Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favourite things.
Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favourite things.
When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.
-Parody of the famous Sound of Music tune by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
"You're kidding," I said. "I can think of a million other things I'd rather do with my money." Come to think of it, most of my younger friends comment on physical appearance, for better or worse, all the time.
I remember one summer (more than a decade ago when I had gained quite a bit of weight) bumping into someone I hadn't seen in a couple of years. My inquiry into his well being was rewarded with, "Great! And you -- you've gotten wider." I was a happy fat that summer so this did NOT hurt my feelings nor did it make me run to Weight Watchers but I was taken aback by the need to point out the obvious.
Sure, I couldn't see my toes or climb stairs without heavy breathing, but I was fat, happy and loved. That was the problem. My "love" could eat pizza, fries and chicken at 11 p.m. and never gain a pound. I tried to share that love but I'm the one who gained 40 pounds in less than a year. At least I discovered a love that wasn't superficial. I was loved thin or fat and by the same person!
These are the kind of interchanges that are food for thought for the ladies who lunch with me, every week, all a generation or two ahead of me and all who have never considered an injection of any kind (unless it was for medical reasons), let alone a nip here or tuck there.
Our reminiscing at a recent get-together (over their salads and my home fries -- old habits die hard), got me thinking aloud:
"This obsession with appearance goes beyond the superficial. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, 'I can't visit so and so because I want to remember them the way they were.' Although I can appreciate the emotion behind the dilemma, who are they really thinking about?"
Friend Jane concurs: "It's a different world today. Back then we had other things to worry about. My uncle had three petrol stations. One morning while opening one up, he found a 30-something homeless man sleeping on the bathroom floor. Uncle took him home and told my Aunt, 'It will only be for a fortnight.' Well, 56 years later, the man who came to dinner was still in the house until his recent passing. Uncle and Aunt were so good-hearted, they felt compelled to help this man who had no money or family. He outlived both of them and then I took care of him until the day he died."
"I can't imagine that happening today!" I suggest.
"Since we're strolling down memory lane," pipes in Ellen, "After emigrating here in '67, my husband at the age of 38 applied at Westminster Veterans Hospital. The wages weren't great but he loved it. He came home one day and said there were four veterans, orphans who originally came from Barnardo's Institutions in east London, who were abused as children and had no visitors whatsoever. 'Honey,' he asked me, 'would you mind coming in three times a week and visiting and bringing in their favourite soup?' 'Of course not!' My husband and I became their family until they died. One lived for nine months. Two were for around 18 months and the last, three years. We made sure that they were not alone at the end as we both felt that was the most important time for them to know someone was there for them."
Well, this just opened the floodgate of similar stories. I've known these ladies for a long time but this is the first I've heard these. I fear we are now witnessing a couple of generations that define altruism as a concern for the appearance of others rather than for their genuine welfare? I'm surprised there isn't a self-help book called Botox Soup for the Soul!
I find it all humorous but alarming on some level as well. The moral of the story: everyone's got a story. I do wonder what the current generation's will be.
Follow Donald D'Haene on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@TheDonaldNorth