Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take A Good Look

Tired man
Originally uploaded by
Sophie Teunissen

Grief has aged me. And, I don't mean like a fine wine. I mean like an old mop, used to soak up gallons of water, in my case tears. I look at myself in the mirror, and even on a dry day, my face looks puffy, and my eyes are deeply set by the dark circles.

I'm going to step back for a minute, or two, and take a good look at myself in the mirror. Here is what I see. We will go top to bottom, it's not going to be pretty.

Warning: You may want to ask small children, and people with a low tolerance for reality, to leave the room.

I see a middle-aged, 50, man with salt-n-pepper hair. The salt appears to be creeping up on what used to be predominantly pepper. It's a full set of hair, but not a cheap set of hair. I have been paying the monthly feel for Propecia, read anti-hair loss medication, for many years now. Two out of 4 brothers in my family are bald, I didn't plan on becoming the third, and so I pay. I do save on the cost of haircuts, as all of you know by now, I am quite handy with a set of electric clippers. I use the same clippers on my two sons, and our poodle mix dog.

Dropping below the hairline is a forehead in fairly good condition. I have an old scar above my right eye brow, of which I have always been quite proud. It is from my early childhood days, of the time when stitches meant that they actually did sew you up, and judging from the scar, quite crudely. My brows have a nice natural arch, as I have yet to have any 'work' done, so there is no artificial look of surprise. Oh, and the forehead might have a wrinkle or two, a detail I mention less you think I have dipped into the botox juice already.

The eye lids reveal the beginning stage of some drooping. I can see that in the next ten years my need for sunglasses might be gone, as my lids might be providing a permanent canopy blocking all evidence of sun light. The eyes themselves are often a bit irritated, as I have failed to see my allergist for the past few months. I will definitely regret this come spring time. My pupils are often so dilated, that you may begin to think my eye color is black rather than brown. With the ongoing migraines, and lack of sleep, I am surprised that my pupils don't just take up all the space that the white of my eyes are used to occupying.

We are now back to the very dark circles below my eyes. In the past I have likened them to my resident raccoon, who causes me, and the neighborhood cats, great distress. I am the proud owner of two quite lovely air-bags, one below each eye. They actually come in quite handy when you are up walking around at night, and accidentally bump into the wall. The bags are so puffy that they tend to arrive at any final destination 3-5 minutes before the rest of me does. Okay, I exaggerate. Perhaps my ever increasing gut arrives first, but the bags are a definite second.

What do you call those lines that run perpendicular to your mouth? Frown lines? I don't know. Oh wait, speaking of lines, I left out the spider webbed nature of my crows-feel bordered eyes. Lets just says I'm become quite well defined in that area of my life. Back to the lines around my mouth. Something needs to be done. I'm beginning to look like a ventriloquists doll. All I need are a couple of screw and a string, and I'm good to go.

My chin. Correction. My chins. Need I say more?

There is a character in one of the Star Wars movies that is just a big blubbery character. He looks like a cross between a Halloween ghost, a seal and one of those wrinkled dogs. I believe his name is Jabba the Hud. Welcome to my neck.

My shoulders are quite turned downward at this point. They have carried such a large amount of weight throughout the years. They continue to carry a lot of weight, as well as a few grudges, but I'm working on that. My chest, well. It used to be my pride and joy. I am a somewhat small, and slim guy, but over the years had developed a nice set of pecs. Now they droop as if I have been nursing a nation.

Two years ago Michael and I were preparing to leave on an all gay cruise. This was the cruise we were set to leave on the day after he was diagnosed with the brain tumor. We ended up having to trade our lovely cruise cabin for a room in the neurology surgical floor. Anyway, going on a all gay cruise is definitely a lot of work. Yes, I said work. You cannot step on the cruise unless your abs pass the toss a quarter test. That's right, it's not just for making beds. I had worked my ass off that year in preparation. I had never been in finer form. My waist was down to 30 inches, and while I didn't have a six pack, I had a nice flat landing pad. Yes, "Fly me." These days it's more like climbing over a large mountain. Put some snow on me, and bring your own sled. We can have a wonderful time. And by the way, you can blame this on dark chocolate M & M's and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Going south, well I'll just say that jello is firmer than my ass. I'm actually quite amazed that these toothpicks also known as legs, can even hold up all this decrepit mass of tired old flesh.

