This morning I woke up and I wasn’t young anymore. At first I thought I was just bloated, but no. I didn’t wake up 100 years old or anything bizarre like that. It was more like I’d become fifty…ish. I’m really too young for this so you can imagine my surprise when I looked down at my hands and they were all swollen, knuckly and red. My initial reaction was this is kind of cool the way I just puffed up out of nowhere. It was almost like when I got my period for the first time.
After the novelty wore off and the realization sunk in that I’m never going to turn back into the young version of myself I started apologizing to people for my oldness. “Sorry it’s taking me so long to find the Refresh button on this machine,” I’d say. Or, “Sorry I’m no longer willing to ski. I know we flew all the way out here and everything. It’s just that I don’t feel like bending over to put my skis on.” I suddenly felt like apologizing for everything. “Sorry for coughing too loud.” “Sorry for burping.” “Sorry I’m sitting like this; my legs just seem to spread apart on their own now. I think a hinge must have broke in my hip.”
And then boys started looking at me differently. Like something was funny. I know my chest got unbelievably big at one point while I was just starting to turn old, but no one thinks her own chest is laugh out loud big. Oh, but it can be. And then the thing with the neck happened and the oversized, not-cute freckles. It was just a whole string of bad luck until I finally got so distracted by the physical changes I couldn’t even speak properly anymore. “Did you just make up a word?” my husband would ask me. “No whydge?” I’d reply.
And then I started peeing in my pants a little. Only when someone says something really funny, or when I sneeze, or, for no reason at all. I finally understand Kafka. One day you’re a girl and the next day you’re something else, something that pees inadvertently. What if you just woke up and were like, what’s that hump on my back? That’s exactly what this feels like.
I used to look at pictures of Marlo Thomas and think, I’ll never be old enough to wear those clothes. To dress like a lady. To wear calfskin gloves and tiny waist dresses and big sunglasses. And I never was. I past right by whatever age that was and now I’m too old to dress like that. Who would ever want to wear anything with a waist? That’s why old ladies wear housedresses without a bra. I used to think it was my grandmother’s way of stopping us from visiting her so often, but now I know it was just a fashion choice, and she was willing to live with the consequences. She’d always leave her bra on, unhooked, and let it just sit there. I begged my sister, if I ever do that, poison me. But I dare you to spend one glorious day braless in a housedress and then tell me if you care if you ever see your relatives again.
But here’s the thing. I like being older. I like that I won’t have to try to look even remotely sexy ever again for the rest of my life. I can dress like a boy without it coming across as an ode to menswear. It just looks more normal than me hobbling around like a chimp in heels. I can eat bread; I can wear slippers outside because someone was nice enough to invent Uggs and let them go so far out of style that they’re in again for people whose feet hurt. I can stay up as late as I want. I can snore. I can even have a chin hair if I choose to, because that’s what old people do. They have chin hairs and they don’t care!
Life is the longest running gag in history, and getting older is the funniest thing that will ever happen to you, so you might as well learn how to laugh in your own face. It’s only going to get puffier.