I had a horrifying experience the other day. I picked up my son from his kindergarten class, and as we walked past the door of one of the five other kindergarten classes in the school, a guy caught my eye. I’m not blind; in fact, I’m fairly aware of my surroundings, so a guy catching my eye is not unusual. My boys’ school is in a great part of town with lots of power parents and celebrities. Pretty people and toned people. Well dressed and well off.
What was different about this guy, walking out with who I assumed was his son but possibly his grandson, was that he looked like someone I used to know. Actually, I thought right away that he was the father of the person I used to know. A heavier, more wrinkled, less hairy version of the guy I used to know. Just like the friend I remember, except that he has just gone through a course of prednisone, or has just woken up from a long long nap.
I quickly calculated that it had been 12 years since we had seen each other as coworkers, but when our eyes locked it was confirmed. It was definitely my friend!
We went through the usual oh-my-gods and how-long-has-it-beens, and I’m hoping so hard that I am concealing the surprise … er, horror … that I am feeling. Finally he was looking at me, taking in my entire body from head to toe, and I thought to myself, “Here it comes. He is going to go on and on about my youthfulness and how I haven’t changed a bit, and how my waist still looks nearly a 29, etc etc etc. I hope he doesn’t leave our reunion feeling terrible about himself”.
The words came out of his mouth and I had no time to deflect them.
“John, you look so …. so different! I hardly recognize you, but then again that’s you in there, for sure dude. I guess we are all getting old.”
What? I don’t feel old. Okay, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, but I blame whichever of the boys woke me up the night before for that. I can’t run 100 miles per week like I used to, but I am running at least 10 miles every other day. I seem to catch guys’ eyes now and then, but I admit it is more then than now. There was a time when not a day went by without some kind of flirtation from someone. Like the guy who quickly wrote “YOUR ADORABLE!” on a piece of paper and plastered it against his driver’s side window as we randomly waited at a red light together during the commute to work. Back then I even found the misspelling of “YOUR” endearing. Or the long list of guys who followed me out of the gym or Albertsons or the pool. When friends would say that maybe I should carry a fly swatter to keep them all away (or most of them), I would chuckle because sometimes it was nearly that bad (or good, depending on how you look at it.)
But life is different now. I drive a minivan, for God’s sake. I push a stroller with a 9-month old. I hang out with parents of my boys’ friends. And I don’t give off that “come and get me” vibe that I used to, because I got the man I want and couldn’t be happier.
Still, it’s a blow to the ego when you’re told in so many words that you look older. It happens to everyone, of course. We are all getting older. But I do not like it. So much of it is out of my control. No matter how much I exercise, my hair continues to thin. No matter how much I groom and loofa and exfoliate, my ears still sprout hair. No matter how many vegetables I consume, my eyesight continues to worsen.
We’re supposed to age gracefully, but when you meet someone from your past who hasn’t seen you in a while, it’s just awkward. And this is just the beginning, now that I’m in my (very) early 50s. How am I going to deal with this? There are those people that seem to defy the laws of gravity and age flawlessly, but apparently my body has not gotten the memo. So I’m just going to focus on my husband and my three boys and the love that they shower me with every day. I will try not to take it to heart when my husband reminds me not to overeat. And I will shrug off comments from my sons such as the doozie I got the other day: “Daddy, please don’t lose any more hair. You look so scary and it makes me cry.”
Me too, son. Me too.