Tag Archives: 40 something

A Different Kind of Super Bowl Party

Today, while everyone is gorging on hot chicken wings, icy cold beers, creamy dips, and spicy chili slathered in onions and cheese, I’ll be guzzling 64 ounces of a pharmaceutical concoction intended to cleanse my bowels in preparation for surgery tomorrow.

Yup, you read that right. Surgery. Tomorrow. Lucky me.

Nothing puts a damper on Super Bowl Festivities quite like pre-operative bowel cleansing, but alas, I am a middle-aged woman who has given birth to three large babies. Internal organs and tissues are not quite where they used to be, and my doctor says it’s time to put them back where they belong.

When I informed my husband of the procedure, he cringed, shook his head, and finally waved me off, saying, “I don’t need to know the details!” Now, he merely explains the procedure as, “Yea, my wife’s going to the hospital to get her female plumbing all buttoned up.”

Apparently, my husband’s reaction is typical of similarly situated men.

Recently I was catching up with my brother on the phone, and asked what my sister-in-law was up to these days. My brother replied, “Well, I guess she’s going to have some surgery done….” Concerned, I interjected, “Surgery? What kind of surgery?” After an uncomfortable pause, my brother responded, “You know, ‘Lady Surgery.’”

‘Nuff said.

Now, when I explain why I’ll be laid up for the next couple weeks, I just say I’m having “Lady Surgery.” If the person I am talking to is female, she usually says “Oh,” tilts her head sympathetically to the side, then offers to cook something for me. Men universally cringe and look for the nearest escape. Either way, no further details are necessary or desired.

I never imagined I’d ever be one of those middle-aged women who needs “Lady Surgery.” In fact, throughout my 20s and 30s, I thought I was invincible.

I was proud of pushing 9-pound babies out of my 5 foot 4 inch frame without drugs (stupid, I know.) I figured I was Western PA “hearty stock” and could handle childbirth, heavy lifting, gutter cleaning, power washing, lawn mowing, and other strenuous activities completely unscathed.

But then, somewhere in my early 40s, I started to notice that women my age behaved quite strangely in certain circumstances.

When the aerobics instructor at our local YMCA demanded that we do jumping jacks, I noticed that, three or four jumps into the exercise, all the 40-something women ran to the restroom. And I was soon fighting them for an empty stall.

I didn’t feel old, and brushed these incidents off as minor inconveniences. But then, a year or two down the road, I noticed the same embarrassing phenomenon happening in other situations.

I used to really enjoy a good sneeze. That tickly feeling in your nose, the slow inhale as you surrender to the natural forces of your own body, and then the spontaneous blast that leaves you feeling cleansed.

However, sneezing in your mid-40s is a whole other ball game. When the tickly sensation hits, I can usually be heard saying “Uh oh” as I scramble to clench my legs together in a defensive posture. Inevitably the sneeze cannot be stopped, and I utter “Terrific” or “Lovely” as I am left to deal with the consequences.

Soon, hearty laughter, coughing, and other normal body movements became risky business. I started to think about my actions like never before. Mowing the lawn? Sure, why not. Moving the couch? Hmm, maybe. Jumping on the trampoline with the kids? Definitely not.

Suddenly, I was accessing my daily activities in terms of whether or not they might cause my internal organs to drop out onto the floor. It was definitely time to get a medical professional involved.

My doctor allayed my fears by clearly explaining the surgical procedure with both words and rubber gloves. That man could take an ordinary surgical glove, and with a few twists and turns, form it into any one of the assorted female reproductive organs in order to explain my condition. It was truly amazing. I started to wonder if he worked at kids’ birthday parties on the side.

So today, while my doctor and every other red-blooded American is out there gobbling gallons of queso dip, I’ll be having an entirely different kind of super bowl party getting ready for tomorrow’s surgery. Unfortunately, the bowl that will have my attention is located in my powder room.

But it’s OK, I’m ready for The Show. I’m at the line of scrimmage, prepared for the blitz, and I’ll go into overtime if necessary. I just hope I’ll make the conversion from Wide Receiver to Tight End without too many stitches.

