I was watching Jane Fonda in the new Netflix show “Grace and Frankie,” in which she plays a woman who has just been dumped by her husband, and I was amazed to see Jane, who is 77, with the universally dreaded Inner Upper Arm Wiggle Waggle.
You know what that is, even if you’re not old enough to have it. The flesh of the inner upper arm hangs slack from the bone, as if it’s given up hope. If an inner upper arm could talk, it would say: “Oh, why bother? No one is ever going to give me work/take me to bed/ask my opinion of PBS’s ‘Wolf Hall’ versus Broadway’s.”
Fitness trainers will tell you that arm lifts with light weights can prevent wiggle waggle. But if that were true, would Jane Fonda have it?
This is hard-body Jane, the woman who, back in the ’80s, produced the best-selling workout videos. When she was 72, she made two more, though they included things like exercises for arthritic hands (and wore a leotard that covered her arms).
Five years later, Jane not only bares her upper arms, she pokes the flesh so that it shakes like Jell-O. This is a move women do only to torture themselves in department store dressing rooms when trying on sleeveless dresses, or alone in front of their bedroom mirrors. It’s a kind of negative self-affirmation: Who could ever love me with this?
Jane was doing it on TV. I wanted to leap off the couch and scream, “Give that woman an Emmy now!”
Excuse me, I have an email question from a reader: Couldn’t Jane’s slack arm flesh, which in its most extreme form has been called “bat wings” or “chicken wings,” been a prosthesis?
Theoretically, yes. But the jiggling flesh of the upper inner arm has historically been considered so horrifying that the special-effects people decided years ago never to make it. Reels of intestines spilling out of the bodies of the walking dead? Love it! Slimy newborn alien leaping out of an astronaut’s chest? Brilliant! That hanging flesh you see on older men and women? That’s repulsive.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah: this frankly-embracing-our-aging-bodies thing that I’ve been seeing on TV. You can’t actually call it a tender embrace; it’s more like the pro wrestler Bad News Barrett slamming you with his bull hammer elbow.
But at least this stuff is being acknowledged. Like in that recent “Inside Amy Schumer” sketch in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette are celebrating Julia’s last day as cinematic sex object.
The skit plays off Hollywood’s obsession with youth. It ends with Tina saying she has to go home to wax her beard. I was stunned.
I am 67, although most days I can easily pass for 66 and 10 months, and about a year ago, I spotted a single coarse hair on my chin. It appeared overnight, as if one of those cinematic prosthetic makers had sneaked into my room and glued it on. A few weeks later, I noticed soft peach fuzz all over my chin.
I come out of the spill-it-all Woodstock generation, but this was too ghastly to confide to anyone. When I spotted a manicure and waxing salon at an out-of-the-way upstate mall, I had what I thought was an original idea: getting my chin waxed.
I honestly thought I was the first person to come up with this. When I took the cosmetologist aside and asked how much such a procedure might cost, she pointed to the price list on the wall: “Chin wax, $8.” I was amazed: So I am not alone on Hair Chin Island?
True, the hair chin stuff and Inner Upper Arm Wiggle Waggle are being played for laughs on-screen, but I can remember when “yogurt” was a laugh word on TV. There may soon be a day when sagging arm flesh is considered hot. Maybe Helen Mirren has something to contribute here. She wore a sleeve past her elbow at the Met Gala, which is promising.
Oh, sorry, now I’ve got a question from my friend Sybil: Why don’t they have Spanx for arms?
Surprise — it turns out they do. There’s a product called Sleevey Magic, a tight long-sleeve undershirt, available in white or black, that appears from the video to work like sausage casing. I’ve also seen this sort of packaging used on precooked polenta, if that’s an image you prefer.
You have Sleevey Magic on top and Spanx on the bottom, and when some buff widower takes you in his arms at his niece’s wedding, he thinks he’s with a retired Olympian. Then he gets you naked in his hotel bed, and you spread out like pancake batter.
But here is the secret: Once they have you in the sack, men do not care. Especially the old guys, who are pretty jiggly themselves. They cannot believe their good luck. In their 11th hour, the universe has served up ice cream.
It’s women who make themselves nuts worrying about these things. The old guys are thinking, “Oh, yeah, jiggle it for me, baby!”
And now that we have that settled, it is time for me to hold my hand high, braving my own less-than-solid under armitage, and wave goodbye. I am ending “Misinformed” as a regular column, though I hope to pop back now and then.
It is almost summer, I have a sports car that is old but sweet, and a full tank. The metaphoric road beckons. See you out there.