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.
“a nice scratchy line-dried towel ” That’s my favorite beauty product. I confess to moisturizing like crazy, though. Otherwise, the scratching is likely to cause serious damage.
It’s possible our weather helps with the dry skin thing here!
I saw your pic of your face with the moto-tool and thought I should note that a sanding drum in one of those makes a dandy tool for grinding down the callous that only forms on the side of my left big toe. The right big toe doesn’t have this predilection. Sometimes I use it to grind down my toenails, the toe cuticles and finger cuticles.
Back when Sam was part of my life, I the Dremel to grind down her claws. She was philosophical about it. Absolutely hated having her claws clipped, but the Dremel was bearable. She would lay across my lap and the only indication I had that the work was painful was when she’d jerk her paw back.
For whatever that’s worth. Thanks for the articles and the chuckles!
I used to have a dremel that I used when I had cockatiels and budgies, to trim their nails. Now I have parrots, and i think a dremel would freak them out. One of my birds will actually let me trim her toenails with a scissors designed for that purpose. As soon as Mikey sees me bring it out, she lifts her little foot and presents it to me. Then I say “other foot” and she lifts her other foot. Sometimes she grabs my finger with her beak but doesn’t press down, as if to say, “I could bite you, monkey. But I won’t.” She’s only bitten me twice — by mistake — by thinking my finger was a grape.
I wonder if you can just hold a parrot over a belt sander?
Thank you for mentioning a “nice scratchy line dried-towel”. I catch a lot of flack for loving crispy towels and washcloths…. Plus the smell is magic….
I can’t even get dry with a big fat soft towel. I like them thin, too.
Not only don’t I wear white shirts anymore, I don’t wear light colors. Mostly black, but with a colorful scarf to keep from looking like a Greek widow. I do dabble in small, colorful prints on a black background, and find that small prints can hide any stains that just won’t come out. (I cook a lot, and oil is problematic for clothing.)
Also, since I have an old home with plaster walls that bulge and crack, I just decided that instead of making myself crazy(er) by trying to have them perfect, I would embrace wabi-sabi. The last time I painted them (which will BE the last time), I ragged them with varied shades of a golden tan to make them look similar to old parchment. It’s not a professional-looking job, by any means, but it makes the cracks, patched-over nail holes, and bulges look like part of the theme. It helps that my furnishings are somewhat eclectic: a combination of rustic stuff that Paul made, antique reproductions that my uncles made, and stuff we pulled out of dumpsters or bought at a yard sale. When people come over for the first time and say “I like your home” I kind of look at them side-eye to see if they’re being sarcastic or not.
You’re decorating in Early Catawampus. I approve.
grease and oil come out with shampoo!
I never thought of that! I mean, it works for hair, right? Thanks, Bonnie, I’ll try that next time I get grease on a piece of clothing!
Man, I can relate to this: “Anyone who bruises in a stiff breeze needs to conserve.”
I just don’t have as much cushiony skin as I used to. Everything’s closer to the capillaries.
If I look close, you appear to be holding a bar of Ivory soap.
That’s my preferred brand as well. So aside from a tenuous Clark University connection, we are also soap buddies!
How tenuous is that CU connection again?
From the poet Issa:
a bath when you’re born
a bath when you die
I wonder what on earth was going through his mind when he wrote this haiku.
Mike, that is just weird. So if fits right in.
Through his mind? That reminds me:
Two monks are arguing about a flag. One says, “The flag is moving.” The other, “The wind is moving.” A third walks by and says, “Not the wind, not the flag; the mind is moving.”
Generations of youthful looking Swedish farmers and their wives did nothing more than splash with cold water and dry with a rough towel. It seems to be the quickest and easiest method and they lived to ripe old ages if my family tree is any indication. I personally wouldn’t dare indulge in anything as vicious as dermabrasion. Or that needling thing either.
And they probably had some seriously cold water right ‘t hand.
I, too, spend a lot of time “watching a bird in case it commits a shenanigan.”
