… a thousand words or so. God bless America, no?
Since my last post on this topic, I’ve accumulated more proof that getting older and becoming curmudgeonly/peculiar are inextricably linked (but maybe the self-awareness is somewhat mitigating?) The latest evidence:
Last week, I bought myself an iPod Nano. It’s fifth generation and it’s fuschia and it makes me feel kind of hip, pitiful as that is. I guess it’s my equivalent of the red sportscar.
I realize I’m way late to the whole digitized music thing. A few years ago, my daughters gave me a Shuffle for Christmas, mostly because they wanted one. It’s very cute—too cute, really, to be practical, but I hardly ever used it, because while I liked music and felt I could distinguish good from bad, I was never into music the way some people are. I was into books.
So it’s particularly significant that I took it upon myself to upgrade to a model that can support my growing iTunes library.
During my marriage, R was the music lover, the one who thought to put on a CD when it wouldn’t have occurred to me. He was mostly into classical and opera (I know: opera buff and good taste in jewelry. Many have wondered, believe me.) When he left, he took 90 percent of our CDs, leaving me four dusty shelves strewn with a motley assortment that included works by Billy Joel, AC/DC, and Raffi.
It was the new periods of alone time that initially led me to rediscover the comfort and joy of song. My sparse collection, along with a handful of mix CDs made by a friend, provided a surprisingly sympathetic soundtrack for my wallowing, my fury, and my new enjoyment of dancing around the living room.
And then I met S, who turned out to be Savant-like about every kind of music imaginable, with tastes that ranged from Dvorak to Zappa. (The fact that my sorry CD shelves were not a dealbreaker, in fact, is testament to his fine character.) He wooed me with songs sent via email, and each one miraculously found its way into my iTunes library, which, until then, only contained a few downloaded episodes of Mad Men. S’s appreciation for great lyrics allowed me to overlook his rather limited experience with great literature. (Try to resist a guy who sends you Greg Brown’s sexy song Milk of the Moon. ) Soon, my iTunes cup ranneth over with all kinds of interesting music and artists I’d never heard of (Jess Klein, Rachael Yamagata, Oliver Mtukudzi).
And that’s when I decided I needed a Nano–which has opened up a whole other wonderful sonic world to me: Podcasts! Don’t even get me started on how much I love podcasts.
Lately, I’ve become increasingly aware that I am not young anymore. It’s not just the obvious, cliche stuff like the chronic back pain, the chronic need for reading glasses, the chronic need for the word chronic, and the conviction that plastic surgery isn’t all that crazy. It’s other, subtler things that catch me off guard and force me to acknowledge my advancing age.
I now shop at Lord & Taylor. For years, I’ve teased my mother, who has been loyal to L&T since the days of well-made pencil skirts and Kelly Girls. Now I happen to work a few blocks away from the grand old department store. After a frustrating experience on Zappos.com last week, I decided to take a twirl through L&T’s shoe department. Well, no sooner did I enter the second floor “shoe salon” when a pleasant young woman asked me if she could help me. And then, by god, she helped me! She was totally there for me, graciously bringing every shoe I asked for in two sizes, just in case the shoe in question ran small or large. I just can’t get over it. I ended up buying a pair of flats and a pair of sparkly sandals. Soon I plan to return to the store for foundation garments.
Sometimes I stare at my cell phone in pure wonderment—at how tiny it is–so small and shiny and lozenge-like that I could swallow it without much effort. Why, when I was a child, you had to hold a clunky barbell of a receiver in order to chat on the phone. And it was attached by a curly cord to an even clunkier base unit (did that have a name?) You couldn’t even leave the room, let alone wander into a cafe and obliviously order a tall Sumatran blend while blabbing. In those days, too, the phones rang–with a real, mechanical ring, not one of 500 freaking ADD-inducing ringtones. In fact, there was no such thing as a ringtone. Don’t even get me started on my iPod Shuffle; When I was a girl, the Sony Walkman was beyond cool and sleek.
I’m attracted to men in their 50s. When R and I first separated, a friend of mine tried to sell me on her belief that 51-year-old men were the sexiest of all. I tried to be polite about it, but I was secretly thinking Ew. Gross. Can you say “grandpa?” But I have totally come around on that one. Among the men who manage to emerge from their 40s without having gone to seed, there are quite a few who are–to use a juvenile term–hot. (George Clooney, anyone? Ed Harris? Liam Neeson? Jeff Bridges, despite the beard?) Men in their 20s, 30s and even early 40s look weird, babyish and unformed to me now. What’s with the unlined faces, the lack of gray hair and all that? I obviously have no future as a cougar. I like my men slightly craggy and weathered.
I’ve said the following to my kids: “Can you see in that light?” “You’re not leaving the house wearing that.” and “One day you’ll appreciate me.”
When the Land’s End swim suit catalogue arrives, I keep it, rather than chuck it immediately into recycling. What’s worse, I flip right to the bathing suits with skirts. This year, I’m hoping to find one with OLD LADY printed across the butt.
