For a while there, not long ago, I was on fire. I had a hot car, a big, wild, red hairdo, a fabulous pair of jeans and three-inch heels to strut in them. Please pardon my indulgence here, but that's how the past has come to seem, now that I drive a nice four door, have a tame haircut, and wear sensible shoes. And walk around muttering about the horrible music the kids are listening to these days, and other things my parents used to say.
I knew I was in trouble with the shoes, though I remained in denial, but after the haircut, I had to admit it: I've crossed over. Comfort is more important than cool. Once the door opened to this fear, that I'd become a grown up and therefore crashingly dull, all kinds of evidence came clear. As if sensible shoes and an easier hairdo aren't bad enough, there's that pair of Levi's, a size larger than I'd really need them, with a little stretch in the fabric for extra ease of movement. (How did I even come to be in the Welcome to Early Old Lady section of the department store?) All the crutches I'd relied on, the ballast of hair and shoes, in a few months, gone.
This sense of a changed status snuck up on me. There were lots of clues, but I didn't see them as they occurred. When an about-to-graduate architecture student went on a weekday run with me and kindly said she hoped to be in as good a shape as I was when she was my age, the flattery allowed me to ignore the fact that I am twice her age. I focused where my hopes held. I'm still surprised not to have to ask someone for permission to go to the movies, how the heck did I get to be twice as old as a budding architect?
The sensible shoe thing is the result of having become a runner. I am wildly excited about this. I am slow, (which I blame on ridiculously short legs, not lack of effort) but I am out there putting in the miles, grinning like a fool. Runners have all kinds of aches, and feet are often where it hurts. High heels are not the best way to rehab a foot full of stressed connective tissue. Never mind you might fall off one and break an ankle.
And the haircut, that was a very spontaneous, brave choice I regretted as soon as it was done. I'd kept it long for thirteen years, and had no plans to ever go even a half-inch shorter. But one day my stylist showed me a magazine cover of Sandra Bullock and said she'd like to cut my hair like this beautiful movie star's, so I said what the heck. A girl's gotta be open for change, right?
Shoes and hairdos and cars are just symbols, perhaps not the most meaningful, but they've been mine, and their absence plays into the realization that I've reached a new point. I am accustomed to gunning hard for the next thing. From childhood, you look forward to being in junior high, then high school, then can't wait to get to college, chase after a good job, aspire to own a house, get married, always looking forward, always moving forward. And now the list of natural next steps is shorter.
Or is it? Maybe I've been taking that list for granted, and it's time to make it mine. Giving up the false hope of being cool might be a relief. Maybe now is a good time to savor the small stuff, like the great thrill I've been getting out of making pizza dough from scratch. Or trying to make a chocolate cake as good as Mom's. I may always miss that feeling of speed and power I got when I shifted my hot car into fifth gear on a wide open stretch of road, but at least there'll be something good to eat when I've safely, slowly made my way home.
Thank you for reading.