Getting Comfortable In Your Sagging Skin.
Age-Asana: Life As Asana (Part Three).
Kate and Geertje are yogis, writers and friends on different continents. They correspond and talk about life as if it were a Yoga pose — requiring flexibility and strength, discipline and surrender, regular check-ins with reality, humor and kindness.
I’m so bad with gangster names — it might be cultural. Holland is so ungangy. So I Googled it. I started typing how to, and the first thing Google spat out was how to have sex (good one), and the second one was how to get rid of fruit flies. Just goes to show what’s on the world’s mind.
Undistracted, I Googled how to come up with a gangster name, and found this.
Based on the advised steps, your gangster name is Wild-Butter’N’Jam-K-Rave.
Remember telling me about things that happen to your body past 40? Nobody warns you was what you said? I was ambivalent to be initiated, but somehow ever since our conversation, I’ve felt more prepared for the moment I find my first grey pubic hair, and when that day comes, I’ll think of you, my friend.
Meanwhile I’ve had more women tell what happens when you get older. One thing I hear a lot is you start becoming invisible. Your membership to the tribe of women that men whistle at and make other women jealous slowly slips out from between your fingers.
So I find myself slowly preparing for that. However, I wasn’t prepared for what has been happening these last months. Like a couple of weeks ago.
My girlfriend and I were walking back from a Yoga trance dance with Shiva Rea, who is like shakti in the flesh so I felt even more dorky and very Dutch and overly self-aware, and in that state I walk next to my baby on a fold-up bike, walking the way you do when you walk next to someone on a bike. Lagging behind.
In front of a funky kebab joint stood/hung a guy who slurred did someone ever tell you that you have a beautiful smile?
Sure, stunningly uncreative, but we’d been having a melancholy conversation, so I was up for a some of that random-kindness-from-strangers stuff, so against everything that had been carefully implanted in me when I was a young girl body — don’t look, don’t respond, pretend you don’t have a body, pretend you don’t exist — I decided to stop talking, turn around, and smile.
I know, what was I thinking, right?
Upon which he pointed at my blond-haired, high-heeled girlfriend, and bit back, I was talking to her, not you.
I stood. Still. I felt a little thing break in chest that I didn’t even know lived there. In microseconds I remembered the way a group of thirty-something-meaning-they-should-know-better guys sitting on some front door steps a couple of months ago.
I come bicycling past, innocently minding my own business, when one of them spat out, loud enough to cross a two-lane street and some trees, Now that is not a beautiful woman, like they’d just been on the subject, and here I was, exhibit A. Or B. I continued pedaling my bicycle, stunned and apparently too shocked to respond.
My mind flashed on the group of teenage boys who’d been coming towards me on bicycles like a cluster of hormones just a few weeks ago, saying again like I wasn’t there look at the portrait on that one!
What’s up with that?
So this time, I’d had it. I stopped. I turned around and actually walked towards Mister Kebab, leaving my girlfriend to go uhohwhatshegonnado and said to him, Why would you want to say something like that? It’s rude. It’s unkind. I stood there, not mad, not aggressively, but hurt.
Hoping that expressing my feelings would prevent him from ever insulting a woman again. Instead, he just looked at me standing there like a girl ragdoll, and replied, epically, That’s life.
I wanted to walk up slowly to him, close enough for him to feel my breath on his face and say, That is bullshit. That the only reason why life would be unkind is because of types like you, tiny shaking mandalas of rudeness radiating unkindness like a virus, and how this had ‘nothing’ to do with life being real.
On top of that, I wanted to hiss I used to be a model, you bastard, even though I knew that wasn’t really the point, it felt like it belonged in making him wrong. I felt a deep desire for something physically painful to happen to him. I wanted to see him punished by God herself, for treating one of her women like shit.
Instead of doing that, I said nothing. I just turned around and kept walking, little girl woman implosion.
Now you know I don’t even date men. I don’t consider myself to have an extremely low self-esteem and goddamnit I don’t even look terrible, but still this reversed flirting got to me. It did. You prepared me for graying pubes. I expected to slowly slide down the scale of hot-momma-ness. I didn’t see vile, active insults on my body coming.
Then, two weeks later.
I stand across from a woman in her forties in a Yoga shala in a valley up high in the Turkish mountains. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and insanely talented, and says:
You have an interesting physicality about you. It’s not so obvious at first, but you have a very visceral presence. I noticed it a couple of times when I sat down next to you, and I went ‘Wow’.
Not only was it probably the most eloquent compliment my body ever received, in about 1.5 seconds it wiped away the moron’s insults of the recent past — and likely those of the near future, too.
