Monday, September 23, 2013

Cut Me Some Slack: Learning to Embrace 42

It arrived in the mail the same week I had turned forty-two.  

A flimsy white envelope--formally addressed to "The Parents of Gregg Festa"--heralding the high school open house.

As if I needed any reminders of the aging process.

So the universe decided to send me a few more just in case.  

Among some of my favorites:

1) A "personal" birthday greeting from Jenny Craig
2) A $1,000 credit toward a walk-in safety bathtub installation
3) A special offer from Lands' End for "Women's Refined Stretch Pants." 

Nothing threatens a feel-good birthday like such hovering words as slacks, comfort waistbands, mature skin, sensible shoes.  

Don't even get me started on Jenny Craig.  I think I may have put her grandchildren through law school at one point after each of my successive pregnancies with her pre-packaged sodium delicacies. How I ever convinced myself that her freeze-dried French toast and gloppy rotini were tolerable is beyond me.  I blame that misjudgment on the sleep deprivation of my early thirties. Thanks for the birthday love, Jenny, but I scoffed down a homemade red velvet cupcake anyway.  You know what, Jenny Love?  Guilt and microwavable nutrition were so my thirties. And turning 42 only comes once. 

Now how about that invitation for that modern marvel of a walk-in bathtub, fully furnished with the hydrotherapy leg massage, comfort handrails and a fabulous no-slip mat? What 40-something mama wants to get a letter and a coupon for that? I can't even wrap my psyche around that mother.  If that brochure were scented, it would reek of a melange of Pine Sol and stale peach potpourri.  Sorry, but my Calgon moment doesn't involve handrails.  I want a fluffy robe and citrus-infused water at a spa.  With sprigs of fresh mint, even.  Followed up by a shopping trip at a department store for some very impractical shoes.  Now how about that coupon? 

While you're at it, dear marketers, I think I speak for many of the women in my generation when it comes to that offer from Lands' End.  I can't even bring myself to say the word slacks--let alone wear them.  You can package them any hip way you want, but the bottom line is that your "Women's Refined Stretch Pants" are a slightly classier version of the Haband pants Bingo Annie wore in the late seventies. I think she even had a long leatherette case for her Virginia Slims and Bic lighter to match. Does it look like I have a bouffant secured with silver-hinged clips? Keep your coupon, your elastic waist, your extra-wide seat and the rouge on your cheeks.  The SPANX generation may never be ready for roomy culottes.  Or SLACKS.   

On the morning of my forty-second birthday, my six-year old son Luke asked me if I would rather be twenty-four instead.  

"No," I instantly replied, fully knowing that at twenty-four, my life was significantly different than it is now.  

"Why? Wouldn't you want to be younger again?"

"No, because all of the people who mean the most to me were all here by the time I was thirty-five."

"So, then you're lucky to be forty-two."


Yes, I got that letter for that open-house for high school. 
Yes, I cornered the market on pore-shrinking serums.  
Yes, I freaked out when a college student asked me who Sinead O'Connor was.
Yes, I am middle-aged. 

Truth be told--the aging process beats the living piss out of all of us, leaving us with creaky knees, jags of exhaustion, thinner patience and lingering specters of regret.  As decades unfold, we are reminded of the unsaid, the unwritten, the unexperienced and the unencountered while often retreating under the canopies of our glorified youth. 

Birthday Booties! Joan and David "Alistair".  
Somehow, we have the ability to simultaneously peer into life's rearview mirror while navigating the precious stretch of the here and now, which glitters right in front of us. 

I'm ready for you, forty-two.
But I'll be damned if I embrace you in scratchy poly-blend pants and velcro shoes.