Monday, August 31, 2009

And The Days Go By....

In one month, one month from tomorrow, I will have another birthday. And I am dreading it, yet again.

Before I go on, yes, of COURSE I appreciate everything I have--wonderful family, good health, a lovely home, delightful friends...all the things that one works a lifetime to achieve. I have them ALL, and I am supremely glad, thankful and, as is my wont, incredibly worried about everything turning to dust and being sucked up in the giant vortex of bad luck and ickiness. But this is not about all of my good things. This is about the bad. And the bad part is, I am getting old.

Boys and girls, I am not asking for compliments here. Feel free to give them, they are always welcome, but this is simply a statement of fact. I am getting old. This October 1, I am 43.  I am slowly, but with increasing speed, creeping into the mid-40's. And creeping is the operative word. The creep is so slow and insidious, that it is all but unnoticeable until you suddenly have lines around your eyes, your mouth, your forehead, your neck-- the light in my bathroom must be super flattering because it wasn't until I was on an airplane (going to Cleveland to play a big show for people that I had not seen in 25 years) that I looked into the bathroom mirror and saw EVERYTHING. Every unruly brow hair, every age spot. Fortunately I had not carried my tweezers onboard for fear of confiscation, or i would have gotten off that plane with a huge need for eyebrow Rogaine. And yes, there is such a thing. That is something you learn when you are old.

When I was living in the world of sweatpants and bad undergarments (i.e. when my kids were little) I never thought about any of this. Partially because I was in my very early thirties, and partially because I just didn't care. Things were so loony when my kids were young, sometimes in a good way, sometimes decidedly bad, that I simply didn't care what I looked like. I made the perfunctory effort to look reasonable, but that meant a haircut and lipbalm. It was an accomplishment to be clean. The only time I really went all out was when I had Meetings With The School. Then, beauty rituals were like armor. Manicure and pedicure, haircut, make-up, even a suit for an attempt at the intimidation factor. And it worked, at least for me. I'm not sure if anyone was frightened by my lipstick, but I thought there was a Xena factor there.

The irony is that the older you get, the less make up you should wear. This is not so as to embrace the most heinous of expressions, GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY (accept your decay without excess complaint), but because make-up can settle into your wrinkles, can accentuate the dark circles, does not actually cover up the age spots caused by the youthful exuberance of lying in the sun smothered in baby oil. It doesn't work. It just doesn't. God forbid I should go out unfinished (as my BFF likes to call it) so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. And I am obsessively vain about my skin. But the goal seems to have become not to look younger, but to not look older. This depresses me beyond belief.

After the Cleveland show, I watched the video, something I usually avoid, and I was pleasantly surprised. The pictures made me somewhat nauseous (sorry, Blair!) because it was 9000 degrees at The Barking Spider and I was hot and shiny, rather than "dewy" or "luminous".  But in the video, I looked ok. I looked kind of cute, even. That was heartening, that maybe my beauty product OCD was paying off. Or maybe doing something that I really love is just good for my face overall. I was smiling, I was happy. And I liked my shirt, even though I question it now.

It is POSSIBLE that other people don't see all the history I see on my face. Maybe when I'm singing, when I'm laughing or telling a dirty story, those historical markers are not obvious to anyone else. Maybe they never are. Awesome for everyone else. Because when I look at myself in the mirror, I say, Fuck Aging Gracefully. I am fighting it. Or maybe I should take my friend LZ's advice, and tell people that I'm 50. I look amazing for 50.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Cynical Optimist Plans a Bar Mitzvah

I have really, truly accepted that I am indeed a Cynical Optimist. For many years now, I have been trying to convince myself that life is easier when you are optimistic, and have tried very hard to wear that uniform and get with the program. I do have a weakness for a man in uniform (especially my adorable UPS man), but I myself am neither a man nor look good in a uniform of any kind, and have given up. My mantra is now:  I think there is a chance that things will get better, but probably not.

This could be a testament to my ethnic heritage, where lateness is the equivalent of being dead in a ditch. In order to cope with any potential upset or disappointment, I have to prepare for the absolute worst case scenario. This can be very freeing, like at my son's bar mitzvah--one of the worst things (to me) would have been running out of food, (which for a Jew is the mistake never lived down) but I had Pino's Pizza programmed into my phone should that very unlikely situation actually happen. Of course it did not, not nearly. Barbecue from Blue Ribbon is likely to be in my freezer until Medium's bar mitzvah, three years from now. So in this case, the Cynical Optimism manifested itself as Being Practical. And Being Practical is an excellent life skill, one that people strive to achieve. And I can, and have. But the dark side is always there. And in this case, the dark side was towels.

See, I got this awesome idea that, as a party favor for my son's bar mitzvah party, I would give away beach towels. Pool party and beach towels=cute. One of those things you can never have enough of. Yes, well, I got 154 beach towels. At Target. Three shopping carts full at one store and two at another, when there weren't enough to satisfy my irrational fear that if I ran out of beach towels, the party would be RUINED, by my bad planning, by my cheapitude, ruined by my own hand! I did carefully look at my guest list and somehow this seemed like the right number. Because I could not run out. Could not. Absolutely, no.

Then the Cynical Optimist got a kick in the ass. The Bar Mitzvah Boy, my eldest, the Large of my Small, Medium and Large, had a seizure at school. Out of the blue. Call from the husband that Large was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. And I didn't know whether he was still alive or not, and being who I am, at that darkest of all moments, I assumed he was not. I drove down to the hospital, getting onto the wrong highway in my fear and grief, and when I got there, he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily, and said "Hi, Mama." And thus, my ass was kicked. Because looking at him lying in that hospital bed, not knowing whether this was now to be our path, thinking how unbelievably unfair the universe is, I also knew that this was the reminder i needed that 154 towels is TOO MANY TOWELS. It is too much. Scale back, remember who the bar mitzvah is for. Leave the towels. Let go of the damn towels.

And yes, I did do those things. I scaled back, made it the bar mitzvah it was always supposed to be. It was truly the most moving, amazing, proud moment of my life, more than I ever could have dreamed. And yet...and here is what makes me question my sanity and my fitness as a parent...I could not take the towels back. I could not do it. Like a security blanket, the existence of the towels in the huge black contractor bags in my attic kept me from losing my shit. Large could have had a dozen more seizures between his first and his bar mitzvah (he did not, fortunately) and I would have dealt with it. I would have Been Practical. My worst case scenario for Large actually came to pass, something that I had envisioned from the day he was born. That dreaded phone call actually came. And we managed. But I was not prepared to deal with the self-flagellation that would come from running out of towels. So, no, it wasn't an important thing. But at least I could do something about it, something I could control. There would be towels, towels for everyone. 

Children climbed out of the pool and used a fresh, dry towel each time. It was a colorful, beautiful mess of towels and barbecue, to celebrate the day I never knew would arrive exactly the way it did. The people I loved went home with a stack of towels in the color of their choosing. And while I do still have many, many, MANY left, i am ok with it. We will be using beach towels after showers for the rest of our lives here at Casa Simone B., but at least we'll be dry. My sanity is worth 90 extra towels.