Tales of a Selfie.

Hello everyone. Today started out like any other day…but continued onward to how many of my days have been going. Which leaves me with the same dumbfounded question, “What the F Rachelle?” I don’t know how many of you have asked yourself this question, but it’s one I’ve been coming back to repeatedly like a skipped record.

I got up today, bathed, decided to curl my already curly hair, I scraped the last of my under eye concealer from a tube and threw on some red lipstick. Than I threw on a United States Marine’s sweatshirt that I’ve been wearing for two days. I had other options but I wanted that one, and then for some unknown reason I draped myself across my unfolded laundry and took a selfie.

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Now, that was weird. I guess it was one of those days where the sweatshirt just sealed my fate that it was all going to be the same damn day as yesterday. I must remedy that. I’m 46 years old. What was I doing taking a selfie? Than it hit me. I’m 46 years old. What does that mean to me exactly? And WHY was I using a filter that illuminated my face and hid all my imperfections?

Okay, so my birthday was in April. I was too busy wrapping up school to care. True fact. I don’t really keep track of my birthdays anymore and I don’t like to raise a lot of hullabaloo about them. I think I even had to ask my husband, “Am I turning 45 or 46?” He beamed with pride when he gave me the higher number because he thinks it’s hilarious because he just hit the big 5-0.

I remember bawling my eyes out to my sister when I was a single mother and turned 37. Seriously?! What would I give now to go back nine years? Answer: not on your life. Have my birthdays just seemed less cumbersome because I am not alone anymore? I think I had my fortieth birthday on Easter which buffered the blow of turning 4O but really my perspective changed when my mom said, “wait ’till your daughter turns 40.”

Than my grandma chimed in, “I don’t want to hear it from either one of you. I’ve turned 40 twice.”

Silence.

I am going to tell you a little diddy about my grandma Diane (Notice how the John Cougar Mellencamp reference dates me). I am my grandmother’s granddaughter. My husband tells me this all the time. Now, my grandmother Diane and my grandmother Joyce approached aging very differently.

My grandmother Diane emulated Elizabeth Taylor. She will flat out tell anyone that Elizabeth Taylor is her style icon. My grandmother had black curly hair that she wore in a beehive in her younger years that extended outward in later years.  She swears up and down that it is the coffee that has kept her hair black, but we all knew better. She was all about the jewel tones, the bling, the fuchsia lipsticks and the borderline asian curvature on the nails.

My grandmother is still alive and drives a cobalt blue Mustang. Before this, her cars always had birds on them. I’m talking Thunderbirds or Trans-Ams. To us, she is grandma Dee-Dee. Initially she was just Dee-Dee and she eased into the grandma part later (with some resistance I might add). We never knew her real age, she wouldn’t tell anyone. Once she hit her eightieth birthday, she did not care anymore. She now had bragging rights.

Once, I was at my grandmother’s house picking raspberries, and I found her lounging in her four poster bed in silk pajamas. Her eyes were black and blue and I panicked. This is when I found out the truth about my grandmother’s fountain of youth. Apparently her beauty tricks went beyond an expensive bottle of Elizabeth Arden moisturizing cream.

Yes, everyone always remarked on how flamboyant and youthful my grandma appeared. She worked in a beauty salon for years and if imitation is the greatest form of flattery, my grandmother was flattered a lot. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that my grandmother was a diva (okay, she might have been a diva) but she could could also hook a truck up to a trailer, haul it herself, and camp like it was nobody’s business well into her seventies. She was truly a glamper before glamping was a thing.

I also happen to know that she roughed it while my grandfather was teaching in Samoa. It rained continuously on the Islands, and she lived in a house with cockroaches the size of lizards. She loved Waikiki but that did not mean she could not hold her own in Samoa. My grandmother was an amazing cook and her dinnerware was as glitzy as her jewelry.

Plastic cups were not an option at her house. You drank water out of a pearlescent chalices, and you didn’t break them. My grandmother had gold framed mirrors everywhere and statues of greek goddesses.  Her shower doors were mirrors. There were mirrored tiles that ran along her stairs, which matched the foil wallpaper by the organ. No matter which room you were in, one could look at themselves. She always polished her silverware after retrieving them from the dishwasher. You could practically see your own reflection in the butter knives.

