When you begin dating again, after twenty-odd years, a number of things run through your mind You may be feeling like an adolescent again, for better or worse (Will he call? Does he like me? Are these shoes high enough?), but the bottom (and I choose that word aptly) line is, you don’t look like a teenager. Gone, true, are the pimples that once shone like a beacon whenever an especially cute guy looked your way, but they have been replaced by a new breed of blemishes: wrinkles, lines, and what is known in the trade as “loss of elasticity.” Your hair, once cascading to your waist in abundant curls, is now thinner and threaded with silver (or sports an unattractive root line), and you suddenly understand why your relatives used to say you took after your grandmother.
Fortunately, a woman like you has far more substantive matters with which to engage her intellect. The aforementioned superficial issues, however, do come to the fore when you think you may actually like someone and want to fool around with him. (Some folks might argue that, after three years without sex, you don’t actually have to like someone, but Bella P is a little old-fashioned and believes that, if you’ve waited this long, you deserve something that’s worth the wait.) Although it is certainly likely that the man who seems of interest (and interested) may disappear abruptly before you reach this point, it is never too early to start obsessing about your body. The little poochy wrinkles in your abdomen – which your exhusband, whatever his other flaws, admired as a pentimento of the four children once sheltered therein – now become a cause of concern. After all, these four children will not be HIS (the new him’s) four children, so just how adorable will he find your elephantine belly skin? (We can take as a given concerns about the effects those children wrought on your breasts.)
But the effects of gravity need not be your exclusive focus. Bella Professoressa confesses, for example that she hates shaving her legs. It is a crashing bore; as Tigerlily and the Butterfly point out far too often, she is also not very good at it, since a) it is boring and b) if she does it in the shower, she can’t see. (Wouldn’t you expect a professoressa to be myopic?) But it is a general rule that men find unshaven legs unattractive. And so they are. In fact, my sister, Bella terapista, who is a lesbian, shaves her legs (as does her partner, so there’s one stereotype exploded).
And once the legs are shaven and the make-up applied (with primer), and you overcome the worry about just how wild your hair will become if you do get to do some fooling around, there is then: the outfit. Although Bella P’s wardrobe does not (yet?) include that particular item, Bridget Jones highlighted the conundrum of spanx with her choice of elasticized granny panties Without them, you presumably won’t get fondled, but what do you do with them when the fondling starts? There is always the problem, as well, what will he find cute? After all, you don’t want to slither into your narrowest pencil skirt and heels only to be asked, “Don’t you ever wear pants?”
But, as those dismaying bumps and sags remind you, you are NOT an adolescent; the wrinkle in your brow, the smile lines around your eyes are memorabilia and badges of the experiences that remind you how much you are worth, and that you are no longer willing to stand for what that teen-age girl (whose beliefs and values lingered far too long) would have supported. You are a woman of valor and strength, sufficient to stand (though free to trip over your own feet if you try the kind of heels that never quite worked, even in your youth). As for the leg hair – maybe it is time to try an electric razor?