Essentially. As We Get Older, It Helps to Laugh

By Catherine Durkin Robinson

Two months before my 40th birthday, I never looked or felt better.

Considering my high school and college years, this is pretty remarkable. I used to scare people with oversized t-shirts, an abrasive attitude and hair that could withstand 50-knot winds. After discovering exercise, obtaining a decent wardrobe allowance and growing my hair down instead of out, I finally became a bit of a babe.

So naturally something was wrong.

My Super-Healthy status took a dive and presented me with my first abnormal pap smear. As a result, I dealt with the indignity of a colposcopy without cocktails. Then, after several days of worrying and revising my eulogy, I got a call from my gynecologist’s medical assistant. She said no signs of cancerous cells can be seen up in my lovely.

“The results are essentially negative.”

Blink. Blink. Blink.

“Essentially negative?” I said. “What does that mean?”

“You should come back in six months just to be sure.”

When did we stop getting a clean bill of health from our physicians? Somewhere in my 30s, the need to clarify began.

“You tested negative for lupus, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.”

“Everything looks fine, Catherine. For now.”


I can’t remember the last time my doctor handed me a lollipop and cheerfully remarked, “With that smile and impressive central nervous system, you’re going to live forever!”

I’m not sure whether it’s the sight of my spider veins, argumentative streak or general malpractice concerns that trigger such pessimism in medical professionals. I know I’m getting older, but if a test comes back benign, what’s the harm in shaking my groove thing and celebrating a little?


I made a few jokes, because laughter helps me cope with nervousness and doom, and hung up. As if on cue, the phone rang again.

My primary care physician called to talk about lab results.

“I’ve got to stop scheduling these check-ups back-to-back,” I said. “You guys are killing me.”

Turns out I have something called hypothyroidism.

“That sounds familiar,” I said.

“Family history?” she asked.

“Exactly.” I cursed all my female relatives, dead or alive. “Bum to brain, I’m getting everything those broads got in their 60s and 70s!”

My primary care physician didn’t know what to do with that information.

I mulled for a moment. I’m a muller.

“So macular degeneration and congestive heart failure is next,” I sighed. “Blind as a bat and trying to pull a thong over adult diapers is not how I envisioned my 40s.”

My doctor sighed. She doesn’t believe in the power of laughter.


After a bit of research, I discovered I exhibit none of the symptoms related to hypothyroidism. Most patients are:



Physically weak

Come on, now. I keep up with two 11-year-old boys without using stimulants and can open a jar of pickles on my own.



Mood swings

Those are my favorite character traits. What mother isn’t irritable? Unpredictable mood swings keep kids in line.


Okay…guilty as charged. Yesterday I put tampons in the pantry and croutons under the bathroom sink.

Decreased libido

Double gulp.

In my defense, I’ve been preoccupied with a deteriorating cervix. Did my husband write this list?

My doctor recommended a medication: Synthroid. If the magic pills work, Synthroid and I will be together the rest of my life. Not one to jump into any serious commitment, I scheduled another blood test and a consult with a dietitian.

My doctor sighed and said, “A faulty thyroid can lead to all kinds of heart and sight disorders.”

“Hey,” I shouted. “Call the guys I dated in college. Pressuring me will get you nowhere.”

Again, I started to laugh at all the absurdities that come with age. This felt so much better than wallowing in misery or parking myself in front of the television. I called a reporter friend of mine, who works for a local newspaper, and talked to her about the need for a humor column about getting older.

After all, my forties is only the beginning.


I submitted my query to an editor and View from the Hill, my column about aging with a cocktail in one hand and a magnifying mirror in the other, was born. Since then, I’ve heard from hundreds of readers who find solace in laughing at our journey toward the inevitable.

And I didn’t even know hundreds read newspapers anymore.

As for my health? I always feel better after talking with friends. My girls and I used to discuss hot men, tongue kissing and Bon Jovi. Now we’re wondering which meds can be taken with wine.

In other words, we’re all a mess. Maybe it comes with age. Therefore, as long as I can continue to wear a thong and open a jar of pickles, I will shake my groove thing and celebrate a little.


About this writer

  • Catherine Durkin Robinson Catherine Durkin Robinson is an award-winning humorist and nationally syndicated writer. You can find her online at Catherine lives in Florida with her husband and twin sons. In her spare time, she investigates missing socks.

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One Response to “Essentially. As We Get Older, It Helps to Laugh”

  1. Francine Garson says:

    Very, very funny! I’ll try to remember this when I’m sitting through an “essential” dental procedure next week!

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