The Paper Gown Blues

The clinic nurse pulled the curtain along its curved track on the ceiling and left the room. In the harsh light of the fluorescent bulbs, I spied the blue paper gown she told me to put on, and the clipboard with its questionnaire.

I stuffed a list of embarrassing items I was determined to finally ask this doctor about – that spider vein on my leg, my bowel troubles, and how sometimes I pee a little when I do jumping jacks – into my pocket and started to disrobe.

It seemed that, on the day of one’s annual gynecological and breast exam, one should dress a certain way. Like an undeniably feminine woman who is a strong advocate for her own health. So that morning, I tried to pick out clothing that was somewhat more feminist than my usual ensemble. My closet offered up only a pair of cargo pants and a green peasant shirt, but I feminized the get-up with a twisted updo and dangly earrings. 

I stacked my clothes in a neat little pile on the floor, grabbed the gown, and tried to find anything resembling an armhole. Inserting my arms into corresponding slots in the paper, I made sure to keep the main opening at the front as instructed by the nurse. I noticed a little paper strip resembling a belt. Tying the belt in a bow at my navel, I realized that the paper could easily rip right open with minimal force….

I wondered if the doctor was going to be handsome.

Mounting the table with the clipboard and pen, the paper felt scratchy between my rear and the green vinyl upholstery of the examining table. Hmmm…  Abnormal pap smears? No. How many births?  Three.  Any feelings of hopelessness or depression?  No comment. Current medications?  Multivitamin, fish oil, and Fiber Con.  Boy, am I getting old.

Just then, the nurse entered with the doctor of the day. He was an elderly Ethiopian doctor with a kind face and a no-nonsense attitude. He looked over my clipboard, and quickly got to work.

After years of these things, I knew the drill. I edged my papered rear to the very end of the table, and gingerly placed my cold feet into the metal stirrups. The doctor plopped onto his stool and rolled into position at the foot of the table. 

I stared up at the fluorescent light and hoped it would all go quickly. 

Peeking over the paper robe suspended between my knees, he asked, “So are you about forty-six? Forty-eight, maybe?”

“Forty-three, actually,” I muttered in horror. What on earth was he looking at anyway?

After a few tense moments he was finished, and popped up at my side for the breast examination. I had always been very modest about my body, even during my swim team days when I would leave my bathing suit on in the showers. Now that I was in my 40s, I was mortified at the thought of showing my bits and pieces to anyone. Three hungry babies and 25 years had taken their toll, so I preferred to keep my parts under wraps.

But the doctor automatically opened the top of my gown like he was opening the phone book. He examined me while staring blankly at the clock. It was over in a mildly humiliating flash.

As I sat up, the doctor pronounced me preliminarily healthy, pending all test results, and asked if there was anything else he could help me with. My list. It was all the way across the room, and there was no way I was getting up with all that paper stuck to me to get it. 

“Nope, not that I can think of.” And with that, the doctor bid me adieu and scurried out the door, leaving me to finally get out of that damned blue gown and back into my phony feminist outfit.

As I walked out of the examining room, I was glad to put the whole incident behind me – no need to even think about repulsive utterances like “pap smear,” “speculum” and “discharge” for at least another year. But then, I remembered: the doctor scheduled my mammogram for next week. Groan.

All I Want for My Birthday Today

It’s my birthday today. I really don’t want anything. Really. 

I just want to relax.  That’s all. Maybe a little sunshine. It’s been raining forever, so a little sun would be nice. But that’s it. I just want to sit out on my patio in the sun and relax.

I might want a cocktail while I sit out there. Nothing fancy. Just something cold and refreshing. Maybe a beer. Maybe a wine spritzer.  No big deal. Ooo, or maybe some sangria, but not that yucky mix or the fake ones that people make with 7-Up and bad wine. One of the real ones that has been sitting on fruit all day long. Yea, that would be good.