What is it about a woman calling another woman beautiful that makes it one of the most stunning human experiences? Or at least the entrance into the tribe of tribes: that of beautiful womanhood. No sucker, no teenage boy or stuck-up shawarma guy will ever cancel my membership from it.
By the way, we should talk about Lululemon soon. And Jeggings.
Love, G Sparkle Dog
I love my gangster name! I totally appreciate you looking up the how-tos of gangster-naming. I think because I have gangster blood, it just came natural to me.
Your letter has given my head much to munch on, and has me wondering about the Dutch (European?) culture vs the North American culture, and is it somehow socially acceptable in Europe for men to make such vile remarks to women?
It’s as if women are just there for them to hang their opinions on, as if we were flesh commodities rolling by on a conveyor belt awaiting their inspection and approval. I’m sure this happens here too, but I have been somehow shielded from this particular flavor of meanness.
It honestly makes me wonder if you somehow threaten low-vibrational males, because you are a beautiful woman, and because you’re competition, being that you date women too.
It goes without saying that it was shocking finding two grays hairs down there. Here I was, in the prime of my sexual flowering (I was 34, not 40, sorry), and I was suddenly sprouting signs of decay! I had some grays on my head, and while it wasn’t something I celebrated, it didn’t bother me all that much, nothing a trip to the salon every six weeks wouldn’t fix.
For a second I thought of dyeing the rogue invaders, but that seemed complicated, so instead I pulled/plucked them out with tweezers. I don’t recommend this, it hurt so bad it made my eyes water. I called my sister for support, because she’s four years older than me, and I look at her as a barometer for my aging; I hoped she would empathize with my pain.
After she stopped laughing, she shared that the remedy is easily found in a razor. I let her know how important it was that she warns me about all the freaky and inevitable things that will be happening to my body. I have since recanted, because I don’t think it’s helpful to know, my friend. It just creates worry lines.
The good news is, the older you get, the more comfortable you become in your sagging skin. Does that help? By the time you’re my age, those comments made by tiny little boys with tiny little minds won’t phase you; they will be like a pebble tossed into the ocean, they will affect you in some way, but it will be almost imperceptible because you are so vast.
Is this about Yoga yet?
I used to have a fantasy that aging stopped at the age you started practicing asana. I think this idea came from looking at Shiva Rea and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa; both of them are radiant, and really, when you look at them they’re kind of ageless, aren’t they? I could never really figure out just how old they are. Shakti is better than Botox.
Since I’m pretty sure I no longer look 26, I have let go of the age you began practice equals the age you will stay equation. I do believe that asana slows the aging process though. Since stress equals aging and asana equals less stress, the natural outcome of practicing asana is staying younger longer. Maybe.
I’m sure there are scientific studies out there to support this, but I’m not going digging for them, unless you ask.
While we’re on the subject of asana, would you agree that practicing asana is not the same as practicing Yoga? I like how you said there are Yoga teachers, and then there are Yoga teachers. Like there are asana teachers, and then there are Yoga teachers. My friend Eric says, “Asana is not Yoga, asana is a place to practice Yoga.”
Why do we put ourselves into these silly and sometimes really uncomfortable and awkward shapes on a regular basis? Is it simply to chill out for 90 minutes? Don’t you see your whole life on your mat? How we are in asana practice is how we are in our lives.
If we can find space to soften and relax while experiencing the intensity of Utkatasana, maybe we can also soften and relax with the intensity of looking into the oceanic eyes of the one we love without moving away. I think that’s the Yoga, no? Relaxing with the beautiful catastrophe that is life.
Okay, my friend, I’m off to tango with my edge, and get up close and personal with my innards, class starts in 10!
P.S. I love my Jeggings, they’re so slimming, and can also be worn out to dinner as jeans with my tall brown leather boots!
Reading anything Kate wrote is great. And no, this is not her writing her own bio in third person, it’s me talking, Geertje. Kate says she has biography anxiety. I think it’s cool of her to refuse to be distilled into a tiny bio-box. It won’t work anyway, not with a woman-writer-phenomenon like Kate. Writing a bio about her is like fingers pointing at the moon, to make it sound Zen. Like the song goes, to know, know, know her is to love, love, love her (and I do) and you will too once you dip into her magical world.
Writing Geertje’s bio is a fool’s game, but way more relaxing than writing my own, because, who am I? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m a fool, so here goes. Geertje is sugar dipped in flames, fierce-hearted sage draped in ginger-scented supermodel flesh. A mirror that is angled just right, reflecting sparkly disco-ball light. Read more from her zany and just sharpened shank mind here.