Thursday, August 6, 2009

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon

After my misanthropic, jaundiced eye on the world yesterday, I offer you something a little bit different.

In addition to all the claptrap angels type of email, I also regularly get the ones that warn you about the people who will offer you perfume and drug and steal from you or the ones that tell you about another health scare. There's a lovely load of rubbish going around about red lipstick. The redder the lipstick, the more deadly it is. Between that and the new deadly computer virus that none of the anti-virus vendors can detect, my mailbox gets about 10 of these emails every week.

I'm a bit of skeptic if not an outright cynic. I look at these things and start with the assumption that that they're not true. If you go to the snopes site, you'll see these urban myths and scare stories deconstructed. Invariably, these emails exhort you to send them on to other people and thus save their lives.

But the fact that our friends and families send these things on tells us a couple of interesting things about our interaction with other people, doesn't it? Firstly, we tend to believe what we are told in good faith by those who love and care for us. Secondly, that they care enough to send these things on. Isn't that good? So I try to keep my cynical gob shut or point them at a reasoned explanation. Of course, it doesn't always work and I may get a flea in my ear.

Back in my consequences post, I suggested that we have an obligation to care for ourselves, body and mind. Don't waste your doctor's time with the trivia. If an aspirin and a lie down will get rid of the problem, then take the bloody aspirin. But when we find an irritating little lump or suddenly active mole or blood where there shouldn't be any, we should take it seriously. And go to the doctor. And not be fobbed off. Don't assume that your GP is lazy or an idiot, but they're busy. And only you know your body. And if you really believe that there is a problem, be persistent. It may be comforting to be told that it's probably nothing. But it's not comforting to find out that "probably nothing" is now acute or worse.

So where is this leading? I followed a link and found myself at an amazing blog. Renee . This lovely lady has breast cancer. No lump. Did you hear me? No lump. But she knew that there was a problem and had this horrible nagging doubt for the months that it took for the correct diagnosis to be made. She doesn't castigate her GP because it's a rare form and the GP had never seen it before. Of all the breast cancers, it only makes up 1 to 5%. If you read one of her early posts, she describes the symptoms and so on. Don't read it if you're a hypochondriac. It's very rare. But if you or someone you know, has unexpected changes in a breast, then have a look at her post you don't need a lump .

This being persistent thing is particularly important for those of us in the "Invisible Generation". Fiftysomethings and onwards. We're supposed to be saggy and wrinkly. Everything's gone south. We get aches and pains. We may have to get up to pee in the night (you know I mean you chaps here). We're supposed to get tired. We're a bit more round in the middle than before. Ha! So some little reminders:

Blood coming out of any orifice
Big clue here: blood belongs on the inside. If we cut ourselves, it comes out. For the girlies, remember we get periods about every 4 weeks. More often may happen once in a while. Once you've been through the menopause, they don't come back. We may get a second childhood, but we don't get a second puberty.
That roll of soft white paper hanging on the wall in the bog should not have any red stuff on it once you've used it.

Tits, balls, come on, you must know what they feel like by now. No lumps.

Strange little things that pop up on our skins. Probably nothing but if you spent every summer in the 60s and 70s lying on a beach covered in chip oil and reading a bonkbuster, check it out.

Getting fat, getting thin
Ok, we may get a bit rounder but not enormous. And if a guy looks like the baby is due any day, don't start knitting. Thin. How desirable. Not if you have no appetite or feel full up or feel queasy. Indigestion after a normal meal? And we may be back to the blood thing too.

This is NOT the default option for middle and old age. Pain is insidious. What was a minor ache may creep towards agony but we forget that pain is not normal and we just learn to live with it. There may be a certain amount of pain associated with the knees, hips, hands because of wear and tear but this should not be a reason to stop doing anything in your life. And that includes a good shag. And if you're on your own, then your hands need to be your best friends not agonising little claws. How the devil will you operate the vibrator otherwise?

Tiredness and sleep
Sleep is lovely isn't it? I adore that moment of slipping into unconscious warmth. Sleeping as an Olympic sport is not lovely. It means we're missing out on such a lot of life. Being awake at 2 am with only your hands to keep you company is not such a good thing either.
Waking up over and over again for a pee is not so good. And for the gentlemen, when you go, you should go. Not stand in the chilly bathroom for 20 minutes, go back to bed and repeat the same thing over again.

My memory started to wobble when I was pregnant with Madette. I'm not sure that it ever came back properly. My mother had dementia. I know the difference. We should still have the same reasoning power and memory. It's not normal to lose your marbles. It's a terrifying prospect, isn't it? But it could be made better by treatment or, tragically, worse by other medication.

Having checked out that you can pee normally, haven't left any telltale streaks of blood anywhere, enjoyed a good meal, can still see the scales when you get on, don't need WD40 on any of the joints, are lump and bump-free and can still manage the crossword, get out there and have fun. Hang-gliding, track-day driving, mountaineering, dancing, shopping. Whatever. None of this is about immortality, it's about avoiding premature death.


  1. Hey! I just found Renee a few days ago myself. Isn't she something!

  2. Good morning.

    Thank you for doing this post. It is so important and had only I read something like this before.

    You are so clever and I love how you write.

    Renee xoxo

  3. Hi, I like the way you refer to us as the "invisible generation". I have a theory that women become invisible when they get to 50. I certainly did. It wasn't hard cos I was not that noticeable before. Invisiblness has its advantages but most of the time it's a real pain. My other theory is that this is why some women go for the "mutton dressed as lamb" effect - they get sick of not being noticed so they dress a bit younger and louder so that someone might notice.
    Sorry this has nothing to do with the content of your blog, which I thought was excellently written.!!

  4. Very, very pertinent post - and so well written!
    Have you read any of Barbara Sher's stuff? She refers to midlifers being invisible too, but instead of seeing it as a negative, she gives it a positive spin which is just so liberating: ie - you are invisible, so there are no expectations on you anymore to conform, so be who you like!

    Cool hey???


    PS thanks for the kind comments you left on my blog! :-)

  5. You are fabulous MBNAD! You've made me feel so much better about me, I'm only 41 but every now and then age seems to catch up with me, always at those times when I go to look in the mirror and expect a 31yr old to look back out at me! Degenerating skin gets into your brain and you start to think abuot what else is failing. But you know what? I can and do still ride my bike, climb up the odd hill with my hounds, get out the canoe and paddle down the river and sometimes mo, Other Half and his kids get a couple of blow up dinghies and run the enormous rapids of the upper Clyde for a cuople of miles.I think there is life left in me yet and I have to seize it and wear it out, better to be worn out and 80 than less wrinkly and wasted at 60 because I didn't get that muscle tone goning.

  6. I'm fascinated by the response to the "invisible" comment. It's obviously made a lot of people think about whether it's a good or a bad thing. It's clearly good when it lets you get on with your life without reference to anyone else's expectations but it's really bad when it conditions their response back to us. When your GP doesn't bother with the referral because it's just part of being middle aged. NO!

    Jean (how can you be invisible driving a FO great Harley?) and Cate (on her blog) both remark that you don't need to primp and prep for the young males any longer because they won't notice anyway. It's great not to have to do the "will they / won't they" fancy me thing.

    And as for them not registering you ... I am blonde and drive a convertible. As long as there's a bit of sunshine, I'll have the hood down and put on the deeply bling shades. I just love the response when they pull alongside ... and cringe. Tee hee.

    Right, I'll just go and put a dab of mint sauce behind my ears.

    Mad (definitely Mutton not Lamb) x

  7. Doctors are busy, true but I'm afraid I'm even more cynical, they try to cut costs. It's important to listen to your body and then make them listen to you.


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