My grandmother claimed to be clairvoyant. She visited fortune tellers. She learned to read cards. She swears up and down that I paid her a visit before I was born.

Now, my grandmother Joyce had pictures of Jesus’s last supper above her kitchen table. She thought that fortune telling was tampering with the devil. She did have black astrology mugs that had gold star dot-to-dot constellations of all the horoscopes. The Scorpio mug kind of scared me. Her coffee was never brewed. It was more along the lines of decaffeinated Folgers with crystals, or Postum sweetened with sugar from a yellow capped bear that used to harbor honey. She was also brewing Kombucha way before Kombucha was a thing.

My grandma had numerous plants, and pictures of clydesdales and white buffalos in her house. Her bathroom smelled like non-chewable vitamins and jojoba. Sometimes I could smell the residual scent of an ammonia solution that hadn’t been properly rinsed from the perm rods she kept under her sink. She wore oversize shirts, moccasins, and red sweaters. She loved red. She had red carpet in her basement, and she loved to do crossword puzzles, or to play a good game of cards. Every night she took a glass of ice water to bed with her where she’d read her bible. She was also really good at playing pool.

I would not say her culinary skills were as far reaching as my grandma Dee-Dee’s. She did make the best homemade brown bread which paired well with a good side of ham hocks and beans. She kept barrels of wheat and oatmeal in her basement. She was all about cooking for the masses. She could take one can of tuna, fold in chunks of cheese, pickles, and celery and feed a small army. Her baked beans and hot dog soup were famous and you didn’t even have to be a hot dog lover to appreciate it. She also knew how to prepare a good sloppy joe using only milk and ketchup.

My grandmother was always the kind of woman one could really appreciate in rough times. Her best words of advice were always, “be still,” and “trust in the lord.” She was my coffee drinking companion throughout my second divorce. When my husband was spiraling outward away from our family I was completely beside myself wondering what he was going to do next. My grandmother said, “I can pretty much tell you what he is going to choose.”

I said, “What?”

She said, “his freedom.”

My grandmother gave it to me straight. She did not beat around the bush. She had seen this behavior in a man before. One time in high school, I got into some mischief with underage drinking.  A party of a few “friends” had gone out of control. I don’t know how it came about that I called my grandma but my grandma picked me up. I sat in her Datsun barely able to keep my head up. I spent the night on her bathroom floor and at some point my grandma threw me a pillow and a blanket. She played with my hair while I cried. At one point, I was crying in her lap. She never ratted  me out to my mother.

My grandmother was “a good christian woman” and I mean that in the sense that she never judged anybody. My grandmother hated the word “slut” and you never, EVER, said “Jesus Christ” in vain. She was also not a mormon which made her peculiar to all her neighbors. Her church had a handful of people and the “pews” were folding chairs lined up in a few rows at the local VA, which surprisingly, was right next store to Driggs bar. Many of the chairs sat empty. The bar seldom did.

There were old photos of military people neatly pinned to fabric boards in glass cases and I wondered why they didn’t smile. One night before going to church with her, I had my hair rolled in bristly spiked curlers with pink pegs. The next day when my hair was all rolled out I was appalled because I looked like Shirley Temple and I was not going to go to church. I remember my grandma telling me, “You think god cares what you look like?” My hair was not fixed. I went to church, and I humbled myself.

So here I am, a premenopausal woman taking a selfie today. Nobody wants to hear about pre-menopause really. Keep that to yourself. It is a vulnerable thing to write about. My daughter married last year, and she is settling more and more comfortably into a family of her own.

My daughter Kira is a young woman and just went with her dad on the back of his motorcycle to Idaho in the wind and the rain. As a young child, I would have said to to her father, “Do you think that’s really a good idea?” She’s twenty now. I’m also completely aware that I am not on her medical release, nor can I make any adult decisions for her. Don’t I know it? She’s also dancing around an auditory tumor.

In a few weeks my other two children are flying across the US to see their father, and I realized that not too far in the distant future they will be able to do the trip solo. Last week, my daughter graduated from sixth grade and all the elementary school children lined up in a spiral to form a tunnel and extend their hands. As my daughter ran through the spiral clapping hands, I realized I would NEVER, EVER  have a child in Elementary school again.

