Friday, August 16, 2013

Theory 13: As people get old, they morph into the opposite gender.

Delicious loves to “people watch” and often has me cruise her around town in Big Red, whip through Chic-Fil-A for a sweet tea with extra ice and lemon or dream cone and then park in front of Office Depot and Catherines (a clothing store for plus-size women). We enjoy our treats and observe shoppers. We note trends in fashion and trends in form. We often notice how as men and women age, they morph into the opposite gender. Private parts don’t change, but public parts get confusing.

Delicious had a student who said something profound once. He said, “As people age, they become caricatures of themselves.” Sharp noses point harder. Big breasts drag us south. Ears expand. Knees knot.  Our parts over-pronounce themselves and morph from female to male and male to female. Let’s just work our way down the human body, shall we?

Hair: I have male cousins—albeit they are handsome, stage-performing cousins—who get perms and highlights. Do they read Cosmo for tips on bounce and shine like I used to do? Some men pamper every last strand with Rogaine, “product,” and precise comb-over primping. God knows all the hairs on our heads. He’s in good company among many. On the contrary, grandmothers go for short, easy haircuts, and perm their hair up and out of the way. I’m 39 and already ask my Great Clips hairdresser to “Cut my hair so I don’t have to fix it.” Delicious counsels, “When women get real short hairdo’s they need to wear bright lipstick and big earrings so they don’t look like men.” When I was about fourteen, I ruined my grandmama “Fred’s” hair. I used a knitting needle to pull her curly-permed strands through a hole-punched swim cap before I lathered on store-bought peroxide. We tried toner, but to no avail. She just chopped it all off and wore a baseball hat. Her “do” was so short, my uncle asked her if she heated tweezers on the stove to use as a curling iron. Fred, donning her baseball hat and soft Dollywood t-shirt, cruised Pigeon Forge one day when a Yankee tour-on yelled over to her, “Hey, buddy, can you tell me how to get to the Apple Barn?” Fred lowered her voice to a deep gruff, “Just go through the next light and take a right.” The ten grandchildren called her “Buddy” for years!

Faces: I know; broken capillaries cause their rosy cheeks, but it looks like old men wear blush. Women get pasty and have to go for heavy-duty make-up. Delicious told me once, “No matter how much time I spend slappin’ on my war paint, I still look old when I finish.”

Mouths: Men’s full lower lips plop into permanent pouts. Women’s lips tighten to razor thin equal signs when they concentrate and wrinkled bulls-eye rooster butts when they fume. Especially the old ladies who hit the gas station every morning for black coffee, a sausage biscuit, and a pack of Winstons.

Voices: The male voice pitches higher, like a “just over laryngitis” attempt to sound normal. I think some arterial blockage causes it.

Breasts: Bras are mini-prisons. When women age, they become more comfortable with the way they look. Their priorities shift upward as their parts slide downward. Women want to be comfortable, dang it. They toss their bras to the floor and relax. May I suggest that their newly endowed husbands pick the bras up and try them out? I get self-conscious around man-boobs. Men, you could wear a “squeezer” (the label my buddy "Suspenders" gave to skin-tight camisoles that lift up and smooth out all the bumps).

Waist: The glass blower of nature and aging morphs female hourglasses into cylinders. Delicious swears she can wear her pants backward and no one can tell. We girls lose our rear ends. The round parts shift up and away from the spinal cord to settle like waist-high storage compartments. Like little hip seats for grandbabies! Men have this problem, too. I don’t know where their rears go, they just disappear one day. Call 911! Somebody stole Tall Child’s behind! I guess that’s why old men don elastic waistband pants. No more zipper flies and sexy Levi’s. Or, is the elastic meant to accommodate the cafeteria fetish? Meat and three at the early bird 4:30 pm special in buffet pants: it’s a no fly zone! Home in time to conquer Sudoku and enjoy a hot cup of decaf as they watch The Wheel.

Feet: Women kick the heels and finally, finally, finally wear comfortable shoes. The damage is already done with varicose and spider veins, but who cares? They can run(ish) with the wind! Men wear sandals. Sometimes with socks.

Clothing in general: Young women freeze. Old women roast. Young men roast. Old men freeze. I visited Delicious’s old Corinth Baptist Church (Georgia). The sweet, southern house of God ministered to one-hundred-some-odd congregants each Sunday morning. In many of the rows, dark blue and plaid throw blankets, meant for the men, lay across worn arms of aged pews.

In general, women expand and men reduce. That’s why I married a much taller Tall Child, so I’d have room to grow. From up there, I’ll hopefully look small, even if I am wide.

Body hair: Male stubble becomes spotty. Their skin smoothes to reveal soft purple-dappled forearms, calves, and ankles. Maybe it’s menopause, maybe it’s hormone replacement, maybe it’s just tough life experiences manifesting physically, but women get spiky. The next time you see an elderly woman, get close enough to inspect her chin. She won’t have a 5 o-clock shadow, but she’ll have what my Granny Wimmie called “whiskers.” This lovely new growth begins at middle age. I am on the constant lookout for rogue hairs on my body, which is why I’m armed with tweezers and a Bic razor everywhere I go. Especially in my beach bag. I forgot to shave under my arms once and, four hours into a 4th of July party at a country club, stretched in front of the mirror and thought, “Who are those little boys? Oh, no! They are my underarms!” Big Red and I get lots of ‘friendly’ honks at red lights. Look, I’m a busy working mama, I tweeze when I can. Ladies, just face the music. You are morphing. Lather up and shave like a real man/woman!
Now, the changes aren’t just physical.

Old men get feminine in several ways. They go to the mall, ostensibly to accompany their wives, but I see them jiggle and snooze in massage chairs with giant drink cups. Women simplify. They carry the same handbag year round and wear pretty much the same outfits all the time, like uniforms (shopping outfit, babysitting outfit, church outfit, party outfit). Men gossip at barbershops and convenience stores. They become hypochondriacs and worry about family relationships and obsess over the weather. Women take over bills. Men grocery shop. That takes some training. My dear retired father-in-law heard Bop say, “I’m out of baking soda.” He jetted off to Kroger and came back with a cereal-sized box of baking soda, bragging on his bargain-hunting conquest. Women stop cooking. Men get sappy and corny and much less aggressive. Women take risks. No joke. YESTERDAY, Sharky, the Gnome and I were parked and an elderly lady pulled out of the spot beside us and cut to turn way too closely to us. Instead of backing up, she slowed to 3 miles per hour and stared me down, as if to say, “I know you think I’m going to hit you, but watch me work magic little girl.” It. Took. Her. For. Ev. Er. Sharky had time to hop out and witness and swears she came within an inch of Big Red’s brush guard. Women drive, and men ask to stop to go the bathroom. Women play golf and men go to Bible study. Men answer the phone.

Once, in a gentle, yet wordy domestic dispute, a rightfully mad Tall Child joked, “If you were a man, I’d hit you right now!” Well, Tall Child, it’s just a matter of time. Just remember, when you start doing the grocery shopping, don’t forget my shaving cream.


All this talk of hot vs. cold, dressing up vs. dressing down, and gender roles reminds me of Theory 14: People try to force things to be what they just can’t be.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...