On Saturday night, I went to a Valentine’s day dance at my 3rd grader’s school. It was 1980′s-themed, so I spent the afternoon helping my girls outfit themselves in leggings and big shirts with belts.
The school was brilliant enough to provide a little pub in an adjoining room, so that the parents could buy cheap wine and beer in support of the PTA. Every now and then, we wandered into the gym to watch our kids dancing under ghastly flourescent lights to songs by such 80′s phenoms as The Violent Femmes, Billy Idol and Blondie. Our songs.
The combo 80’s/Valentine’s day theme had me waxing nostalgic in a big way. That was the decade when I first experienced the joys and miseries of romantic love, real and imagined. (For a while, I was sure I would DIE if Matt Dillon did not step out of the movie Little Darlings and instantly become my boyfriend.)
I also wrote a lot of bad, angst-ridden poetry during that decade, as I recently discovered while sorting through boxes of stuff. Allow me to share some excerpts (and please try to cut me some slack. I have never shown anyone these fine works, not even those for whom they were written):
* * *
Our love is like a dried-out Flair pen
No longer works, it tries.
It dies. It tries.
My optimism brews beneath a haze of lies.
* * *
This is not the first time.
This is nothing but self-slaughter. This is nothing but used crime.
Latent vacancies destroy the pillow
So blatant is the urgency
* * *
Beneath the crisp white smile of your work shirts
It’s your heart I want to taste
Even if it’s just one big bruise
Or beating red and salty
Like a healthy animal
* * * *
I happen to think the last one has some merit, but, um, a dried-out Flair pen? I can LOL at that now–but back then, it was not a laughing matter.
The 80′s ended with me meeting R, who caused me no angst whatsoever until well into the millennium. By the time I felt angsty about him, I had two kids and zero inclination to write poetry (though I did hit send on a few emails from hell itself).
Now, at the beginning of the 2010′s, I’m feeling too old for angSt. Or maybe just too wise to worry about Flair pens, dried-out or otherwise. Or maybe I’m kidding myself.
Hey, whatever happened to Matt Dillon, anyway?
I experienced one of my most rewarding moments as a parent last night. My 13-year old-daughter and I watched the first three episodes of the zany British TV show Absolutely Fabulous, which had us ROTFL together.
I hadn’t seen AbFab since it originally aired way back at the turn of the century. (Remember, when we had to sit in front of the TV at a specific time each week or we’d miss it?)
Back then, I related to the super-sensible, righteous teen daughter Saffy, who is forever trying to scold her loopy middle-aged mum, Edina Monsoon, into behaving just a little bit like a responsible grown-up. (In one episode, Edina tells Saffy, “We don’t use the word sensible in this house, sweetie!”)
To my unwrinkled under-30 eyes, Patsy and Edina looked old. Weathered. Clinging to the last vestiges of youth. But last night, watching AbFab–which, it being 2009, we’d Netflixed as if that’s a real verb–I realized to my horror that they look surprisingly young. In fact, they are younger than I am now. It was one of those chilling where-has-the-time-gone moments, like when it hits you that all sorts of professional adults are not automatically older than you anymore just because they are your dentist or the President of the United States.
And it’s my sensible, eye-rolling daughter who is the Saffy now. Which makes me…which makes me…0h, please, no…the Edina!
OK, I am not nearly as whacked-out as Edina (right??) But I can relate to her, which is scary enough. We’re both in our 40s, both divorced, both single mothers of too-responsible daughters. Edina leads a life of debauchery; I don’t, but my daughter is convinced that I do when she’s not around to keep me in line. Edina has tantrums in front of her child and does not model appropriate behavior. I try to model appropriate behavior, yet this new single-mother gig has at times pushed me thisclose to having a tantrum in front of my kids.
See? I told you!
Hold on, though. Maybe there’s still hope. I don’t own anything by Christian LaCroix and I refuse to get so thick around the middle that my daughter will quote Saffy and say: “Mum, it doesn’t matter to me that you haven’t seen your navel in 25 years or that you can wear your stomach as a kilt. Just as long as you’re happy.”
Have any AbFab memories to share? Any Edina moments to fess up to?
It’s not always easy to come up with ideas for blog posts, so when a holiday like Thanksgiving rolls around, it’s like a freebie from the blogosphere, a no-brainer. You simply write a post about being thankful, even if everyone else is doing the same thing, and even if the holiday was four days ago.
So, while this blog has chronicled the assorted forms of emotional and financial devastation for which I am decidedly not thankful, I am also genuinely grateful for many things in my life.
Here we go:
Oh, and one more thing: I’m very thankful that I got over my blog-aversion, read WordPress for Dummies, and created this blog, which I enjoy working on more than almost anything else I do all week. Mostly, I am thankful to you for reading it.
Here is a sentence I never thought I would write: I am in New Jersey sitting on the couch with my boyfriend, who is watching football.
The two words that leap out at me are boyfriend and football. (I was going to make a crack about New Jersey, but that’s so cliche at this point, plus it’s really not that funny. It’s just a place where people live–some of my favorite people, in fact, so I say let them live in peace.)
