Saturday, October 22, 2011

“The Hidden Jalapeño”

         My list of aging’s disadvantages winds a mile long. Often, it wraps around my feet and trips me up, like it did the other night.
         At first, changes in my body subtly appeared:  a little softening, a little graying, a little character wrinkling. Nothing that bothered me. Unlike many women, I don’t view aging as a battleground where it’s me against my own body. I fight for fitness and good health and don’t worry about fitting into petite sizes like some of my peers. I will admit to slathering lotions on my face and form mornings and nights. I color my hair to disguise the gray, too. Unlike other friends, though, I don’t consider liposuction, Botox injections, or butt-boob-face lifts. I listened to two friends strategize over dinner one night on their attack maneuvers as they confront aging with a combination of denial and plastic surgery.
         My main complaint with aging doesn’t come from what my body’s doing on the outside, but from what’s going on inside. With great dismay, I have to turn my back on wonderful raw onions and all hot sauces except for the most mild. Imagine not jazzing up your tacos by drizzling hot sauce over the top. My nachos? Now they are raw onion and pepper free. When we head of our favorite Mexican food restaurant, La Fonda, I must avoid their free flowing salsa and find satisfaction with butter or guacamole on my chips.

         A stray pepper in my food spells disaster. My stomach twists and knots, churns and turns in unbelievable pain. The first few times this happened, I found that if I diluted the peppers with a deluge of water, I’d feel normal by the next morning. Then, I had to resort to Tums to untie my stomach. Now, I have to take out the big guns like Prilosec OTC if I want to venture into the hot zone. A few days ago, we ate at a new restaurant where I ordered red bean and rice with my hamburger instead of the traditional fries. With my first bite, I notice a little kick to the mixture and murmured that the chef must have laced the dish with cayenne, a spice that I can still eat without any problems. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of the small cup that I spied a sliver of jalapeño hiding under the last red bean.
         Alarms sounded! Immediately, I started chugging my raspberry tea. Two glasses later, I practically floated from the booth to our car. But it was too little, too late. I took the OTC medication, doubting whether it would combat the spices swirling in my stomach. In the middle of the night, my own digestive system turned on me! Not a pretty picture. By daybreak, my taunt abdominal muscles screamed if I ate anything more than popsicles. By nightfall, I downed popcorn with jubilant celebration.
         No one warned me about this silent part of aging—the things we can no longer eat. I prepared for my body to slow down a little. I knew my hips would widen while my hair possibly thinned. That I could shrug off without complaint. But giving up entire food groups just isn’t fair at all!

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

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