The Ageing Process
June 23, 2021
When I was 22, I was invincible. Young, dumb, and full of energy, I could work for eight hours, party until dawn, fall asleep on a pile of rocks, and wake up the next day feeling great. I had no commitments and no pressure. Oh, how times have changed. Nowadays, a strong sneeze will cause me to throw my back out. Getting older is challenging; I never imagined that I would be dealing with wrinkles and pimples at the same time. Who knew that once you get pimples as a teenager, they just never stop appearing? Every grey hair I find is another reminder that time is marching on, whether I like it or not. I remember my mother feeling the same way: “sometimes I look in the mirror, and I wonder who that old woman is staring back at me,” she said. “I still feel 22 on the inside.” Now, at 36 years old, I know exactly what my mother meant. Who is this woman in the mirror? Why does she look like an older, crankier version of me? Where have I gone?
I still feel as unsure and anxious as I did when I was younger. Am I ever going to feel like an actual adult? I have a sneaking suspicion that no one actually knows what they’re doing. I think everyone else is just as confused as I am, they’re just better at hiding it. Actual adults know important things, things like when to file their taxes and how to roast a chicken. I still have to read the instructions on how to microwave my daily pizza pop (does it need one minute or two? Never mind, it always ends up hotter than lava).
When I was a kid, my parents knew everything. They were smart, thoughtful, responsible adults. I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it, but my façade is starting to crack. My daughter recently asked me what butterflies do with nectar from flowers, and I had no idea. I’m pretty sure butterflies don’t make honey, but what DO they do with nectar? “They, um, eat it?….. Yeah, butterflies eat the nectar,” I blurted out, feeling panic sweat beading on the back of my neck. Molly considered this for a minute, then said “yep, that’s what they do.” Relief washed over me. I had dodged another bullet, and Molly had no clue that the intricacies of butterfly physiology are way beyond my paygrade.
I’m looking back on my early twenties with rose-colored glasses. A quick look through my diary from that time reveals heartbreak, frustration, and desperate uncertainty. I didn’t have a stable job, I didn’t have my own home, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever have those things. All things considered; would I go back in time if I could? No, definitely not. Life is much more rewarding now, even as a stay-at-home mom with two kids who occasionally make me want to yank out my nose-hair in frustration. Watching them grow is a gift – one that I take for granted all too often. Just like how I took my slim waistline for granted when I was younger. On second thought, I would go back in time, if only to tell my younger self to lay off the Doritos!
1) The opening paragraph is a clear reference to the "Hello, Stranger" strip:
that reminds us of the Mom Martyr inability to have the best of both worlds. One track minds like hers cannot have the best of both worlds.
2) The second paragraph alludes to Elly's non-stop beefing about when the magic will happen that makes her be the infallible parents she assumed she had:
so that she and Sarah can willfully alter "Don't worry your life away, Stupid!" into "You're not good enough, Stupid!"
3) This one points to Elly's dread of being revealed to be ignorant by a monster child that likes picking at scabs because CHAOS. There's no teachable moment a Mom Martyr can't piss away talking about God painting leaves or making kids ask why the longest answers start with "I don't knw".
4) Again with the nose hairs. Of all of the ways of expressing frustration, stimulating tears has to be the stupidest.
5) She could come to the Lower West Side of Saint John and someone will gladly tell her to lay off period. Watching a spoiled brat in her mid-thirties act like she's got a foot in the grave because she's gotta wing it like the rest of us is not especially charming to have to witness.