Mama’s wardrobe has been a little drab. Not all of it, mind you, just the stuff I actually wear. I tend to purchase items more for the imaginary life I lead in my brain than the one I’m actively engaged in. Thus, my closet is full of adorable dresses and beautiful, beautiful shoes while my body is clothed in denim and tees. My real life lends itself best to strictly functional, machine washable stuff. It’s depressing, I tell you what.

My birthday is coming up and for about a week beforehand I tend to indulge a little…loosen the pursestrings in a “What the heck! It’s almost my birthday. I deserve to buy myself a little present!” sort of euphoria. As I am both striving for a certain retro coolness and perpetually broke (though not necessarily in that order) I have been trolling the vintage and consignment stores to punch up the sorry state of my wardrobe.

There is a danger in this. Vintage stores are largely peopled with college girls. Perky, slender, adorable college girls. So while you (I) are wondering just when, exactly, the writing on tags got so darn small- clearly there must not be enough light in this place, I mean, who could read the size on this little thing and, while we’re at it, why are these racks so close together? -they are, quick as a whip, fashioning scarves into halter tops.

For the good of humanity, I did not attempt this.

The fact that I was able to co-exist in the same small shop as these luminous youths and did not slit my wrists on the spot was nothing short of miraculous. I felt, in fact, rather affectionate and gentle toward my poor, old, near-sighted self. Mostly, the odd truths of getting older have just made me chuckle. I don’t really mind not being able to read fine print. Finding a random, two-inch long hair sprouting from my shoulder gives me a shot of adrenaline more effective than any cup of coffee and I like my greying temples because they make me feel like this guy:

Yup. Even the mustache is coming in nicely.

I like to think that I’m all zen about getting older, but in truth, I probably wouldn’t have been able to exit the shop with such equanimity if it weren’t for a recent glitch in my marathon training program. Here’s the deal: my eyes are not the only part of me turning 42 next week. My knee is, too. The right knee, specifically. I actually think by some odd twist of fate or rift in the space/time continuum, my knee is, in fact, much, much, older than the rest of me. It might be the grandparent to the rest of my body, judging from the way it feels.

Mostly, I’ve ignored it and soldiered on. I know, I know, okay? Normal, non-neurotic people would take it easy and give themselves time to recover. But, nope. I pushed on, refused to alter the program and was rewarded with slower times, more labored runs, and a decided lack of enthusiasm for the whole endeavor. Stupid marathon.

It wasn’t until I looked down one day and noticed a huge, fluid-filled protrusion on the side of my knee that I began to consider a change in the plan. Let’s be clear; it wasn’t a healthy regard for my well-being, or a realistic assessment of my ability to recover in time for the marathon that caused me to pause– it was vanity, pure and simple.

Listen; I’ll never be the kind of gal who has “coasting on her good looks” as an option. I’m really more of a “has a nice personality” type, and even that, on a good many days, can be a challenge. I’ll be the first to admit that my bustline has never been a strong selling point and I have inherited the square, flat butt of my ancestors, but, dammit, the one thing I have always had going for me was a good pair of legs. A knee the size of a cantaloupe is simply not acceptable. I mean, what’s next? Cankles?! Oh, Hells to the no!

So I finally slowed down a bit. Got rid of the back-to-back weekday runs. Cut the mileage waaaay down on all but my long runs. I ice the heck out of that knee nearly everyday. And guess what? The sky hasn’t fallen in. Nobody came and ripped up my marathon registration card and repossessed my running shoes. I can (mostly) go up stairs without wincing and last weekend I ran my fastest 5k since I was in my twenties.

How’s THAT for a birthday present?

Once again, it turns out that the lesson for me is about acceptance and being kind to myself. You think that it might actually sink in, one of these days, but then again, I’ve never been the brightest bulb in the room….

…nice legs, though.

The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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