I cried.

Between my husband and I, we have seven children. Only two are left at home. My husband and I just replaced our dining room table for a smaller one. The larger one took up too much space and was odious to walk around. We do have larger folding tables for times when our grown children decide to come visit.  It has been a fun change going from dining area to nook status but bittersweet at the same time. You can check out what we have been working on here: (Please excuse my camera flash reflected in the window). I also just repainted and got rid of some apple green paint. The kitchen is still a work in progress.

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I just completed a bachelor’s degree at 46, because after 20 years of working in the medical field I just COULD NOT do it anymore. My degree is in creative writing, no less. I have a lot to say, but I’m feeling lost with writing that is not print. In a nutshell, I am really not feeling all that jiggy with the times. I’m being told to jump up my social media game and I look to Instagram where all these youthful lifestyle moms are tying babies to them with knots on their head while holding cups of coffee with frothy milk shaped hearts.

Not to be blunt, but my birthing and boobing days are over and I’m navigating some new terrain here. These have been precious times, but there’s also something peculiar about getting to know one self beyond the maternal. Like, who am I if  I was not so and so’s mother, or care giver etc? Yes, for awhile I think so much of my identity was also tied into my patients. I’ve tried to look to instagram and lifestyle bloggers who are experiencing something similar at my age, and that seems to be a rare find.

There are a few older Hollywood women on the Insta. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow is probably my age. She did discuss rebranding some since she too is also pre-menopausal  but so far I am hearing crickets on the Goopy scene. Of course these Hollywood representations are not true to life depictions of the real world.

Is social media a true representation at any age?

So readers, if the word pre-menopause did not scare you, these are my vulnerabilities as a 46 year old  woman, a writer, and as a mother whose children’s childhoods are fleeing. Yet, there is not disability in vulnerability and I do have the ABILITY to navigate this new terrain. I’m just learning HOW. Am I going to approach this with some resistance like my Grandmother Dee-Dee or with realism and practicality like my grandma Joyce? Am I my own thing, or perhaps a little of both?

My mother told me once, that she always thought she was going to be the kind of woman to age gracefully, but it’s turning out to be much harder than she expected.

Many artists have done NUMEROUS self portraits and numerous discussions did come up in my art classes about the selfie phenomenon, and how the two relate.  I absolutely love how Joni Mitchel has painted herself over the years. I wrote a paper on self-representation that featured Frida Kahlo and Amrita Sher-Gil.  The questions raised were: “What are they trying to express here?” or “Would this be considered a form of narcissism?” “Does self-representation come from a place of confidence or insecurity?”

I see many Insta influencers who post numerous photos of themselves who I do not perceive to be narcissists. I see confident women. So, today, I am not a confident woman but I post this selfie as a highly vulner-ABLE one. I am realizing like Frida Kahlo, or even Joni, that I too, am experiencing multiple facets to my own identity. Vulnerable seems to be the one I am currently flying with at the moment.

Anyway, I have a date night with my hubby tonight to get some tacos and watch Rocket Man. Here he is also. Fifty, and not too shabby I might add, but also feeling a little vulnerable. We are vulnerable together and I guess there is beauty in that. If you were to take a selfie right now, what would it say about your current identity? It’s something to ponder anyway. Thank your for reading. Until next post!

Rachelle Whiting

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2 thoughts on “Tales of a Selfie.

Add yours

  1. I remember that birthday when we sat on your front porch and you cried. I thought it was because you had to go renew your driver’s license and you couldn’t find your keys. Not only did you have to renew your license but you had to get a new picture and that’s what set you off. I understood the pressure and anxiety that comes with trying to take a decent picture for your license. Haha! What a beautiful tribute to both of our grandmothers. They’re complete opposites in every way and depending on the situation, one of them always has the right answer to our current challenges in life. They draw upon their own life experiences and the guidance and wisdom they provide is something that can only come with age. I say age gracefully, but maybe I’ll be like mom and find it too hard to do once I actually try it. I’ll just follow your lead big sister!

    Liked by 1 person

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