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mature women


Not much can get a woman motivated to shop like a broken underwire, no matter how well-padded the ribs beneath it. It’s your ribs, your sanity, or your vanity at having to tie your mammalian protruberances around your neck in twenty years. It might be much less, but something must be done – now.

For you gents who don’t know, this is a serious issue. We’re talking about something that might, if done right, take off ten pounds and five years and add a whole new wiggle to your walk. My mother never left her daughters with much in the way of stellar advice on womanhood, but I distinctly remember one of her sayings.

She said it in Paris, right before she was about to enter the Guerlain store on the Champs Elysées with her gobsmacked 14-year-old daughter, who had just had her bottom pinched for the first time in the Paris metro.

There we stood, mother and daughter, perched on the threshold of one of the ultimate high temples of femininity. I was about to graduate from using drugstore body sprays to the serious stuff. A quantum leap on a par from going from cigarettes to cocaine – in less than 24 hours.

“There are two things to remember about being a woman,” she stated with all the solemn intent of a priestess of Isis to a novice.

I held my breath.

Never underestimate the importance of a very good bra – or a killer perfume!”

All these years later, on a standard August Saturday, I remembered that day – the Belle Epoque opulence of Maison Guerlain, the staid, hushed atmosphere at Caron, the Dior face I received at Galeries Lafayette, the sensory overload of breathing in Jicky parfum for the first time and promptly bathing in it.

Meanwhile, all these years later, there was this broken underwire. Serious stuff.

Nothing focuses the mind quite so effectively as the thought of an impatient four-year-old waiting outside a lingerie store. I was in and out of changing room and shop and in possession of two pretty underwired over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders in less than 10 minutes, and it was all the four-year-old’s fault. If not for him, I wouldn’t have ended up with 36DDs to begin with.

Next stop, the killer cloud of perfume. I located it, sprayed myself down to convince myself that I really, truly, badly, madly needed the US equivalent of 180 dollars worth of fragrant alcoholic juice with which to slay the unsuspecting, and just because of that broken underwire, I also walked out with the first tube of anti-wrinkle serum I have ever bought in my 46-year-old life.

Some day, I fully expect Aerin Lauder to thank me. Meanwhile, I thank her for putting the va-va in my voom today.

The virgin ingenue on the Champs Elysees in 1977 was very far away. The harsh reality of MoltenMetalMama in the mirror at 5 AM an aeon or so later, with broken underwire, crow’s feet and a lifetime habit of lifting my left eyebrow at the ironies of existence, was, on the other hand, all too close.

It is, as a character in the Effing Book thinks at one point in my story, a losing battle. It’s all headed in the general direction of the magnetic South Pole anyway, but I do want to delude myself into thinking that I haven’t slipped too far from the Equator just – yet.

The Buttkicker had bribed Damien with a Pixar “Cars” racetrack. he was kicking back at a café with a beer, Damien was being four and happy with his new toy, and as I settled down with a monster caffè latte, wafting slay ’em sillage in all directions, he found the tiny tube of snake oil.

“Anti-wrinkle serum???” he roared. “But you don’t HAVE any wrinkles!!!”

We have been together for nine years now, the longest relationship in either of our lives. Now you know why.

Ah, but it’s not entirely true. I may not give Catherine Deneuve any sleepless jealous nights, but life has writ itself on my face in spite of all I’ve done to avoid it. A South Florida childhood spent mostly outdoors and often on boats – check. Teenaged sunburn – check. SPF anything not yet invented – check. The times a friend and I tried to drink our way across Scotland in a Copenhagen bar – triple check. And Triple Sec. We were always done in by the Loch Ness Monster.

One day in 1990, I came across an article stating that if you slathered yourself with sunscreen every single day, you could quite possibly avoid 90% of all the wrinkles you were doomed for. I decided to give it a whirl.

Almost twenty years later, the habit is now so ingrained that I never go anywhere outside without burrowing beneath a thick layer of SPF 25. I have been carded in bars and liquor stores and had to prove my decrepitude. I swear on that hotly coveted bottle of Tuberose Gardenia that there is no painting of Dorian Gray hidden in my basement. A good thing, given that although I may not look it, I am, I can assure you, thoroughly corrupted!

Can’t take the Goth out of the girl, doncha know.

But now I’m a lapsed gothaholic metalhead Mommy with a brand-new tube of anti-wrinkle serum. I’ll let you know if it works. I might even start kissing on my mirror again.

One thing it can’t do, no matter what it claims.

Take the wrinkles out of life.

Thank the gods for small mercies!

Image: Auguste Toulmouche, “Vanité” (1889)

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I had a birthday two days ago, the “let’s just say this is an ordinary Thursday like any other Thursday” variety. This particular birthday wasn’t remarkable, not auspicious, not even very ominous as such things go, and yet, I’ve spent the past two months in a peculiar state of dread over – that Thursday.

That Thursday, that April 23rd, that otherwise very unremarkable day that meant I was one year closer to my imminent mortality. That Thursday, that to me seemed suspiciously like a “best before” day, which was a day that happened a long time ago.

