Archive | June, 2011

A Grown-up Moment

20 Jun

In today’s American culture there is no longer a rite of passage that signifies you have entered the adult world. We experience extended adolescence that begins at puberty and stretches well into our twenties, and most of us know folks who have become permanent residents in the land quasi-adulthood. There are benchmark ages, of course, ceremonies and accomplishments that put us one step closer to being card-carrying members of the adult tribe, but none of those events universally signify that one has reached adulthood. For example, at 18 most young people are graduating from high school, and they are old enough to vote and enter the armed services; at 21 one can purchase alcohol; and finally, at 25, you can rent a car (certainly a milestone to celebrate). I doubt any of us would say that one of those events alone defined when we became an adult.

For Generation X and those following behind us – Generation Y and the Millennials – becoming an adult is defined personally according to one’s own life experiences. I think most of us end up leading adult lives and not knowing exactly the moment we baby stepped into a world of maturity. We find ourselves spending the weekend shopping at Costco, doing yard work and playing board games, rather than recovering from the previous night out. Someone’s drunk antics at a wedding aren’t funny anymore, they are concerning; the person who can’t seem to stay in a job or career isn’t still trying to find their way, they are officially lost; and the guy who is still playing the field is probably a confirmed bachelor.

I eased into adulthood too, but I have a moment, when I realized – like it or not – I was there. I had just turned 35 (yes, I am a late bloomer), and my first son was a little over a month old. I was feeding him in the middle of the night. In the glow of the nightlight and to the hum of the bugs outside, I felt that he and I were the only people on the planet. It’s an intimate and lonely feeling all at once. At that moment I was struck by the magnitude of being responsible for another life. The buck stopped with me, the mom. Dads can’t breastfeed, extended family visit and go back to their lives, grandparents provide wonderful support, but they are not Mom and Dad. Everyone else could sign off but me.  And surprisingly, that was okay. I was ready. This was not the opening act of being a teenager, or a 20-something, or a newlywed. I wasn’t preparing for anything or waiting for anything to happen as we all do when we are young. This was the main attraction. This was – without a doubt – real life.


Swim Suit Issues

15 Jun

It’s easy to feel good about my figure in the winter because I stay covered from head to toe. I go along happily during the cold months zipping my skinny jeans with no problem. There are body shapers for cocktail dresses, stockings for white legs, push up bras for less-than-perky bust lines. Sure I know I need to exercise and tone up, but I can do that in March – plenty of time to get ready for summer. March comes and goes, and still no exercise.  Sometime near the end of May I have to face the white, flabby truth because swim suit season has arrived.

Most women my age have swim suit issues. Not the Sports Illustrated kind either. These are the kind of issues that come after having kids, dropping your gym membership and convincing yourself that housework is really enough exercise. There is nothing I dread more about the return of warm weather than standing in the unforgiving glare of dressing room lights and getting a good view of my backside thanks to a three-way mirror. (Really, do retailers want me to buy a swim suit or antidepressants?)

Women with older kids are the lucky ones. They can sit under an umbrella, and sip a fruity drink. If they have to leave their lounge chair, they can step into their stylish cover up, concealing all bulges and ripples from the midday sun.  Not me.  I have two boys under four. I don’t even bother to get a lounge chair at the pool because I never sit down. I must walk, bend, chase, splash and be fully exposed to all the other pool goers for my entire visit.

Bathing suit makers are aware of the body issues of women like me, but they have yet to find a good solution. Not that they haven’t tried. There are swim skirts, boy shorts, tankinis — all intended to help disguise and conceal our problem areas. Truly, I think all of these options just make my problems worse. Skirts hide cheeks, but not thighs, and all of that flouncey material makes hips look wider. Boy shorts should not be worn by anyone over the age of 12. And tankinis can make you look like you are in the early stages of pregnancy.

Women are not alone. Men have swim suit issues too. Tufts of hair sprout like weeds on shoulders, lower backs and big toes.  And for the unlucky gentlemen who lose hair on their heads, it seems to all relocate to their backs and chests. They begin to look like bald grizzly bears.  Guts expand and sag.  Men develop weird sock tans and shirt tans from golf and yard work. And of course there is always the unlucky guy at the beach who has a Phil Mickelson-esque chest and is in need of what Kramer and Frank Costanza referred to as the “the bro.”

