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The Aging Process

It’s easier if you’ve never been cool

illustration by jane sanders

I don’t feel old most days. This is not because I am still young and hip. This is because I have never been young and hip and thus I don’t really feel youth slipping through my fingers.

Yes, I’d rather spend my Friday night at home in pajamas baking bread than going dancing at a club. But that was also true when I was 22.

When I was 16, my perfect date was coffee at Barnes & Noble and a typical weekend for my friends and me involved playing Trivial Pursuit at Shoney’s.

I was the designated driver at my own 21st birthday party.

So most days, I don’t feel any kind of age. I just feel like normal, nerdy, introverted Eve, happy to explain obscure grammar rules to you, spout off trivia from my vast knowledge of young adult fiction, send you links about the science of baking, discuss the modi operandi of various serial killers, or offer my pros and cons for all of New Orleans’ libraries.

But then I read something about how it’s the 20th anniversary of K&B’s closing (it can’t possibly be that long ago – I remember it so clearly; I was so emotional about it!) or how a child I baby-sat is turning 25 (which seems weird because I am sometimes not entirely sure that I’m not still 25).

Or I put a face to a name with some pop singer (Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande), and they look like toddlers to me. How can these children be singing about sex and heartbreak and love and booze and drugs?

Or I try to figure out Snapchat.

Or my new intern calls me “ma’am” and tells me he was born the year I started high school.

It’s a subtle shift in many ways for me – I never learned how to do dramatic things with eyeliner; I’ve never owned leather pants; I’ve never shotgunned a beer or drunk MD 20/20. So it’s no loss that I’m now officially “too old” by mainstream standards to do any of them.

But the truth is – and I don’t mean this to sound smug, even though it sort of does – I’ve never really cared that much about mainstream standards anyway.

“It’s kind of liberating to not give a shit about wearing makeup anymore,” a friend just a few years older than me said last week. “I used to spend 30 minutes every day ‘putting my face on,’ and now I just don’t care at all.”

“Yeah, it’s great!” I said. And it is great. I like it so much, actually, that I have never given a shit about makeup and I don’t even know what I would do with 30 minutes allotted to apply it. My understanding of makeup begins and ends with mascara and lipstick, and I only wear those on special occasions. (Again, this is not meant to sound smug. I am not anti-makeup for anyone at any age. If you like doing a “smoky eye” – that’s a thing, right? – at age 87, that’s fantastic! If you want to wear glitter eye shadow at 55, please go ahead! I have just been anti-makeup for me for my entire life, so, yeah, I completely support your revelation that it’s a pain in the ass.)

The other way I can feel myself aging is the way younger people look at me. Although I still sometimes look in the mirror and have trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that I am someone’s mom – two someone’s, in fact – I know I definitely come off as very “mom-ish” now to teenagers. And it’s funny because I walked through a cluster of young teens the other day on my way into the office – me in sensible loose-fitting khakis; a blue knit top; hair in a ponytail; carrying a briefcase, my purse, and a Doc McStuffins lunchbox and the teens with ear gauges, nose rings, brightly dyed hair, and weird spiky hairstyles. I certainly wasn’t shocked. If I thought anything about it at all, it was just about the nature of fads and how they come and go. But I caught one kid giving me a challenging look, like he was daring me to be scandalized, and it made me smile because it just seemed so cute … but also so weird that I’m now in a demographic that comes across as easily shockable.

But if the bad news is that I’ve outwardly somehow switched demographics, the good news is that I really don’t care.

You can have your nose ring; just leave me alone with my family, my books, and my coffee, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

 


 

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