My early 20s don’t seem like they were that long ago. While the days of body shots, cartilage piercings, and other regrettable life choices bear no resemblance to my current life, I still remember them with a kind of clarity that (copious amounts of alcohol notwithstanding) seems to undermine the decade that has since passed.
Perhaps it’s because my “under-tall” stature tends to convince people I am barely within legal drinking age, or maybe it’s because my children have generously allowed me the kind of beauty sleep necessary to keep my skin soft and supple — just kidding, that’s not true at all. Either way, I’ve always considered my husband and I fairly cool. Like, maybe we have more responsibilities and life experience under our belts, but we definitely aren’t old fuddy-duddies, right?
Last week, we took advantage of some rare free time to head out for a fun-filled day sans whiney children. It was blissful, entailing a six-hour round trip drive to reach our destination. We turned off the Princess Tea Party CD that had played on loop for the last three months and listened, gratefully, to whatever the hell we wanted. We snacked on junk food without having to share. I took a nap. Turns out, road trips without children are surprisingly relaxing.
On the way back, we stopped for dinner at a burger joint. My husband ordered some food while I secured a quiet booth and checked my phone to see if there were any messages from the sitter. (And by “sitter,” I mean our good friends who we conned into thinking it would be fun to watch our kids for a day. Suckers.)
Just as we began chowing down, relishing in the knowledge that we would be able to finish our entire meal without any meltdowns, potty accidents, or other inevitable shenanigans, a group of young guys sat down in the booth next to us. They were tan, muscular, and judging from their barely there tank tops, wanted to make sure everyone knew it. They could have easily passed for some serious surfers grabbing a bite after a long day on the waves, except despite the fact that we live in California, we are nowhere near coastline or any sort of water.
As they lounged in their seats, incessantly running their fingers through their thick sun-kissed hair, my husband nodded over at them and whispered, “Do you think they are college-age or what?” Trying to look inconspicuous, I feigned interest in the menu posted above their heads for a better look at the surfer boys. “Definitely,” I agreed. “College kids, for sure.”
At about that time, a gaggle of girls bopped in who happened to know the boys. They giggled and high-fived and jumped around in their impossibly small Daisy Dukes. Tan and tiny, their barely there tank tops ensured everyone knew it. (I must’ve missed the loose, faintly see-through tank top memo.)
Then somebody made a joke, and they all laughed obnoxiously loud. Like, there’s-no-way-it-was-that-funny-but-they-had-to-be-the-center-of-attention-anyway kind of loud. My husband and I looked at one another and rolled our eyes.
“Well, that’s annoying,” he grumbled. With my fingers pressed deeply between my eyes, I responded with, “My sinuses are killing me, and it’s way too loud in here. We need to get home anyway. It’s getting late.”
It was still light outside.
And that’s when the obvious slapped me right across the face. My life looks nothing like that anymore. I don’t look like that anymore. I don’t talk like that. Did I ever resemble this seemingly farcical representation of young adulthood? Moments before, my husband and I had felt victorious over our early-bird dinner while these young guns were probably eating their first meal of the day and wouldn’t go to sleep again until we were waking up. What had previously felt like my not-so-distant past suddenly propelled itself light-years away from my current reality.
I looked down uneasily at myself: conservative cardigan and sensible shoes. (We had walked around quite a bit that day, after all!) I glanced over at my husband: smart polo and khaki shorts (not of the cargo variety). We looked old, comparatively at least.
I mean, we had good reason to be dressed the way we were. We had just come from a Vatican exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library so, duh, we had to at least look like the feeble, tired parents we are.
Oh, I hadn’t mentioned that yet? Yes. We spent our one day alone oohing and aahing over papal artifacts at a presidential library. And we liked it! But that’s not even the best part. Ready for this? We found and reported a grammatical typo in the museum and felt awesome about it.
So, there — whatever. I guess it shouldn’t really have taken some spry young chickens to make me acknowledge my inevitable decline into muumuu dresses and Tom Collins cocktails. But, for now, I’ll happily enjoy my yoga pants and nightly glass of pinot grigio like the rockin’ 30-going-on-80-year-old that I am. Life has brought me to this exact point, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. I am just going to get older, grayer, and crankier. But I’m totally fine with that, and you should be too, because I’m comfortable in my cardigans and wouldn’t be caught dead in a see-through tank top.
Besides, at least I know how to hashtag so I’m not totally hopeless, right?
(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 8 September 2016)
**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.