“Are you taking those for your back, your neck, or your knee?” Kevin asked as I placed the super-sized bottle of Advil back in its place in our bathroom. The fact that we now carry a super-sized bottle of Advil is telling in itself, but more striking was the fact that my husband was honestly wondering which of my most recent maladies was causing my current need for pain relief.
Welcome to your forties, kid. It’s a bitch. For realz.
In this particular case, the cause of my discomfort was my neck. After spending the previous day on a particularly challenging rock climbing wall, I’d woken up with this very painful neck strain. Hahaha! I’m just kidding. There was no rock climbing. I went to sleep on a Tuesday night feeling fine and woke up on Wednesday morning with a debilitating neck injury. My pain was the apparent result of a condition known as “sleeping while 40.” It’s a thing. You can look it up on WebMD.
The best part was, unlike the old days when I would occasionally wake up with a sore neck from “sleeping wrong,” this time it lingered. For weeks. And it was weirdly localized to this one circular, dime-sized area above my collarbone, but the pain radiated out every which way, making each minuscule movement painful. It turns out with age, comes weirder and weirder symptomology.
In the meantime, I was continuing to deal with on and off discomfort in my lower back. You know John Cena? This is John Cena….
He’s a professional wrestler/actor.
Now imagine what it would feel like if John Cena were to wrap his hands around the lower third of your spinal cord and just squeeze the hell out of it.
That’s what it felt like.
Turns out with age also comes aches and pains reminiscent of unprovoked assault by professional wrestlers. And I don’t even watch professional wrestling.
Eventually, I realized my lower back problem stemmed from sitting, which is less than ideal on account of the fact that I sit a fair amount. Because I’m a human being.
But, what I later realized was, it wasn’t all sitting that was causing the problem; it was sitting “Indian style” or otherwise with my legs folded underneath me. All of which would have been fine if I didn’t always sit that way. Even when I used to wear suits every day to my old office, I’d frequently sit on my office chair looking like some sort of weird origami figurine. (My mother would not have approved, but she wasn’t there to scold me to “Sit like a lady!,” so I just did what I wanted.)
What I’ve now, unfortunately, concluded is that the only way I can sit in a chair without having to deal with John Cena is to sit like an ergonomically correct office worker.
And no one actually wants to sit like an ergonomically correct office worker because it sucks. (Though, admittedly, had I spent the last 40 years sitting like this, rather than like a human pretzel, my back probably wouldn’t hurt right now….)
In the midst of all this, I went to a dermatologist to get a skin check-up. If you haven’t noticed, I have a complexion that can best be described as “pallid ghost ” and over the course of many years coexisting with that great fireball in the sky, I have suffered numerous sunburns. Some were accidental (failure to re-apply sunscreen after swimming) while others were due to stupendous idiocy. Like the time in high school I went to the beach with two of my girlfriends, both of whom were Italian, and decided to use their baby oil rather than the SPF 60 sunblock I’d brought with me. “I mean, sure, they’re Italian, with naturally olive skin that grows incredibly dark over the summer, and my Eastern European skin has, at most, gone from “pasty pale” to “marginally less pasty pale,” but Eastern Europe, Western Europe…tomato, tomahto, right? Hand over that baby oil!!”
And that, boys and girls, is how I learned about 2nd degree sunburns.
A couple more burns (none so stupid, but most of which could have been avoided) have left me with the need to visit a dermatologist on a regular basis to make sure nothing has gone terribly awry on a cellular level. This time when I went, the nurse practitioner took note of a small dark spot on my stomach. She suggested a biopsy and, lo and behold, it came back “moderately atypical.”
If ever there was a euphemism for my existence, I believe that may be it.
As explained by the nurse, this meant: “it’s not cancer, but it could become cancer, or it could become nothing, so… your call.” Wonderful.
My call was to have it excised so I don’t have to worry about it… until the next “moderately atypical” or “completely atypical” or “Oh, that’s not good” spot shows up.
Rounding out my “Month of Painful Realizations Related to my Age” was Walmart.
At Walmart, when you purchase alcohol, the cash register’s ‘check ID’ prompt appears on the customer’s side of the register as well as the cashier’s side. So, the cashier scans the bottle of alcohol, and the question “Is customer over 40?” pops up on the screen facing the customer. In my experience, most times the cashier will just hit the “yes” button and keep scanning. (While I’ve often found this automatic verification a bit disconcerting since I’m only JUST 40, I figure if you look well over 21, they are happy to just move the process along.)
But sometimes, oh sometimes you get a cashier with hate in her heart. That hateful grump will see the Check ID prompt, look up, activate her elevator eyes over the poor schmuck (that would be me) on the other side of the register, snicker, and THEN hit “yes.”
Oh yeah, there was a snicker. I saw it.
Last week we were in line with our purchases, which happened to include alcohol, when we came upon a cashier who, at least initially, didn’t seem very friendly at all. (I didn’t actually catch her name, but we’ll just call her “Jan.”) Well, Jan didn’t even say hello or acknowledge us when we first walked up, but as she scanned our booze purchase, she looked at the question on the register, looked up at me, and said “I need to see your ID.”
I was so happy! I broke into a huge grin and told her she’d made my day! She smiled broadly and then bowed her head toward me like she wanted to tell me a secret. Now that we were best friends I leaned in as she told me she was “just really worried about the ATF coming in” and busting her for selling alcohol to an underage person. Putting aside the fact that I’m reasonably confident the ATF has bigger problems to worry about than Jan at Walmart selling six packs of beer to 19 year olds, I told her I completely understood and went on to thank her profusely. I said it was just so nice to get carded because it was so rare anymore. As I continued to assume there existed a human being who honestly thought I could be under the age of 21, she helpfully explained that “the register asked if you looked like you were over 40 but I thought you might be as young as 35, so I figured I should ask!!!”
Thanks, Jan. That’s just great.