They will, you know. They can go off at any time.
Just bought an off brand dremel at , gasp, harbor freight. Where should I start?
I’d start at the top and work my way down. You’ll have enough experience by then to really do a great job on the toenails.
Just an aside…Harbor Freight is the source of many things you can’t find elsewhere. When, back at the beginning of the covid thing, when we thought gloves were necessary to staying alive, nobody, nobody had those gloves. Except Harbor Freight. So, if you can’t find it, go there.
Oh golly. In my incipient old age, I seem to have gone in the the opposite direction.
Specifically, I’ve taken to getting a Korean body scrub every 6 weeks or so. Think of that scratchy line-dried towel feeling, and put it on steroids.
I’m sure you’ve read about the procedure: you flop yourself down on a vinyl-covered table top and a person (usually someone who speaks only 3 words of English) splashes basins of scalding water all over your nekkid body, and then starts gleefully scrubbing away with a cotton mitt that feels like sandpaper.
When I occasionally open my eyes to take a peek at the progress, I usually see little balls of rolled up, gray flesh which quickly get rinsed off with more basins of hot water. (There is no modesty or shame here: the scrubee soon realizes that they might as well be just another carcass hanging on a meat hook in an abattoir, and that the scrubber has probably already covered the same territory on 8 – 10 other bodies on the same day.)
Eventually, the scrubbing ends and some smell-pretty liquid soap gets gently massaged into all areas and then rinsed off with yet more scalding hot water.
I get off the table feeling kind of, well, reborn. Kind of fresh. Kind of like the accumulated psychological crud of the last 6 weeks has been lifted. It is like taking a rusty piece of metal and sanding it down to its shiny self again: I know that sooner or later it is likely that rust will reappear, but for the time being — for that short window of time, there is relief and satisfaction.
Ok, so maybe it’s not the best thing for 70-year old skin to experience. But it seems a lot cheaper and easier than psychotherapy?
I happen to know you’re in it for the “gently massaged into all areas” part
Pretty much the same reason I dye my hair every month, give myself facials, and mani-pedis. It makes me feel better. Do I look younger? …..Maybe a smidge, but no one tells me anymore “You don’t look __!” When I have grey roots coming in, I get depressed. I feel better with it dyed. I know. I fooling no one really, except myself.
Well, “You don’t sound__!”
I think my decision to never dye my hair has served me well. It seems to be a huge hurdle to get over–the day you decide to go without.
I see women all the time who have beautiful heads of grey hair. I just don’t think I’d be one of them.
These days I’m just happy to have any hair. Stuff is jumpin’ ship.
Being an old geezer, male, I’m certainly aware of the getting old thing. I look in the mirror and wonder wtf my dad is doing here. Since removing myself from the ‘public eye’ (I used to do lectures and presentations for years), I’ve ‘neglected’ my appearance…my beard can vary to ‘professor’ to ‘bum’ over a matter of days. I realized the other day that my go to fleece sweater had a hole, when the cashier kept looking at it.
I guess I keep my appearance at whatever level the day’s standards seem to me to be. Since I’m doubting Grace Slick is going to show up at the curb and hold open the door and beckon me in, I’m not concerned.
Maybe I’ll play ‘white rabbit’ tomorrow and see if I shave.
I was thinking you’d have to go to rock ‘n’ roll heaven to meet Grace Slick, but apparently not. I always like to know who everyone’s famous crushes are. (Mine are Liam Neeson in a kilt, David Strathairn, and Gene Wilder. Make of it what you will.)
Okay, I’ll play! My biggest famous crush was Alan Rickman. The voice! The nose! OMG!
Sorry for your loss.
I recently found what I think is Rickman’s first appearance on screen…a 1982 BBC production of Le Carre’s “Smiley’s People”….he had easily the best 20 second appearance I’ve ever seen, as a clerk in The Savoy in London. It’s available on youtube.
Apologies: This doesn’t exactly fit with this discussion, but I wanted to be sure y’all did not miss his use of “Polaroids”!!