Skin Stigma

The crepe around my neck. It is what categorizes me in the mirror: Fifty. It is the label of age. Turtlenecks push it all up around the jaw when I look down, giving me additional chins. Crew neck sweaters draw a circle around it as if to decree,

“Hear ye, hear yea…This woman is near 50 and no longer attractive.”

V-neck sweaters would be the clearest option. Draw attention away from the estrogen-deprived skin drooping down my neck. One problem: no boobs. The result is me hitching camisole straps up to my earlobes so that there is a triangle of fabric high enough on my chest to prevent students from seeing scars whenever I reach down to pick something up.

If I had had reconstructive surgery after breast cancer I would at least have a shot at being attractive, despite my age and neck. At least I could wear a v-neck sweater and rock it. For now, fifty festers under the neck skin,  secretly celebrating with the rest of my aging body.  My C-section scar parties with the stretch marks from carrying two babies., while double mastectomy rides shotgun on the way to the club.

Stigma is on my skin.  Tattooed back when I never dreamed I would have to apply for jobs that see tattoos as a sign of delinquency.  Jobs that look down their privileged noses at people wearing hearts on their sleeves. Jobs that speak of proper “attire” and frown upon jeans on a non-casual day. As if they hold a social standard of propriety through a ridiculous pretense of superiority based on pants.

In a long-term marriage,  enjoying my own privilege of not needing a full-time job,  I got tattoos that I never thought I would need to cover. Shame is on my arms, and my skin now hangs loose.  A short, grey-haired, tattooed, saggy skinned woman with too many degrees and no breasts. Oh, yea…that’s a profile for you! I’m surprised people are not throwing themselves at me on Ventura Blvd.

I had a dream last night that I had a love.  I fear it will never happen again. Who would be attracted to the train wreck of scars, stretch marks, and sagging neck skin? Crow’s feet, brown spots, jowls. It’s as if my skin lurching forward off the bones.  Stigma is on my skin. I have been fast-tracked into being a senior citizen. And I will post this and my sweet friends will say, “but you are beautiful” as if to fix my heart with words that don’t match my reality. Being pragmatic and truth telling has its drawbacks.

And while I see quite clearly that I have turned the Chico’s corner of life,  my integrity, and heart are flawless.  Compassion, humor, courage? I slay. All day.

Last night I had a dream I had a love.  I was wearing jeans.


Walker Ladd, Ph.D. is the Founder of Stigmama and can be seen aging and truth telling in the San Fernando Valley, California.


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