That Will Never Happen To Me
Ever notice the brown and/or grey spots on the arms and hands, even on faces or necks of elderly people?
I remember noticing my grandparents’ skin blotches. I learned they’re called age spots and that everyone who lives past say, middle age, will start displaying them. And I found this disturbing. I’m not offended by the way they look as much as I am troubled by the very idea that the clear, fresh looking flesh that people display for most of their lives will one day take on a completely different appearance, as if they had to exchange their youthful body cover for skin made of old, stained cardboard. It’s like a stamp on the skin that confirms the individual’s transition into elderly-dom.
The yucky part of seeing this when I look in the mirror isn’t so much the character of its appearance as the realization that while it has been nice to celebrate all those birthdays, they’ve come at a cost to my birthday suit. I look at bare legs and am reminded of my first car, a Chevy BelAir, whose black fenders were seriously marred by scratches and rust, a consequence of too many parking-lot encounters and at least two decades of exposure to summer rains and winter snows.
That’ll never happen to me. That was my pledge several years ago when I realized that the appearance of the outside of my body would undergo some unwanted changes if and when I survived through enough seasons. The plan to use skin cream on a regular basis was one of those ideas that, despite my good intentions, never become habit.
We can, of course, do a lot to maintain a youthful appearance, even though we might have been around since Truman was president. Regular exercise and intelligent diet will keep the midsection from stretching too far beyond the bounds established between chest and lower extremities. Those good practices also can keep a body fairly energetic and flexible. But as long as you move around in this world, working, playing, traveling and doing most everything else under the sun, exposure to the elements eventually will mark the most visible parts of your body, and parts that are only visible when we’re in swim suits, with the revelation that you’re now old.
What can be done about that?
Here’s my solution.
Wear those marks of maturity with pride! You don’t have to go to the tattoo artist to have your personal statement displayed on your flesh. You don’t have to get in knife fights or climb over barbed wire and acquire other battle scars to let the world know you’ve been busy during your years. Nature will provide you with all the evidence needed to make your statement, without uttering a word, that you’ve been there and done that.
I notice the blotch below my right knee, and wonder if—when I’m wearing shorts—people notice that its contours resemble the shape of the state of Massachusetts. And that long narrow discoloration on my right bicep looks rather like a smiley face if I make a muscle. The red, quarter-sized mark on my neck is not a hickey. But if that’s what it looks like to you, and you are led to conjecture that I still have a very active love life…well, that’s fine with me.
On both legs I display various splotches of different shapes and sizes that seem connected by the blue lines which appeared when my circulatory system started presenting me with varicose veins. When I look at the resulting patterns of lines and age spots I’m horrified to notice they resemble a highway map of eastern Arizona. Then I remember to be encouraged that my skin may reveal that this body is well into its seventh decade on this earth, displaying the proof that I’ve put it to the intended uses.