I felt both alarmed and heartened by this “Whining about Aging” essay I wrote over 18 years ago, on the cusp of turning 60, about the slippage of my cleavage. Now, as I am looking into the asshole of 80 years old in a year and a half, my cleavage is irrelevent. I will spare you a description or a picture of my saggy, whapsided breasts.
[from 12-20-99] I will turn 60 in the first year of the new century. Sixty. The numbers of my age never meant much to me before. I was strong and active and smart. They do now. I feel 60—weak and old and dumb. Used up. My software is out of date.
I wish my grandparents were alive to tell me their stories. I am keenly interested in their stories from a century ago. Who will be interested in mine? How can I tell my granddaughter Lucy my dark stories of incest and cruelty and outhouses and cowshit? I pick her up and walk her through the hallway of my house and point to pictures of dead relatives. Her eyes follow my finger and wait for the story. I can’t think of many stories that won’t frighten a two-year-old.
My textbook manuscripts are in publication now, so I can go to holiday parties this year. I bought a new dress to look festive, but it wasn’t the dress I wanted. I wanted the one I saw another woman try on. It was low-cut and a little slinky–loosely slinky.
“Oh, no,” she said, “I can’t wear this; it’s too revealing.” I saw that she had a clearly defined cleavage.
“It’s not too revealing for me,” I yelled across the store and grabbed the dress the minute the modest bitch pulled it off. It felt like my dress as I pulled it over my head—soft, flowing, muted colors, low-cut. I looked in the mirror thinking I would see me, but it was a woman pushing 60 who looked back at me tiredly. I looked for my cleavage, but the stranger in the mirror had no cleavage.
“My cleavage has dropped,” I said to the saleswoman and took off the perfect dress. It was a perfect dress for the woman I used to be. I bought a loose, black velvet dress with a sensible black over-blouse.
The woman in the mirror was not a complete stranger. I had seen her in a mirror once before. When my mother first got Alzheimer’s, I took her into a dressing room in a store in Magnolia, Arkansas. She looked up suddenly as I was trying to get her shoe off her foot.
“Oh, my land,” she said. “Who is that?”
“It’s you, Mama, in the mirror.”
“I thought it was a haunt,” she said.
That’s whom I saw last week in the Manhattan Beach boutique mirror—I saw all that I have been and who my mother was. It is sad to go into the millennium with no cleavage. I don’t know what will hold me up, but it won’t be tits.