But I do like frozen drinks when it is sunny too. Like a strawberry daiquiri or a frozen margarita. Just the basic ones. Oh, but I know what would be good – a Lemon Drop with real squeezed lemon or a Mojito with the fresh mint and crushed limes. I love those things. Or maybe one of those Pink Lemonades made out of cold Limón cello and cranberry juice. Oo, now that’s the ticket.

But I wouldn’t want to be pathetic sitting out there in the sun all by myself, so maybe it would be good if a friend sat with me. But I wouldn’t want to put anyone out or make them feel obligated. Just a good friend who isn’t just trying to get the check in the box. Someone who really appreciates me and likes to listen to my stories. That’s all. And it would be good if she brought the drinks so I wouldn’t have to make them myself. 

Actually, it would be cool if other friends got word it was my birthday and were like, “It’s Lisa’s birthday! She’s so funny and cool, we need to go celebrate with her!” Not the friends that think, “Oh crap, it’s Lisa’s birthday . . . I’ll just run down there and have a quick drink with her and I’ll regift that candle I got for Mother’s Day.”

Just a few sincere friends on the patio with drinks, that’s all. Although it would be nice if they all chipped in without me knowing and bought me something special. Nothing expensive or anything, just something really meaningful that they all knew I would appreciate, but that I had no idea they all planned just for me. That would be awesome.

But seriously, I really don’t want anything. However, I do hope I don’t have to cook tonight. It would be great if my husband would come home with some food without me asking. Just some simple take out so the kids get fed. I really don’t care. Just something light to go with the cocktails. A big Greek salad would taste good. It is so good with a bit of crumbled feta, and there’s nothing better than tzatziki with fresh dill and some kalmata olives. Oo, and some of that really soft flat bread that you can warm up on the grill to give it that smoky taste. You know what would be tasty? Some marinated grilled chicken breasts, thinly sliced. That would go well with the Pink Lemonades.

I don’t even need a cake today. But if a friend brings a little muffin or cupcake with a candle in it, I’ll be totally appreciative. I just hope my husband doesn’t pick up one of those store bought cakes I hate. I’d be totally happy if the kids cooked a pan of brownies. They would like that. I like them nice and gooey, and they taste so good when they are warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Drizzle some Baileys on top with a few dark chocolate curls and you’ve got a real dessert.

But as long as the kids get fed tonight, I’ll do whatever. I just hope they clean the kitchen when they’re done. I am so sick of cleaning. Just the basics – put the dishes in the dishwasher and put away the leftovers. It’s not that hard.  But it would be nice if they would try to clean it the way I do instead of leaving finger prints on the faucets, crumbs on the counter, and food in the drain. I hate it when they put plastic wrap over a huge bowl even thought there is only a little bit of food in it, just so they don’t have to put the leftovers in a Tupperware and wash the bowl. I hope they don’t do that tonight.

I just want the kitchen to be cleaned up a bit, that’s all. I don’t want to walk in there in my bare feet and feel something stick to the bottom of my foot like I did this morning. How hard would it be for them to run a mop over the floor on my birthday? It would only take a few minutes. Wouldn’t it be outstanding if my husband thought about this weeks ago, and secretly hired a cleaning person to clean the whole house today? It would be unbelievable if I came up from my birthday cocktail party/Greek dinner and found a sparkling clean house.

But really, I just want the kids to clean their rooms without me asking them. That would be so great. To walk back through our hallway and notice that all the rooms were clean and everything was put away. That would be gift enough.

In all seriousness, the kids don’t need to get me anything. Just a card with something sentimental and sincere. Not one from the store. One that they made themselves, and took the time to write something touching inside with cute handwriting. One that they hid under their bed every night and worked on while I was cooking dinner. One that will bring a little tear to my eye. That would be nice.

But no gifts. Only ones that they made in art class or something, nothing they had to go out of their way for. Like a little beaded bracelet or a key chain. Or maybe they snuck away with their father a while ago and went shopping for me. I’ll bet they all picked out something together, something I would have never thought to ask for because I never demand anything. Like some piece of jewelry that is stylish but meaningful or symbolic in some way. Or maybe a Blackberry. Or a Mediterranean cruise.

