I had a hot flash on the Green Line a couple of nights ago.
I say this because I need to own it. A hot flash. Like – sweat pouring down my back, face on fire, felt like I was gonna hurl – hot flash.
I don’t get them often. I’m not full-blown menopausal…yet. But I’m pushing it, you know? I’m 45. Things are dropping, drooping, and drying out. Also, now, evidently, heating up, although not in a way that I at all enjoy.
I’ve been joking about the chin hairs for a while now. I have a pair of tweezers in every handbag I own. But with the introduction of hot flashes into my world, it’s time to admit that I am not a young, cute thing anymore.
And when I say this, folks, it’s not to invite an outcry of “BUT YOU *ARE* CUTE OMG STOP!” Because listen – I am 45 years old and I left “cute” somewhere back in 2007, and even then it was getting a little threadbare. “Cute” is no longer in my wheelhouse.
When I say I’m not “cute,” I mean that I am making a conscious decision to leave it back in the early 2000s or whatever. Maybe even back in ’95, truth be told, around the time I was still wearing, like, mini-kilts and carrying a Hello Kitty backpack….to GRADUATE SCHOOL.
I was faced with my not-cuteness not too long ago, when I was introduced to one of my husband’s coworkers. She was cute. I was….well, I won’t go so far as to say “matronly,” but I was rocking a semi-mature look that day. Big comfy sweater, stacked heels, tasteful jewelry. And I was feeling moderately okay about myself up until that introduction. Then I immediately felt like a dowdy, dumpy she-beast. I looked at her calf-high boots and her sassy little dress (Size 4, maybe? 6, tops?) and suddenly felt as if I’d outfitted myself in a pup tent purchased for half-off because it was the display model. And I wanted to slink away muttering “Bargon wanchi kox paa, Solo! Hoo hoo hoo hoo…”
I had to ask myself WHY – when I am ordinarily so pro-body-positivity and adamant that I should not be comparing myself to other women (particularly women who are a good 10 years younger than I am, because that shit is just not fair) – I immediately start in on the self-hate. Yeah – I know it’s conditioning. It’s practically hard-wired and/or arguably some kind of Paleolithic instinct to size up another woman as “competition.” Or something.
And this is when I have to remember AAALLLLLLLLL of the times I’ve looked back at pictures of myself at various ages and remember that, at every age, I thought of myself as a monster. 13. 15. 18. 25. 36. 40. And when I look at those pictures now, I don’t see what I saw then. And it’s like, I don’t want to have to be 60, looking back on myself at 45, and doing this EXACT SAME THING ALL OVER AGAIN. I’ve spent entirely too much time saying things to myself that I would never dream of saying to my closest friends. That has to stop.
But let’s get back to “cute.” I am not claiming it for myself anymore. I am not going to feel BAD because this isn’t what, or who, I am these days.
There’s a poem by Louis de Paor in which there’s a line (an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht an bhróin ina gnúis) that translates roughly to: “the girl in whose face is sorrow’s beauty.” This is something that I have claimed for myself, as DRAMATIC as I know it sounds to some people. But fuck it; this is what has replaced “cute” for me. It has rung particularly truthful in the past few years, as crisis after crisis has knocked me on my ass. For a time I was looking at myself in the mirror and thinking how HAGGARD I looked. I’m not haggard; I am goddamned beautiful from sorrow and stress and uncertainty. Radiant, even.
But cute? No. And that’s okay.