How to feel better about falling apart

Here's how I cope with my disgusting, sagging middle-aged body.

Published February 25, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Who said, "Middle age is the heinous and insidious conglomeration of small physical failings and defects that appear without warning and totally ruin your day"? It might have been me. I used to feel this way. But I have worked hard to develop a new and positive outlook about these things, which I will now share with you, so you will feel better too.

Unpigmented white spots on forearms. Compared with those little red, raised blobs on your chest and upper arms, these white spots are hardly noticeable. By the way, I'm guessing they're not only on your arms. Have you examined the fronts of your shins lately?

Red blobs on chest. These are barely visible from across a large, poorly lit room. Try to associate with people with limited vision.

Receding gums. What you are failing to realize is that the enamel underneath your gums has been protected from unsightly coffee and cigarette stains for the past 30 years and is as white and perfect as your toilet bowl above the waterline. Also, many of you have the problem of unflattering gummy smiles, and this will be alleviated by the gradual disappearance of your gums.

Crow's feet. If you've ever examined the foot of a crow up close, you'll see that the lines around your eyes, while they detract from your once-youthful looks and tend to act as foundation sinks, are not as ugly as the actual foot of a crow.

Unsightly neck cords coming down from jaw. These can easily be taken care of by cultivating a double chin. Don't want a double chin? Well today's your lucky day, because you don't have one!

Liver spots. They call them liver spots because you've lived a lot. You're a liver. If you'd done less of that living out in the sun without the good sense to put on sunscreen, you'd be a liver without spots, but never mind, too late for that now.

Yellowing toenails. Why is red a desirable toenail color and yellow not? True fact: There are yellow nail polishes one can buy, though only the young have the poor sense to do this. Did you know that this condition is caused by a living fungus in your toenails? Take solace in knowing you are providing safe harbor for one of God's small creatures.

Saggy folds in flesh above the knee. When was the last time someone complimented your knees? No one cares about your knees. If your ass is holding up and your breasts are still above your navel, you have no place carping about your knees.

Loose, flappy skin on underside of forearm. You probably haven't noticed this one. Look in the mirror while crossing your arms. See what I'm talking about? Remember, until 10 seconds ago, you didn't care about this. Why care now?

Unwanted hairs. Georgia O'Keeffe had visible wiry chin hairs, but no one remembers her for this. They remember her for large, vaginal nature paintings. Let this be an inspiration.

Vertical wrinkles radiating from upper lip. Don't trouble yourself over these, because soon there will be large heavy folds on either side of your mouth, and when this happens, you'll give anything to go back to the days when you only worried about upper lip lines. And you know what? You're living those glorious halcyon days right now!

Heavy, dark under-eye circles. Many athletes apply black greasepaint to this area to reduce glare and improve their game. You don't ever have to do this. That's a savings right there.

Skin tags. If you look through a dermatology textbook, you'll see that some people have even uglier things growing out of their skin. I heard somewhere that they don't necessarily all get bigger and bigger.

Gray hairs. Hairs coarsen and crook when they go gray. While some people feel that the frazzled, even witchlike appearance of gray hair is unattractive, those of you who have lived your whole life with thin, limp, Tom Petty hair will probably enjoy the added body.

Bulldog jowls. Don't let heavy jowls get you down. You know why? Because then you won't smile, and when you smile, no one can tell you have jowls.

Creases in front of ears. Police investigators use these to gauge perpetrators' ages in cases where it's hard to tell. Think of them like fingerprints. They make you you. Though if you've got neck cords, receding gums, skin tags and bulldog jowls, God knows no one needs ear creases to tell your age.

I hope that you feel better now.

By Mary Roach

Former Salon columnist Mary Roach is the author most recently of "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal." Her previous books include "Stiff," "Spook" and "Packing for Mars."

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