I was heading into the grocery store the other day while two youngish women were walking out. They were, oh, I don't know -- maybe in their early 20s: pretty, long shiny hair, short denim cutoffs. As I crossed the street, I glanced in the windshield of a car that was waiting for people to cross, and I saw the intent gaze of the man inside. His eyes tracked those girls until they were out of the way, then he started to pull forward -- until he finally noticed me. That's when he stopped, looked bored, and fiddled with something on his dashboard until I reached the sidewalk.
Later, the college guy bagging groceries referred to me as ma'am. And not in that I'm-required-to-call-you-this-even-though-you-seem-too-young way, either.
I know these are dumb things to focus on or even notice. I'm 38 years old, after all. I have two children. I've been a ma'am for a while now, and it's been years since I was the one who stopped traffic. But oh god, I miss it. I miss being young and hot and stare-worthy, I miss being a miss.
I'm feeling older these days. Things are catching up with me, or more accurately, things are sliding down on me. My butt sags. My arms flap. The flesh on my face is settling into unpretty lines that make me look like I've spent my entire life frowning: an angry-looking furrow between my eyebrows, a dissatisfied droop to my cheeks. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and place two careful index fingers on either cheekbone, and I lift -- just a tiny, tiny bit.
(It's amazing the difference that makes. It's enough to make a person wonder just how expensive plastic surgery is.)
Recently I saw a current Facebook photo of a boy I knew in high school and I must have stared at it for 10 minutes, trying to figure out how it happened. When, exactly, did that beanpole kid turn into a pudgy, balding middle-aged man? Was it the same time the flame-haired black-eyeliner'd Doc Marten'd girl I used to be turned into a frumpy mom heading into Safeway to buy more goddamned Snackimals?
It's ridiculous to rage against the aging machine, and more importantly, it's useless. Nothing can stop the inexorable forward march of time, as every mother knows. Maybe that, in fact, is what some of this is all about -- I can't stop my own free-fall into decrepitude, I can't stop my children from shooting up like weeds and taking step after step away from me and into their own lives.
It used to be that my life was my own, I had the ability to be as selfish and irresponsible as I wanted. I miss that too, sometimes.
But maybe most of all I miss being noticed, even by creepy guys in cars. I hate the feeling that every year I fade a little more -- I become less relevant, less visible. It doesn't matter if it isn't true, or that it's a perception I can choose to dismiss. It's there. It's depressing.
It's also funny, because when I was younger, I was insecure as hell, uncomfortable in my own skin, and overly conscious of whether or not people were looking at me. Huh, that sure sounds familiar.
And of course, it won't be long until I'll have that exact realization about the person I am right now. Thirty-eight, I'll say. Jesus, you had everything then.
Do you ever experience aging-related freakouts?
Image via Linda Sharps