My one consolation was that at least I wasn’t the only one. My all-time favorite writer, a long-dead certain Stratford-upon-Avon playwright of untarnished reputation, had probably been feeling rather weighed down by the floor stones of Holy Trinity Church himself for almost 400 years, and so far as we know, the poor man died on his – our – birthday.

It was the “best before” thing that got me. The idea that now – it was almost over. I have almost managed to cross the finish line in the mad, bad, estrogen-fuelled race called sex toward the twilight limbo of menopause and into that Bright New Day of rebirth beyond, where I shall be elevated above such tawdry, pathetic matters and live out the remains of my days in an ethereal glow of self-sufficient bliss. Secure in the knowledge that I’ve Been There, Done Them, Done That and now, thank God – no more.

Oh, no. I shall not go gentle into that good night.

I got the basics out of the way. I have propagated. My immortality is insured. If my chick-magnet four-year-old is anything to go by, a proud line of Viking and Celt heritage will continue down through the ages, perpetuating the red-haired gene he inherited from both sides of the gene pool. He returned from playing yesterday surrounded by a gaggle of very pretty girls aged from about six to twelve, who all cooed good night and waved as I closed the door. As he took off his shoes and dumped his cars on the floor, he looked up at me and said nonchalantly; “Those are my girls.” Sexual charisma starts early, and he’s had that effect since he was a baby of seven months, charming diamond-hard Copenhagen café society ladies from his baby carriage.

So in a sense, I have, by now, fulfilled my purpose. I should just retire.

What I should retire, since you ask, is the notion that it’s all over, that the fun lies behind me, that I can never be wild and wanton again. And apparently, that is a concept that is unique to the last two generations of women, the generation of my own mother, the feminists of the Sixties, and my own generation, which gave us the greatest trailblazer of them all – Madonna.

We shall not age and wither, so long as we can do anything at all to stop the clock. So long as the ultimate sexual currency is youth, so goes the thinking, then we shall forever – or at least as long as we can – remain frozen in some perpetual “woman in her prime” time warp – and to hell and back with convention.

I wonder, though. I wonder whether the problem with women growing older and refusing to give it all up has more to do with male performance anxiety and the unsettling idea that we rapacious, female sexual predators simply know too much – about the masculine mindset, about the tricks and illusions and smoke-and-mirrors they like to hoodwink susceptible twenty-somethings with. We see the bullshit, and refuse to call it roses.

Been there. Done that. You can eradicate crow’s feet, but not experience.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I do not look my age, because I have good bones, I rarely drink alcohol (blame an alcoholic mother), and as a former Goth, I’ve kept out of the sun for well over twenty years, 19 of those buried beneath a very high SPF factor. I agree with Catherine Deneuve who once said that past a certain age, one can have a nice face or a nice ass, but not both, and just as she did, I’ve chosen to go with the face.

The Buttkicker, meanwhile, has no complaints about the other end.

And it’s the other end that’s the problem. Because now, my generation has been dubbed a generation of “cougars” – a particular species of untameable mountain lion. If the media meant it as an insult, then yet again, they’ve failed miserably. Wild, untameable, voracious – and ferocious – predators, on the hunt for man flesh – what’s NOT to love about that description?

Is it because that after all these years of ubiquitous – and often gratuitous – female sexuality in the media, men (who still, by and large, control the media) are now realizing with a start that women can be sexual threats?

C’mon, guys. really. Lesbians have known this for decades. Not only that, men are hard hit that women are gravitating towards – oh, the horror! – younger!!! – men.

It sucks, getting a dose of your own medicine. Really, it does. Pity the forty-something male. Browbeaten by wives to become fully participating dads to a degree and extent that was never demanded by their fathers, and then – unceremoniously dumped in favor of younger flesh.

The bottom line is – we won’t give it up – that bill and coo of sex. It’s been the most – legal – fun we’ve ever had, and we refuse to give it up, because we ladies know that if you don’t give up on sex, it rarely gives up on you.

I lived a split-level existence all my life. My mother was one of the last true courtesans of an age – a courtesan to the marrow of her bones, and her eldest daughter, who never did understand that until Mom was well into her very early grave, stubbornly rejected that particular path, because it wasn’t her own.

“Pretty is good”, as my idolized stepfather used to say, “but smarter is better”. Pretty was my mother’s prerogative, I thought, so it was up to me to prove I had brains.

So I spent a good portion of my life buried in books of many stripes and colors, and then I went out and made my way into the world to apply practice to theory, and some of that included sex. I have done my experiments. I’ve dabbled in many fringes in order to define myself – political, personal and sexual. Some of those fringes have turned into the flypaper of my life and I got stuck by choice and inclination.

And when I finally decided that it was time to roost, and nest, and plant myself somewhere I could truly bloom, I found and married a younger man in the millenium year, because I’ve always been immature for my age.

The Buttkicker knows he married a cougar. He knows – and he appreciates it.

Which might be the reason, after all, why I’m blooming now.

Best not to forget – even after a birthday.

Because I’m not dead yet.

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