There are phrases that grab you by the neuron-hairs and suddenly you know you will never live without them. Such as referring to people of my particular religious bent as “apatheists.” Or to short people as “fun-sized.” Or, as my friend Mimi recently mentioned, in regards to my deficits in home maintenance, that the city of New Orleans recommends “restrained maintenance” on historic buildings, in order to maintain their aged patina.
Restrained maintenance. Snatched that phrase right up and jammed it right in the front of my brain, where my mouth can get at it.
It wouldn’t refer to my house, which is a chronic victim of what is called “deferred maintenance,” a phrase which allows charitable people to assume I will be getting around to it some day. People are nice that way.
No, restrained maintenance will, from this day forward, refer to my body.
I cover the basics. I brush my teeth morning and night. I take a shower every day and wash my hair, although at this point you could manufacture a whole new mammal out of what goes down the drain. My clothes look clean, now that I’ve given up on white t-shirts. I’m a good little wiper. I do just enough to keep the whole Murr project moving along. But not a lot more.
Part of it is just a reluctance to develop any routines that cut into my staring-into-space time, or the time I spend picking up pebbles to see what’s underneath, or the time I spend watching a bird in case it commits a shenanigan.
But also I have a suspicion the particular patina that has come with my age might be the only thing that’s holding the franchise together.
I know there are things a person could do. Persons do them. There are numerous products and beauty routines that most nearly resemble power-washing or sandblasting and perhaps people of a certain age—still young and pretty but anxious—believe that there’s an even prettier self a few layers down. But I don’t think I have that many layers to spare. I could go excavating for my youth and discover I’m down to raw meat and capillaries. Anyone who bruises in a stiff breeze needs to conserve. I don’t even use soap except on my hands, and a few (okay, four, counting both armpits) specific areas.
I trust that my dead skin cells are flaking off at exactly the pace nature intended, and if I exfoliated them all down the drain how will future generations ever collect enough DNA to resurrect the wonder that is me? [That is in the works, isn’t it? I could surely get my books published given an extra lifetime, couldn’t I?]
Nevertheless many people pay good money to rub their faces with tiny plankton-sized plastic beads specifically designed to go down the drain and into the world’s waterways, because you can’t put a price tag on a baby-smooth complexion. Or, at least, we won’t know the cost for a while. And other people pay good money to go to professionals for procedures otherwise unknown outside of extraordinary rendition.
Dermabrasion: the removal of perfectly good portions of our largest organ using a rapidly-rotating sander. They even call it skin resurfacing and stage tiny orange traffic cones around it. Chemical peels, using various acids, at least one of which is used to strip paint. Microneedling, which is designed to terrify the skin into mounting a collagen-based defense against future beauty treatments.
I just splash my face every morning with cold water and a nice scratchy line-dried towel and hope I haven’t overdone it.
It’s restrained maintenance, and I stand by it. There’s nothing wrong with me a good wimple wouldn’t fix.