So what have we learn kiddies? I am a mess. I don't feel too good about myself. If there ever comes a day when I decide to get back into the dating scene, well I better get my flab in gear, and start making some improvements. It's no wonder that the image we often have of a widow or widower is a very old and frail person. It's not that we are necessarily old, we are just tired as hell, physically worn out, drained of all life and energy, and falling apart.

Now, before I hear from any naysayers, I will say that I speak only for myself. Two years ago I could look into a mirror and feel good about my reflection. Sure I was at, or near, middle age. I wasn't trying to pass off at being much younger than my true age, but I was in top form. I felt good. I looked good. I was happy. I was healthy. I was proud of myself. These days I don't even want to be seen taking myself out for a walk with the dog. The dog just tries to convince the neighbors that he is doing volunteer work for the local senior center.

Time to get my ass in gear. Time to start taking better care of me.

(arms outstretched) "Take a good look."


  1. grief ages us. it's true. we take care of ourselves as best we can and then life hits us with the biggest blow. for me, i lost my magic mirror. i lost the one person who saw me and saw inside me, the person i was meant to be.

    it was one year monday night and all day tuesday. i had read and was told that the anticipation of the one year anniversary is usually/sometimes worse than the actual day. for me, it was everything i thought it would be. it was a loud echo of the worst time in my life. today i feel like a truck hit me. so i've aged again, or more.

    i understand, no, i feel every word you wrote. i feel old and tired. maybe the see saw will find a quivering balance. maybe i'll find the center and can stand there. but i don't want time to stand still. i want it to move forward so i can go find him. i want to go find my Dragon.

    you are in my thoughts, Dan, and my heart. rest. be kind to yourself.

  2. Michael used to say "hey Handsome" to me throughout the day. He made me feel so good about myself as well. He also made me want to take better care of myself.

    It's so hard to not see ourselves reflected back from their eyes. One of the pictures I have up in my bedroom is a picture that Michael took of me in a swimming pool. I'm just in the water, looking into his eyes and smiling. I love seeing how happy I am in the picture. I hope you have a picture of yourself being reflected back from Dragon as well.

    Love. Dan

  3. I believe the word that best describes what has happened to us is is careworn. We've been through the mill. The good news is, it seems that at least some of this stuff is reversible. A year ago, I would look at myself in the mirror and be surprised by the wild, scary looking stranger with the dead eyes and frown looking back at me. I'm sure that, to others, I looked like a tired, worn out old hag. Just recently, people are starting to tell me I'm looking really good. Now when I look in the mirror, I see someone who looks more like the me that I was a couple or so years ago. But, yes, I still miss hearing Don tell me how good I looked. It's hard for me to convince myself that I'm doing okay.

  4. Like Mike, you will always be the handsomest man in my eyes! Love you Daddy!

  5. it sounds morbid but i giggled all through that. i am just happy that another person is as critical of themselves as i am almost every second of the day. its a relief from my own self hate. i always think 'wow, andrew those are disgusting tits, why would you do it to yourself?' and i believe it. its my achilles heel and will always be.

  6. I think that we are our harshest critics. Many times I am surprised when people say I look good because I do not feel that way at all. Anyway, I hope you do not mind me saying that I find both you and Michael to be very good looking men - you made a very handsome couple.

    This post made me recall the time I went to the vet, whom I have known for years. This was right after I had gotten engaged to husband #2. The vet (older man, about 60-65) could not stop telling me how great and happy I was looking. I believe he used the word glowing. Thinking back, I probably was looking good. I was happy. I was paying attention to my appearance and clothing because I was involved in a new relationship. I was feeding off the positive attention I was getting from my husband-to-be who was very generous in his praise for my appearance.

    I am a little bit scared now thinking that maybe I will never look that good and happy again. That was from the result of being in love, which I believe does have the power to transform us, inside and out.

    Whenever I get down in spirit and body, I try and pamper myself physically. I enjoy manicures, pedicures and face masks. A good haircut has done me wonders.

    I don't want to try and talk you out of how you feel right now. It is where you are. But I hope that you might be able to nurture yourself a little with some pampering attention to your body in whatever way will make you feel restored. I hope that you can see that some of those features you think of as flaws, actually enhance your looks.