At 33, lines, gray hairs, and saggy skin are creeping into my mirror. It’s crap really. In some kind of ultra-mature (totally naïve) decision-making scheme, I never exploited this body when it should have been exploited. No booty shorts, no grinding, no alcoholic binges followed by haphazard pees in bushes. And my lack of embarrassing, drunken, hormonal, stupid, peer-pressure-driven regrets is one of my biggest regrets. When the dude finished my ear piercing after my last birthday and declared, “Whoa, you clot crazy fast,” I realized that I’ve been missing out. In what shenanigans could I have engaged and never would have had to consider bleeding to death as a possible outcome?
While I was working an event today, an older woman stopped mid-sentence and said to me, “You’re so pretty. I’m sorry if I’ve embarrassed you, but I try to say kind things when I think of them.” I’m sure I had blushed, which in itself demonstrates that I have not had enough mornings waking up naked and drooling beside a hairy stranger. Those compliments will be fewer as I shift into a more mature woman—-if a more mature me is possible. More than that, her compliment reminded me that after spending the last 10 years of my life caring for my chronically ill parents, my focus has moved beyond the gray hair I see in the mirror and body shot fantasies and into the realm of self-improvement, that kind in which I too try to share kindness with others and even share my chocolate chips. Words like intentional and gratitude have entered my vocabulary alongside skank and curses. Beer is no longer worth the bloat. Naked strangers are not worth the risk. Orange juice and ibuprofen work up an ulcer, but I take them together regardless. I run not for fun or for exercise but for sanity. This is full-blown middle-age.
What do I really regret? Instead of telling me I’m pretty, I wish someone had said, “Why so serious?” Couldn’t someone have told me that you can choose not to take risks, but hard things will still happen? People you love will pass away, whether from your immediate, ever-changing life or from their own stilling hearts. Individuals you love with your whole self will let you down. Beloved cats and dreams will get squashed. Cancer might grow. Gray hair sure as hell will. Babies may or may not come into being. Muffin-tops will triumph. Weird hair that disgusts you will grow on your body in places you’d rather not inspect. Your mother’s sayings will make sense, and you will find yourself telling people, “Fish and friends stink after three days.” You’ll drive the speed limit because tickets and gas both cost too much. Sharing tales of indigestion will become a bonding experience among peers. Dancing in costume with a period English country dance group will seem like a decent way to spend the weekend. And even with your incredible clotting speeds, you will still wonder which activities may result in bleeding to death.
500 words later, what I really want to say is, why so serious, people? We’re all somewhere on the spectrum of age, responsibility, and maturity. Until we gasp out that final fog of carbon dioxide, there’s time to craft a life we love with people we love. Priorities and perspectives shift to bring new ways of existing into focus. There is time to wear halter tops and highlight your hair along with expressing care and achieving goals. And if you don’t believe me, if you don’t think it’s true, if you don’t see that life instead of death should be our motivator despite droopy appendages reminding us of mortality, we can talk about what Doritos do to my digestion. You’d have to be a deity not to have a wrecked colon after eating those.