When I was younger (by a decade or two), I remember my mother telling me about the dreaded thirty-five. "You hit that age, your metabolism slows down, and that post baby weight that always melted off refuses to budge." And, being younger, more naive, and possessing a firm belief that the rules of reality applied to everyone but me, I didn't believe her. "Not me, that will never happen to me. Maybe you, but I'm different. You'll see."
A year or two ago, a friend who had hit thirty-five mentioned that no matter what she did (and she was a Crossfitter), she couldn't get that last five post-baby pounds to go away. "Ha, that won't happen to me," I thought (older, but no less naively). "That weight will come off for me."
I never have trouble losing baby weight. Well I suppose that waking up at five every morning and almost never eating snacks might qualify as some trouble, but it certainly isn't anything herculean. After the baby is born, it takes awhile, but eventually everything fits again and I'm back to the same body I've always had. A little more stretch in the midsection, but mostly the same.
William is nine and a half months and those last five pounds just won't come off. I eat just like I've always eaten, exercised like I've always exercised, and been every bit as active and those five extra pounds just won't budge. I can button my jeans, but they aren't very comfortable when I sit down, and Eleanor has asked me multiple times if I have a baby in my tummy.
So, it turns out that thirty-five has happened to me.
I always thought that I didn't care that much about my appearance. Obviously I care about how I look, but I try not to get too obsessive. I've been happy with my body for a long time and thought that it was because I was virtuous. But then it changed on me and I realized how much I really do care about how I look. I care that I look pretty good for having six children, I care that I've worn the same pants size for fifteen years, I care that I look decent in a swimsuit.
Only now I'm not quite so happy with my body and I've realized that this is what the other side of my life looks like. I've always had a young, functioning, decent body that pretty much did whatever I needed it to. If I wanted to run six miles, I could do that. If I wanted to spend ten hours cooking in the kitchen, I could do that. If I wanted to have six children, I could do that. I was happy in my own skin because my skin was reliable. It was functional. It was attractive.
But now it has started to betray me. When my thyroid went south a year and a half ago, I accepted it with some grace. After all, aging does hit at some point, and it turns out that a thyroid's function is pretty easily replaced. Not as good as having a functioning one, but still pretty okay. Much better than cancer. But I do remember taking my first Synthroid pill and realizing that I would take one of those pills every single day until the day that I died. It was a disorienting moment.
Then my joints started bothering me. This issue still doesn't have a definitive answer, but one of the possible answers is that I will have to deal with this, like my thyroid, for the rest of my life. I was hoping to get a few more decades along before the chronic conditions started showing up. Like four or five more decades.
And now I need to buy all new pants. I suppose I could kill myself trying to shed those last five pounds, but I'm not going to. I like not worrying about what I eat and only spending 45 minutes exercising every morning, and if new pants can keep that happening, then I will just go out and buy new pants. But it is demoralizing to realize that one is human just like all the other humans out there.
And so it appears that my mother has been right all along. Thirty-five apparently does begin the imperceptible shift of tides from waxing to waning. I'm certainly not ready to drop dead and definitely have almost all of the energy, good looks, and vigor that I had just a year ago. The crows feet and spider veins haven't blossomed overnight. But I'm not going to get any more energy, good looks, or vigor and in fact it's going to drain away drop by drop and I'll always be looking back to that high water mark and not towards it.
I've always known that this point would come, but of course there's a vast difference between imagining things and actually having them happen to you - and having them happen to you for the rest of your life. The point of inflection is always a difficult one, when the realization has just hit but not yet had time to settle in. In six months or a year, I'll see nothing in the mirror but my body as it is and I'll forget to mourn it as it was, and my pants size won't be a unpleasant surprise anymore. Just like Synthroid isn't a new experience every morning, it's part of the routine. But right now, I'm in mourning for the end of a part of my life. It will end, and I will settle in to the new normal.
I imagine that this isn't the first unpleasant realization of mortality that will come as I make my way down the other side of that hill, and I will probably laugh at how distressed I was about the troubles I had at thirty-five. I will probably curse myself for taking so many things for granted that I didn't even realize would be a problem in a decade or two.
But this is the first time I've felt the gentle decline and it is disorienting, as is the first unpleasant experience of anything. But, I'll get over it, mostly. After all, I'm not the first one two hit thirty-five. And I certainly won't be the last.