I'll be the first to admit it. Overweight old people don't look good naked. We've got bulges and things that look better draped in tee-shirts and sweat pants. It's not just the extra pounds but at a certain age we start growing things: warts and moles and bumps of unknown origin. My husband can get away with carrying a few extra pounds. He's got the Santa Claus look---a belly that looks like a bowl full of jelly, and hair and a mustache as white as snow. Well, grayish snow that's been lying around too long without a touch up from mother nature.
Me? I sometimes wonder if I was once the Venus of Willendorf before she turned into limestone. Unfortunately, most of you will never get to Vienna to see her. But she has her counterparts in primitive art from all over the world---the fertility goddesses carved of various stones---so you can use your imagination about my figure type. Why couldn't I have been born back then when 'mature' bodies were revered and worshiped? "Hefty woman. Works hard. Lives through famines. Makes good babies." When the heck did that ideal of femininity slip out of fashion?
Fluffy women were still desirable when Botticelli was into painting nude women in the 1480s. But those wide-assed ladies with flat, lifeless hair wouldn't get a second look in a pick-up bar today. And Mona of the Mona Lisa fame, she'd have to drop thirty-forty pounds if she wanted to find a husband in the year 2007. Her beautiful, creamy skin and soft eyes wouldn't cut it at a place like Mickey Gilley's without a cropped top to show off a flat belly she doesn't have. Can you image Mona line dancing! There would be a few rednecks down there in the south who would make "mooing" sounds at the poor girl. Then what would happen to her famous smile?
I've been slinky and skinny. I've been fat and fluffy. I've been in between, bouncing around for a lot of years. I was probably sitting at one of the very first Weigh Watchers meeting in town back when they thought dehydrated onion flakes and pimientos makes everything taste better and bouillon cubes were a major food group. I've dropped in and I've dropped out of the diet and exercise crazes more times than I can count. Once, I was even on the belly dancing exercise program for weight reduction. No kidding. I had a hip-rider, layered transparent skirt with bells and other clinking things attached so you hear when your hips were moving just right. Okay, so I was too chicken to wear that skirt without a leotard underneath, but I still thought I was pretty hot stuff. And this is the kind of thing that young people don't understand about old people! Most of them seem to think we were all born with our gray hair, wrinkles and extra pounds. They don't look a Mrs. Santa Claus figure type like me and see a person who could have dreamed of owning a belly button jewel that would dazzle the guys as it moved up and down and around. They don't see an old man in a wheelchair, like my husband, and think to themselves that he was probably a hot piece of eye candy in his prime.
Growing older and imperfect makes you feel like you're also growing invisible. I'll bet I could walk into a bank in broad daylight and rob it and no one but the security camera could describe me. I hate feeling invisible. Even worse is being noticed and treated like my brain is operating on only two of eight its cylinders. "Here's your change, dear. Can you find your car in the parking lot?" Elvis may have left the building, but I still have all the bats in my belfry. Thank you, very much! And how does that young twerpy clerk know that I didn't come riding in on a customized Harley-Davidson Screami' Eagle? Old people have the money for toys like that, you know....or maybe you don't know because you're---gasp!---one of those young people.
Back when I was young and dreaming of fame at the end of a paint brush, I took a lot of life figure drawing and painting classes. They used to hire all types of people to pose nude. Fat ones, old ones and models with wrinkles and rolls were the most fun to draw and paint. So, I'm debating a decision: I either get back into Weight Watchers and I start a diet, or I go get a job posing for a life figure drawing class. The young people there would not only HAVE to look at me, they'd have to PAY to look at me as I lounged wearing nothing else but a Mona Lisa-like smile. And that smile would say it all: "One day, kids, you're going to look just like me."
By Jean Riva
Jean's main passion in the writing world centers around educating the general population about stroke related language disorders, caregiving issues, and growing older---often using humor to do so.