For all these woes of the aging flesh – for men and women — I think I have found a solution. I was inspired by a four-year-old boy who was a very enthusiastic member of my son’s swimming class at the local YMCA. Instead of Hawaiian and pirate motif swim trunks like the other boys wore, this child wore a spring wet suit each week. It’s a brilliant solution for middle aged folks. It only exposes your calves and forearms, so unless you have terrible varicose veins, how bad can you look? Maybe a company like Spanx could make wet suits with padding in the tush and bust, compression in the thighs and tummy. Lose inches and tone up instantly without any exercise or surgery, and protect yourself from the sun at the same time.  However, when I mentioned my inventive idea to a friend she pointed out that it would be like going back to bathing suits in the 1920s. Not a new idea at all.

Well it may not be new, but it’s sure a better solution than a swim dress. I have at least four more summers to go before I join the ranks of moms who actually sit on lounge chairs in cover ups, so I need a fix. Of course, maybe I will start exercising next March, just in time for the 2012 swim season and my 40th birthday.

Am I a grown up yet?

3 Jun

Sunday is my 39th birthday. So, I am one year away from the big 4-0. Meaning, chronologically at least, I am truly an adult. But what does it mean to be grown up?

My opinion of what an adult should be, of course, comes from my own parents. Collectively, they financially supported the family, maintained a clean and well decorated home, had a gorgeous yard, balanced checking accounts, saved for college, sewed on buttons, removed stains, entertained their friends and mine, read bedtime stories, sat through dance recitals and kissed boos boos with the best of them. None of these activities appeared taxing from a child’s perspective. They were all in a day’s work – almost as if Mom and Dad had been training for their entire lives to be proficient in all areas of their professional and domestic lives. And in retrospect, I guess they had.

 I was under the illusion that I would reach a certain age – 39 perhaps – when I too would have all of this know-how. I have arrived in adulthood without such a wide skill set. Yes, we are financially comfortable, we are devoted to our children, and we have a great circle of friends. But don’t check out our bathroom grout too closely, I haven’t managed to buy furniture for our living room after four years in this house, we take shirts with missing buttons to the dry cleaners for repair, and no we don’t own a lawn mower. I am bedeviled by the little, daily mundane things in life, like the laundry piling up, keeping up with the mail and hairspray shellacking my bathroom wall. I still rely on the automatic teller for my most accurate account balance, I use the microwave more than the oven, and I polish my nails more often than my shoes.

What I now realize – after 39 years – is that becoming a responsible adult is not like hitting puberty. It’s not something that happens to you, and when it’s over – like it or not – you are different. It’s more like college graduation. You can arrive at commencement after four years of study and growth ready for the real world, or you can show up hung over and relieved a 2.5 is good enough to earn a diploma. Either way, you are graduating, but it doesn’t mean you are ready for what’s next.

So, for the next year, I am going to take a look at what it means to be in this phase of life (dare I say middle age). The accomplishments, the contentment, the struggles, the self awareness and the hopes for what the next 40 or 50 years will bring.

Hitting 39 makes me realize there are some things I will never accomplish – like being an Olympic gymnast or going to medical school. On a smaller scale, I know that I will never get up a 5 a.m. to work out or give up cheese for Lent. On the flip side, I have surprised myself with the amazing amount of multi-tasking I can do as a parent, that I really can get up every night at 4 a.m. for nearly a year to comfort or feed a small child, and that I have had several really fascinating careers. My resume – personal and professional – is beyond needing padding, and it will never fit on one page again.

I hope you will find ideas that you identify with, stories that make you laugh, opinions that make you think and (I should say) positions that make you mad, (but I don’t really ever want to make people mad because I am a pleaser, and I knew that long before 39.) Join me as I count down to 40. And hey, if 40 really is the new 21, I guess I have plenty of time to learn to sew on a button.

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3 Jun

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