Compline

aging Donna Minkowitz

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

I saw gray hairs in my pubic hair for just the second time today. I can hardly think of a more potent memento mori. There’s nothing remotely hopeful about gray pubic hair. I have never even seen it drawn or photographed — perhaps gray pubic hair is the real Medusa’s Head? Just to think about it freezes your heart.

No one says gray hair down there looks wise or distinguished. Nobody thinks that it looks sexy, the way some claim a steel-gray crew cut does on men.

There is no safe way to dye it. I’ve been dyeing the hair on my head for 13 years. My voice software program keeps rendering my words “die it/dying” as I say this. I’m only 47, but being “past the hump” — the alleged hump — makes a lump in my throat I can barely get the words out past.

I once saw an old lady with mossy gray pubic hair in the locker room at the gym. Went home and called somebody for a date immediately.

I’m not drying up, nossir!

But I am far more upset to have a couple of crags at the sides of my eyes than I anticipated. Far more upset to have had my second book not be published yet, as though my few viable fruits were dying on the tree. Far more upset to probably not be able to make a baby if I wanted, although I’ve never, ever, ever wanted to make a baby.

The metaphors of dryness and of shriveling make me crazy.

I once had an intern who was 20 years older than me (and a gay man to boot) tell me that women stopped being attractive immediately when we lost our reproductive capacity, whereas men, he thought, remained gorgeous as long as there was sperm in the penis.

He was 60 and had a penis, considered by all in our land to be a sign of miraculous life, the winged snake.

No winged snake for me. Women are thought to have a kinship with Hecate, the goddess of death, already one foot in the grave.

When I comb my hair one way, I look young. Another way, I look old. I can never ever comb it the same way twice. It is a matter of pure happenstance whether I look kinda cute or kinda old.

I get afraid that my body is looking cuter than my face — when have I ever been worried about that before?

I can make myself stronger or tighter by going to Pilates. I can’t do anything about the lines below and just to the sides of my eyes.

I don’t even mind that I want sex less often than I used to. Isn’t that depressing??!!

What sex I do have is better than it’s ever been, though.

(How could even I possibly find anything depressing about that?)

I feel wholer, fuller, more endowed and replete with anything I ever wanted. At least sexually. At least emotionally.

That is not nothing —

It is not even small.

It is something new in my life, this fullness, this full-blooded completeness, this strength, this delight.

And not just sexual. This warmth toward other people, this openness.

This ability to hold myself, like a strong plant that has a firm green power inside. I never had that before.

In C.S. Lewis’s science-fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, this one for adults but just as annoyingly Christian as his others, a sentient alien called a hrossa tells a human that hrossa have sex only during a certain brief period of their lives. And that’s just the way they like it!  “Would you have dinner all day?” the nice, hunky hrossa (a sort of warm, intelligent, erect seal ) asks the human main character. When I read this as a preteen, I thought it was ridiculous. Of course I wanted dinner all day!

Karen’s mouth against mine in the bed, not even fucking just connecting during watching TV, is like plum and fig, creamy apple, rum with smoke. Her wide lips on mine always make me confident, like the Cheshire cat’s smile in the air. Her sushi tongue like a brassy clarinet. Her chest by my chest stills me into a drumming nothing can alter or hurt. If I die this is enough.

4 responses to “Compline

  1. great thoughts! My friend Debby made a whole stand up routine about trying to dye hers & ending up on the line with poison controll.

  2. Thanks so much Madeline! Incidentally, your flower drawings are beautiful.

  3. Vincent Downing

    Invigorating. I generally do not think about this issue any more. While I understand that my decrepitude and death are necessary to preserve the natural order of things I’ve never found a lick of comfort at the whole thing other than that.

Leave a Reply