The knock-offs are everywhere. Mercy, they are comfortable and yes, I do own several pairs. Mainly I wear them around the house, as slippers. Fortunately, they do offer some saner designs, which I can wear without spitting up in my mouth a little. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

Crocs cemented the goober shoe movement and I maintain, Sketcher Shape Ups sealed the deal. We may never be able to go back to a sane world where people routinely wear Evan Picone pumps and black wing-tips like God intended.

But back to the Sketchers. I will never forget  my first sighting — on an ad in the subway station in New York City. It was August 2009 and I gasped aloud.

My eyes darted around the subway car. Not a Sketcher in sight. And then … and then: I spotted them. A trendy New Yorker, power-walking down the boulevard, her poor feet clad in Sketchers. I knew it was all over. “Oh no! No, no, no!” I remember thinking “It’s here in New York! In two or three years they’ll be wearing these things in Kentucky!”

And so they are. They’re everywhere. I saw knock-offs in Target. People in my walking park are polluting the pathways. And just this week, I saw them in a place I least expected it. In church. Yes, at Mass. On the feet of … I can barely bring myself to say it … the priest.

So now you know. The Goober Shoe Movement is irrevocably here. If a man of God who most often wears black feels the Shape-Up is for him, we can only conclude that footwear as we know it will never, ever be the same again.

I’m sorry, Father — truly, I am. Can I interest you in this stunning pair of wing-tips, though? I hear they’re all the rage at the Vatican.

* * *

I know what you all are thinking and you can just stop it right now. Just because I tried on a pair — just to make sure it didn’t like them, mind you — doesn’t mean at thing. A THING, I tell you.

Somewhere, some Birkinstock executive is laughing.

Graying gracefully

Or, going salt-and-pepper in a Clairol world

Ever since watching a video the other day of the woman who’s had the most plastic surgeries in the world, I’ve been thinking about aging.

Specifically, about me aging.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve thought about going gray ever since my mother began coloring her hair years ago.

Specifically, I vowed not to.

“You’ll change your mind, Ellen,” she predicted. “Just wait until the gray starts coming in and you look old.”

Looking old. That’s the problem. Like everyone else, I maintain that I’m the same person inside. I may have changed some of my opinions, sure —  may have even actually abandoned some previously held notions due to two strange things that seems to have happened to me: namely, wisdom and experience.

That said, though — I can still relate to the thin, dark-brown-haired 22-year-old version of myself. I remember much of what I thought and felt at the time. Then, my life was before me. Now, a good chunk of it is over. Yet youthful optimism has not left me, despite the slings ’n’ arrows of outrageous fortune and other Shakespearian tragedies that I have endured.

So what’s all that white stuff in my hair? Do I look old?

Strangely, I don’t think so. Or more specifically, it doesn’t scare me and I don’t think it looks bad. Those coarse gray hairs have brought a little curl with them. The variations in color give my bushy head some depth. They add a little — dare I say it? — style to my general appearance that I think looks pretty good with the cowboy-boot-and-swinging-serape thing that I’ve had going on the last few years.

I’m starting to think how hip it might be to look like a colorful old broad with a lot of life left in her. Seriously, I realize I’m not really breaking new ground here. Like everything else that’s happened to me in the last 10 years, many Boomers already got there first and their brand of aging with style has already become well-documented — particularly in car commercials and ads for erectile dysfunction medications.

But no matter. I’ve already taken a tip from the best of them. Several years ago, a friend who’s about 10 years older than I told me what she found so great about turning 50. She no longer cared what people thought. She’d emancipated herself, she confided, from the shackles of others’ negative opinions. She’d do what she liked, wear what pleased her and generally divorced herself from the crippling tyranny of the judgmental disapproval of others.

So I thought, hey I’ll beat the rush and start not giving a damn now. By the time I’m 50 I’ll have gotten the hang of it perfectly.

So that’s pretty much what I’ve done.

I should add here that I certainly do care what I say or do, if it hurts others’ feelings. I’m not talking about blazing through life like I’m the only person that matters.

No, I’m talking about dressing to please myself, listening to the music I enjoy, going against the grain and completely avoiding television and maintaining a completely oblivious state when it comes to either college or professional sports.

And letting my hair go gray.

Sure, like Mom predicted, I might change my mind if I indeed start looking too old. But I figure by the time that day comes, I’ll actually be old, instead of just being a little gray and a little wide in the butt.

As my 40s spin out and 50 seems more and more to be an actual age I’ll become one day, I see also the possibilities of 60. As my mom heads toward 70, somehow that doesn’t seem like the end of the world either. And as I glance at my now-age-spotted hands, I don’t see imperfections, I see the hands of my grandmother — hands I loved dearly and miss every day of my life.

And becoming like her … well, that’s not so scary either.