It's My (Not So Young) Life

I remember the exact moment I realized no one was buying my extended delusion in being perpetually 21. It was 1989, and Bon Jovi was coming to town. I was suddenly single again, a mom with a second grader at home, and wondering what ever happened to my footloose, party-all-night, no worries youth. I yearned for that freedom. It didn't even occur to me that I was too old to be hanging outside the doors of an arena as if I had no responsibilities. In my little, age-defying brain, I wasn't a disappointed ex-wife or someone's mother; I was fifteen again in four inch heels and big hair.

That was until a woman with a couple of pubescent tweens waiting in the line ahead of me asked if I was there with my own kids. Me? Kids? What, was my "mom face" showing? I told her the truth, which was that my daughter was way too young for rock concerts Thankfully, she didn't suggest maybe I was too old to be hanging outside like a school monitor with kids half my age. But she did ask--being a mom and all--if I would mind keeping an eye on her kids. She felt better knowing an "adult" was there. That was it. That was the moment I went from being young, wild and prone to misbehavior, to being the adult on the premises. I had been "outed" for being a grownup.

After waiting six excrutiatingly boring hours only to end up in a mosh pit surrounded by sweaty teenage boys, I suddenly realized this wasn't my party any more. Those four inch heels? Killing me. I looked across the sea of heads and spotted empty seats in one of the tiered sections. That's when it hit me: I was a thirty-two year old mom and I had been here, done that. The quickly elbowed my way through the crowd and, found a nice comfy seat with the rest of the "old folks." The concert was amazing, but for the first time in my life, I didn't hang around for the encore. Tired, hungry, and, well, older, I slipped out before the end of the show so I could beat the traffic out of the parking lot. All I was thinking about was sleep.

At fifty-three, I have to laugh when I hear people claim that fifty is the new thirty, or that aging is all in your head. The truth is, it's a lot of work to stay young. Which isn't the same thing as remaining youthful. I know eighty-somethings that can put a room full of hormone-riddled teenagers to shame. But there are things about youthfulness I've discovered that are futile to cling to: cellulite-free thighs, string bikinis, eating half a pizza and never gaining an ounce. I can long for them all I want, but turning back the clock only happens in the world of Harry Potter. What I think we really fear losing about our youth is the sense of excitement about our unlived years; our thirst to do what we've only imagined. Life after forty smacks a lot of the same ole, same ole. Footloose freedom is replaced by parenting, mortgages, retirement planning. We do more looking back than looking ahead because, frankly, what's ahead is kind of morbid. Will we lose our minds to Alzheimer's? End up on the street because our IRA's have been sucked dry? Will we be able to walk the dog without our backs/knees/feet aching? Will we be forced out of our jobs or homes?

At middle age, I'm carrying a lot of life on my shoulders. There have been joyous experiences, to be sure, but there are also bags full of disappointment, loss, and toppled dreams. The longing to be fifteen again, or even twenty-one or thirty, isn't so much about wanting to erase the lines from my face, hoist up my sagging breasts, or stay up all night drinking tequila. It's about wanting to feel unencumbered by fear; boundariless in my desires; open to what's still around the corner. It's about biting into life like it's a great big pomegranate with juicy seeds instead of gnawing on one that's shriveled up like a prune.

Whenever I start feeling a little too much like ancient ruins, I try turning the channel. A few years ago, that meant taking the leap into buying a condo even though the experience nearly put me into cardiac arrest. I started blogging last fall which forces me to do something about being a writer instead of just thinking, "wouln't it be nice to write." I spruced up my LinkedIn page. Started to rip the out-dated speckled tiles off my kitchen backsplash with a goal of replacing it with wainscoting by the end of summer. I make plans to take daytrips around my state and discover what's to love about New York despite our onerous taxes; buy craft paints and canvas to try out a new art project.

To me, the route to eternal youthfulness is always just one flip of the dial from routine to untried, and a lot easier than trying to pull off "young." Young is great if you have personal trainer, a stylist,an unlimited supply of designer sunglasses, and an excellent photographer who Photoshops out all your laugh lines and age spots. Youthful I can do. And some vintage Bon Jovi doesn't hurt, either.


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