But any old thing will do, really. Like I said, I don’t really want anything. I just want to relax.

I better go plug in the video camera. It would really stink if all my friends came with the cocktails and surprise gift for the Greek dinner and no one had a camera to catch me on tape when I cry over the kids’ homemade cards and the necklace, and when I open the new Blackberry and the cruise tickets.

Just in case. You never know.

Tired? Boring? Predictable? True marital romance is a gas.

See this article as it appeared in The Washington Post on January 24, 2010:  


One busy night after the kids had gone to bed, I settled into my well-worn spot on the sofa for some mind-numbing television.

“Can you believe this guy?” I asked my husband, seated in his favorite recliner beside me. When no answer was forthcoming, I glanced over to witness an all-too-familiar scene: Deeply embedded in the recliner’s cushions was my husband of 17 years, sound asleep.

Normally, I would giggle, turn the lights out around him and go to bed — a sort of revenge for being “abandoned” for the umpteenth time. He’d eventually wake up alone in the dark and trudge upstairs to find me tee-heeing under the covers.

But on this particular night, I gawked at my dreaming husband as if I were seeing this for the first time. Is this the man I married?

Panic gripped my soul as I realized: We’ve changed. We’re tired, boring, predictable. We’re doomed.

One evening in 1992, my husband-to-be and I were at an Italian café in Pittsburgh, sipping wine and falling in love.

“I really want to travel,” I said. “Me, too,” he said. “I want to live near the ocean,” he said. “Me, too,” I said. “I don’t care about money, I just want happiness,” he said. “Me, too!” I said. It was a match made in heaven.

But maybe if we understood the reality of marriage our conversation would have been different: “I might have a lot of stretch marks,” I should’ve said. “That’s OK, we’ll just dim the lights,” he might’ve said. “I’m going to go bald, but ironically, hair will sprout out of my ears and nose,” he should’ve said. “I’m good with tweezers,” I might’ve said. “I have no mechanical ability whatsoever and will feel no embarrassment if my wife handles all the home repairs,” he should’ve said. “I won’t have a problem with that for the first 10 years or so, but then I’ll get really fed up,” I really wish I’d said.

But back then, we weren’t thinking about annoying habits, taxes and clogged drains. We were too busy planning our perfect life to be bothered with reality.

Our unrealistic expectations persisted after we were engaged. “Oh, pardon me!” my fiancé yelped after accidentally belching. Although he insisted that he would never expel any kind of gas in front of me, it didn’t take long to erode his steely resolve. Today, expelling gas is almost commonplace and happens as soon as the urge beckons. Mid-sentence, under the covers, in the recliner. “Why do you have to burp while I am talking to you?” I’ve said. “I didn’t burp,” he’s said, sincerely oblivious.

Before marriage, I preened and pampered my fiancé like a primate, manicuring nails and plucking stray hairs to maintain his ruggedly handsome good looks. I thought this giddy nurturing stage would last forever; I had no idea that those stray hairs would later multiply so profusely that our grooming sessions now take place in the garage and involve the leaf blower. The pedicures have become completely intolerable, because my husband’s left piggie toe now resembles a tiny hoof. One of the kids recently asked him if it was made of wood. I had to draw the line somewhere.

So what am I saying? Are we doomed because we haven’t met our premarital expectations?

That night, as I watched my husband dozing, I realized something very important: We did not meet our original expectations — we’ve exceeded them. Back when we were dreaming of a life of romance uninhibited by responsibility, stress and aging, we couldn’t fully comprehend the complexity and depth of the marital relationship.

What we didn’t understand then is that romance is more than candlelight dinners and adventurous travel. The foundation of long-term romance is really commitment, companionship and comfort.

Realizing this, my initial repulsion at the sight of my sleeping husband turned to adoration. And as I turned out the lights and sneaked upstairs to wait for him to wake up alone in the dark, I felt happy that our marriage is on an unexpected course to paradise.


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