And I know I’ve already mentioned S-the-boyfriend, so maybe that’s old news. But I still find it kind of a bug-out that a) omg, I have a boyfriend; how did that happen?, and b) I can say it openly, especially given that, technically, I still have a husband. I have a husband and a boyfriend! Look at how far we’ve come that I can say that on a public forum without fearing that I’m going to be burned at the stake or forced to parade around with a scarlet A on my chest. To add to the excitement, my husband has a girlfriend, whose husband has a girlfriend, etc. We are all so out-of-the-box evolved, aren’t we? Why, it’s just a matter of time before we’re all vacationing together on cruise ships for the amicably divorced.
But I digress–because what’s most remarkable here is the football thing. I know: Guy who watches football describes 97 percent of men in this country–yet I have never had a boyfriend who was into football. Nev. Er. I’ve had boyfriends who wore eye make-up and/or trendy hats, and I had a husband who watched the Superbowl–but he’s of the breed who is in it for the commercials and the snacks.
Not only is S into watching football in the can’t-miss way that some of us watch, oh, Mad Men, but, because he has a Y chromosome, he actually understands what’s going on. He insists that no, it’s not just a bunch of over-sized brutes running into each other and knocking each other down until they become brain-damaged. He talks about it as if it’s a chess game, using words like strategizing and premise and intelligent. Yet, try as I might, I cannot see anything but a bunch of big lugs randomly bumping into each other–and from an informal poll, it seems most women are equally perplexed by the appeal of this sport. Are there women who really get football? If you’re out there, please reveal yourselves. (And, btw, I don’t want to hear about how you like soccer, baseball, basketball or tennis. I’m only interested if you’re a woman who actively enjoys watching football and can explain why.)
Usually this is the point at which I reach a pithy, often touching conclusion, but I don’t have one for this post. All I can say is that I don’t get football, but I do like sitting on a couch in New Jersey with a certain guy who does.
I abandoned costume-wearing on Halloween when I was around 16 and remained completely uninterested in the holiday until my older daughter turned two; at that point, my urge to dress her as the world’s cutest pumpkin overcame my vague disdain for October 31.
But we were never one of those zany families where the whole gang gets in on the act—mom and dad as Princess Leah and Luke Skywalker, the kids as Yoda and R2D2—or everyone as a different-colored M & M. In fact, I’ve always rolled my eyes a little at adults who go all out on Halloween. (I’m not sure why, but there it is.) As parents, our role was merely to provide the ordinary, everyday backdrop against which our adorably-clad little darlings could stand out.
And then, last year, on my first post-separation Halloween, I felt an overwhelming urge to dress up. But I wasn’t going to wear just any costume–no fat suits or cardboard boxes for me. Inventiveness was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted an excuse to parade around in public looking sexy.
I’ve been tsk-tsking for years over how girls use Halloween for this purpose at increasingly young ages. I was not at all happy to see my 13-year-old strut out of here on Saturday evening looking like Minnie “She Works Hard for the Money” Mouse. And I would never wear those truly slutty costumes sold at Ricky’s—you know, like Nurse Kandi or Pocahottie. (Well, I might, but not in public.)
So at the last minute, I was trying to throw together a costume. Since we had an assortment of ears and tails left over from Halloweens past, I decided to go as a cat (look, I told you I was not trying to win an originality contest.) This would require me to wear black leggings tucked into my black pointy boots and lots of eye makeup. Perfecto!
In retrospect, Halloween ’08 was a pivotal moment in my midlife makeover, one in which I started to shed my somewhat-neutered married persona and began to embrace a somewhat-sexier, available one. Maybe donning kitty-cat ears and a tail wasn’t the most liberated way to get my groove back, but it worked. I felt a resurgence of a side of me I had lost touch with. Whether it was the cat costume that brought it on, or vice versa, I don’t know–but, curiously, just around a week later, I had embarked on my rebound fling.
I hadn’t planned to dress up again this year, but by the time the trick-or-treaters got going at around 4pm, I was infected with Halloween spirit. I ran to my closet, remembering a long red dress I’d forgotten about, grabbed the extra set of devil horns and the pitchfork we had lying around, and turned myself into a rather elegant devil.
I felt less invested in how I looked than I did last year, but maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe it means I’ve gotten used to having my groove back.
R and I have been seeing a mediator. Mediation is divorce lite for conflict-averse couples who don’t want to drag each other to court or traumatize their kids with custody battles. It’s for the amicable divorcing, oxymoronic as that sounds.
R and I are the poster pair for mediation. We get along, have the same basic values, try to put the children first, and donate to WNYC when we can.
So if it’s all supposed to be so downright pleasant, why would I rather stick pins in my eyes than endure another hour in that office?
Oh, wait. Here’s why:
On the other hand, I have been thoroughly enjoying one of the major benefits of my marital disintegration. S currently stands for Strong, Sensitive and Swoon. Oh, and let’s throw in some Shoulders and a Sweetheart.