So, in a little over 10 days (13 to be exact, and yes, I just counted on my desk calendar), I’m turning 44. This number makes me feel a little weird. A little oogie. (My mother, as point of comparison, became a grandmother at 44. Whoa.)
Indulge me, but I’m feeling a little old.
Yes, yes, I know all about the 40s being the new 30s, but I already did my 30s, and when I was in my 20s, guess what? I was in my 20s. I’ve been pacing myself, but nevertheless, I’m now middle aged. Middle aged with two small children. Which still, even in these days of advanced-ish-age motherhood (Kelly Preston, anyone?), surprises people. I can almost see a quick calculation in their eyes: She has a second-grader, so let’s say she had him in her early 30s, which I’m going to assume because she seems like the type to have kids later than the national average, so that puts her at, say, 37.”
Sigh. 37: When my gray hairs were lonely soldiers gathering on the top of my head. Now they’ve massed together to form an upstart nation which is staging a revolution on my former natural color. My former color, it must be said, that’s also all but gone. What happened to the rich brown with reddish natural highlights? The roots coming in that are not gray are now a flat darkish color (which Kim, my hairdresser, is happy to point out before she spreads on the goop that will bring me back to the color I see on my kids’ heads now).
I’m in this weird spot. I’m not old, but I’m no longer young. The wrinkle (ha ha!), too, is that I’ve historically looked a lot younger than my chronological age (I’m not preening, it just is what it is; at my first job, when I was 22, I was routinely taken for a 17-year-old intern, complicated even more if the person making the error had talked to me on the phone first, because voice-wise, I sounded the same back then, or even back when I was about 6, as I do now — annoyingly mature). Anyway, now, I’m in this place where I’m waiting for that surprised, “You’re 35! No way! You don’t look a day older than 28!” to slip away, to be replaced with, “You’re 50? Yeah.”
It’s catching up.
I know what you’re thinking: what is this navel-gazing post doing in a blog about raising kids? It’s simple: The people who raise kids are … drum roll … still actual, whole people themselves! And one thing this Mean Mom has been doing, assiduously and determinedly, since that day in 2002 when I had my first son, is holding on to that self. And you know what? That self sometimes feels old. Well, older.
I’m just not hot anymore (except to my husband, but he’s way biased, knowing as he does what side his bread is buttered, yk?). I’m not a ragged mess, I don’t wear what my college friend Penny used to call “yank ’em ups,” those elastic-waist pants you can buy, in a range of rainbow hues, via mail-order (check your Sunday supplements, or those ads in woman’s magazines, next to the ones for ceramic angels and babies). I may let the time drag between appointments with Kim (letting those grays think they’ll win in their relentless advance, until I pony up the hundred bucks and give them a chemical beat-back). I do my best to stay healthy and energetic: I run, I do Pilates, I lift weights, I wear cool shoes when I can. But I’m still a mom, with an undeniable mom-look: a poochy midsection, tired legs (that used to be hot legs, trust me), and — I just noticed the other day — my mother’s upper back. Hard to explain what that means, but suffice to say, it brought me up short.
Earlier today, I was reading Stephanie Dolgoff’s blog, Formerly Hot, which I really like (read: am jealous of). She has a book coming out, and after I watched the trailer for it (note to self: if you get book deal, think video book trailer), I felt both better (I’m not alone!) and worse (so what if I’m not alone! I’m still no longer hot!).
Anyway. Happy almost-birthday to me; to my C-section scar; to the spider veins; to the further evidence of my mom’s genes expressing themselves (Exhibit A: bunion on right foot. Not hot); to what my son James calls the “cracks” on my eyes; to the tiny spots I see in the magnifying mirror that make me rue the days I spent baking in the sun. I’m going to restrain myself from saying, “but it’s all worth it because I have my beautiful boys.”
The boys are worth … they have no calculable worth. So let’s admit it, fellow formerly smokin’ women who are now deep into motherhood and life-hood: wouldn’t it be great to have the kids and the hot legs?