Each year, Americans spend millions of dollars on Botox and billions more on Viagra, vitamins, minoxidil and hormone replacement therapy. If all we really want is to recapture our youth, we should save our money because we already have something guaranteed to make us feel decades younger instantly: our mothers.
The minute I walk through my mother's door, the 80-degree heat blowing through the vents reminds me that I'm not in an apartment; I'm in an incubator.
Generally when I visit, I get to her place just a few minutes late for my 12 o'clock feeding. "Oy, Amila," she says, "it's after noon and you haven't eaten lunch yet. You better eat lunch. Sit down and have some lunch," she repeats, as if teaching the word "lunch" to a toddler.
Before sitting, I pause for a moment, half expecting my mother to place a phonebook on my seat and relieved when it doesn't materialize. "I made you a nice turkey roll sandwich," she says, "and look how I cut up the asparagus for you in little pieces." I already know that, for dessert, I'll be having sliced bananas.
Sometimes I don't even have to talk to my mother for her to reduce me to toddlerhood. Last Valentine's Day, she mailed me a small teddy bear -- a sweet gesture, I admit. After carefully freeing the bear from his plastic bag, I see that on the paper tag attached to its wrist with an elastic band she had circled in red the phrase "Small parts may cause choking." Could she even imagine a scenario where a little fuzzy bear would cause her adult daughter to be Heimliched, with a couple of EMT guys whacking me between the shoulder blades until I finally spew out a black plastic button, gasping: "Oh my God (cough), it's the bear's left eye (cough). I must've swallowed it (cough) while I was sucking on his face (cough)."
I think mothers do these things because in their minds, they have forever frozen us in time as young children, in a process of emotional cryonics. Unlike the procedure Walt Disney is rumored to have had, one that involves freezing someone at death so he might someday be thawed back to life like a TV dinner, emotional cryonics does not require that we die before being frozen. Mothers freeze us right at our peak of cuteness, naivete and helplessness.
Nature is clearly in cahoots with mothers on this time suspension thing. Just as we hit our 30s and little lines start popping up on our faces, our mothers' eyesight has conveniently deteriorated to where they can't see those lines without reading glasses, allowing them to keep ignoring the passing years. Even in moments of glasses-wearing clarity, my own mother manages to find a way to deny my maturing, like the time I was visiting and she pointed to a first white hair that had popped up on the side of my head.
"Go look in the mirror, Amila," she said.
"Why?" I ask, "Do I have something in my teeth?"
"No," she says, "if you turn to the left a little, you'll see that on the side of your head you have a piece of dental floss."
As I head down the road to growing old and flossy, if I'm lucky enough to still have my mother harassing me, will she write off my hot flashes as mere shvitzing from being overdressed, my arthritis as growing pains and -- similar to the sentiment expressed in the opening of the TV show "Rhoda" -- will she see my eventual retirement to Florida as running away from home? Recently I was at my mother's house and, after a rare awkward silence and a searching for words, a look of grave concern comes over her face. "Tell me the truth, Amila," she begs. "Have you ever smoked marijuana?"
"What kind of question is that?" I ask, irritated.
"A perfectly good one," she replies. "I just saw a commercial on TV that said, 'Talk to your children about drugs.' "
At least this time she pegged me as being past infancy. Maybe that's progress.
Comedian Amy Borkowsky is the creator of the "Amy's Answering Machine" CDs and book. Website: sendamy.com.