But time marches on, and in some cases all over you with jackboots, and you lose track. It’s a natural progression. If you have very small children, you keep an eye on them at all times. As they grow and develop more responsibility, you give them a little slack. If all goes as planned, you should be able to let them go and live their own lives and still be able to sleep through the night.
Similarly, some of the stuff I was born with, and some of the stuff that showed up later, has struck out on its own. Sometimes if I turn suddenly and stop, parts of me keep going and then jangle back and forth. I have a number of wattles under development and they’re not even all on my neck. Everything’s flapping around and it’s hard to get all my skin on the same page and pointing in the same direction.
No part is unchanged. Even the backs of my hands have gotten unruly. I can push the skin on them into little ridges and valleys and they’ll stay put. We used to make little topographical representations of Virginia out of flour paste and oatmeal when we were in grade school, and it’s a lot like that. You can pull the Blue Ridge up over on the thumb side and flatten out the Piedmont region and dent the Chesapeake Bay into the pinkie area, and it will all stay put until you make a fist. Then you can start in on Maryland. It’s a fun way to occupy yourself at a coffee house where it has the added bonus of totally freaking out the young people at the next table.
It used to be that if I turned, everything turned with me, tight as schooled herring. Now, even if I’m just lying in bed, it’s hard to keep the crew in line. “Okay, gang,” I say, addressing my body parts, “we’re going to roll over,” and my breasts whine “all of us?” They’ve already slid off the sides and are heading for the hinterlands, and it’s hell to pay to haul everything back and tuck it in so the rest of me can get some sleep. But somehow I manage to get everything moving and roll over on my side. Sadly, this position gives me a good view of my belly thundering across the mattress like high tide in a shallow cove, swamping tiny imaginary beachcombers on the far side of the bed. It’s horrifying, at first, but you get used to it; you look at it wistfully but not without fondness, as you might your own, familiar child who is dabbling in Libertarianism and shacking up with a blogger, but who you know will come home for Christmas. It belongs to you; you can only be disappointed for so long.
Besides, I am a fortunate woman with friends whose affection is not contingent on my maintaining a superficial, youthful beauty, and I stumble towards self-acceptance, secure in the knowledge that nothing on me could be lifted without hydraulics anyway. There is a peace in this. And in the soul’s twilight just before the dark of sleep, as the last of my muscles loosen their grip and relax, I feel my upper lip sagging against the pillow.
It’s pleating up. Dammit, there’s a limit.