Tag Archives: aging

The Unwanted House Guest

I was talking about my constant waking up in the middle of the night with a friend the other day and he said, “Mags, we’re getting old.” I laughed but inside I winced just a little. I don’t like being included in that club.

It seems suddenly—though let’s be honest, it isn’t sudden, not really, you just don’t notice the incremental changes—I am noticing my age.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with genes that belie my age. Up until a few years ago I used my son’s age as a kind of party trick to gasps of ‘surely you don’t have a son that old! Did you have him when you were 14?’ which I took as affirmation I was beating the age game.

But lately I have noticed it, particularly in my yoga class as I look over longingly at the taut young girls in  their power poses, their lean long abs with muscle highways running up and down and their dewy skin plump and glowing. I used to look at shoes this way. What is happening to me?

I am aging. It’s a fact. Let’s not be coy about it. What to do about this unwanted house guest? I’m figuring it out. I’m getting into gear. I’m a factory of ideas. I’m all over it. Life, I hear you okay? I won’t fool around. I get it, the time is now. My time. Is mine.  What will I do with it?

Get binary. This or that. This is the gift of age. Suddenly, you’ve built your own personal emotional garbage sorting bin. This is out. This is in. Simple really. Why haven’t I done it before? Lots of reasons. Low self-esteem. Relationship issues. Family issues. Child issues. Financial issues. Yada yada yada.

Forget all of it.

Get binary. Simplify. Yes or no? Want to have in my life or no? The chatter gets quiet, and the age question seems irrelevant.  Just the way it should be.

The Unwanted House Guest

It’s catching up to me

like a slow seeping morning fog

some mornings it catches me

and I wake with sore hips and

eyes so dry they gasp for air

like a dying fish.


Am I dying?


Suddenly, age is a house guest

worse than any one night stand.

She gives me cruel reasons to wake up—

3, 4, 5 am nudging me awake to

my sleeping bag of worry

where I am zipped up in a tight bind of middle age

as though I were camping in my own night

my own bed my own life my own pajamas

my sleeve of anxiety good till 40 below

or in menopausal flashes of heat.


I look askance at my guest in the mirror

she’s fooling around with my face leaving

a pattern of lines and furrows and constellations

of spots that are no longer adorable

When did I stop being adorable? 



Fuck aging.

I tell her to stay in

the guest room and not come out

‘till the funeral.




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On aging eyes, secret drawers and a long lost neighbourhood

My eyes are a mess. I stare at computer screens for a ridiculous and unhealthy amount of my life so it’s no wonder I have chronic dry eye and issues with my vision. I take the equivalent to a salmon farm’s worth of Omega vitamins and all sorts of potions and concoctions to no avail. While visiting my ophthalmologist the other day, she pointed out my lenses didn’t have a very big reading area (they have three sections to them for people who are aging but not yet ‘old’ I guess). She pointed out I should get some reading glasses and I said, Well, I just spent the same amount on these glasses (indicating to the ones on my face) that I spent buying my first car. Her face remained passive. I realized in that moment she had clients that had glasses for different parts of their life like brunch or the opera or driving and who didn’t have a budget for just one pair as I did.

She astutely picked up on the fact that I was unable to afford another pair of fancy glasses as in not one of her regular clients and ushered me over to the far end of the store. In a hushed tone she signaled to a drawer below us. “We do have some glasses for (in sotto voice) only $75.00.” She nudged open the drawer then put her hand on my shoulder and said I could take as long as I needed. It was as though she’d just delivered some heart wrenching news about a loved one and it was likely I’d need some time by myself. Or as in this drawer does not qualify for a sales person to help you.

So, this was the poor drawer.

I looked around the waiting room. It had Herman Miller furniture and was bright and airy with orange and gray accents that mirrored the brand colours. A woman was sitting with a Hermes scarf and coiffed as in I don’t do rain hair and had the largest diamond ring on that I’d ever seen in my life. Another woman had the Point Grey look of “I don’t work, I just workout” complete with a body entirely clad in Lululemon which hugged her like a green screen suit. I quickly turned away should either woman see me scrounging around in the poor drawer.

And yet, here were some nice frames in the back of the drawer. Albeit they were for children but since I am roughly the size of a nine-year-old boy, they worked for me. I found a very nice pair and walked up to the counter. The woman smiled and then frowned as there was no Fendi, Channel or Tom Ford to indicate what to charge me. I whispered, “They’re from the drawer.”

She nodded solemnly, thrilled she could be so discreet and I smiled limply, feeling shame somehow clinging to my aura as I made an appointment to pick them up the following week.

As I drove away, I thought of how much this neighborhood had changed since I was a child. Across the street from that optometrist was a hairdressing shop my mother used to go to when I was little. Her hairdresser’s name was Phillip. Not Phil. Phillip said with a real emphasis on the last p. No slang for him. My mother clearly loved this man who gave her some dignity every four weeks. The salon still exists though it’s lost it’s seventies fabulousness. I loved hanging out with her in that shop. None of the woman who went there wore giant diamonds or ever had designer clothing on. They were local women, women I’d seen at bake sales and in the basement of our church or answering friends’ doors. They were moms and grandmothers yakking and sharing stories. Point Grey was a community, not a real estate listing whose subtext was: please tear me down. Okay, maybe that’s going too far but it’s hard not to wonder what happened to Point Grey in the last 30 years and what it will look like in the next quarter century if we keep developing and tearing down our heritage at the rate we’re going. Point Greyers (my own name, let’s start a club?) who remember when underprivileged, over populated families could still live on West 11th and West 8th and West 13th on Crown and Trimble and Discovery and Wallace will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Something’s been lost and I’m not sure we’ll find it again except in our memories.


West 11th, circa 1973. My dad and a long lost Vancouver.

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Filed under Non-fiction

The Secret Pleasure of Living Life Outside the Numbers

Last month I had a birthday. I tried not to let my natural inclination to expect something magical to happen nudge me beforehand or signal me with little whimsical Carol Burnett ear pulls. I really beat it down this year then realized I was a little sad I had.

The fact is, I’ve never played blasé convincingly in my entire life.

Unlike me, my mother really didn’t seem to expect anything to happen on her birthday then seemed genuinely tickled that a single person remembered. She wasn’t afflicted with performer level vanity like I am. I remember I used to stand in the bathroom with her as she was getting ready to go out and I’d ask her, “How old are you?” She would brush me off saying, “Oh, a woman doesn’t tell after a certain age my dear.”

“But what is the age, that age you stopped saying your birthday age, when was that?”

She’d smile and look at my face staring at her in the mirror and I’d know she was onto me.

I would try to sneak it in when she least suspected–even as we kneeled in church to pray–and see if she would break. “Shhhhhh,” she’d scold me and I would cross my arms, angry at her stubborn refusal to share this part of her self with me. Surely I was trustworthy? Surely I, above all people, was someone she could reveal herself to? I tried over and over only to be met with her philosophical refrain.

“A woman doesn’t…” she’d start.

“Forget it. I don’t even care!” I’d yell, storming upstairs, my heels hard on each step so she’d hear it in the kitchen below.

Here’s the thing: I found myself saying it on my birthday this year. Just exactly as my mother did. I don’t know why I decided it was the time I would turn the world away from my door, banish them forever from prying a number from me but I did.

“A woman doesn’t tell after a certain age.” My co-worker looked at me like I should be wearing a wig and holding a long cigarette. I realized my mom’s era had seeped into me and was now inhabiting my body like the ghost of Norma Desmond.

I don’t care. I’m going with it. I’ve no time for numbers. The point is living  life, not the passing of it.


Filed under Non-fiction