Middle Age is the New 30something

As the babushka goes, so go I

Few things make me laugh at myself more than the hyper-sensitivity with which I was burdened as a young adolescent, and the ways that sensitivity manifested itself.

babushkaI can remember my mother and I going to the local mall on Friday nights and eating dinner at the lunch counter of McCrory's (a sort of five-and-dime affiliated with Murphy's, I think). We did this because my sister worked there as a waitress.

It filled me with dread, though, because I knew that there were cooler (let's be honest: they were "cooler," but nowhere near more cool) kids skulking around at the same time - not only without their parents, but also in more fashionable eateries somewhere in the mall. (For the life of me, I can't remember a place to eat at the Middletown Mall that would have been considered fashionable - the Orange Julius, maybe?)

The last thing I ever wanted to happen was for one of those "white-teeth teens" to glance down at me from the top rungs of the socio-economic ladder to see that I was eating a patty melt at a "poor" restaurant.

So what did I do in order to avoid any unwanted, judging glances in my direction? Easy: I flipped up the collar on my jeans jacket (the left lapel covered in pins to support my favorite bands, of course) and made sure that I never took off my black Wayfarer knock-off sunglasses the whole time we visited with my sister.

Well. That didn't draw any attention my way...

It's only natural that we aren't as self-conscious when we're 44 as we are when we're 14. This is a good thing, obviously, and not just because I'd never be able to fit even one arm into that denim jacket, now.

These days I find it useful to focus on time-saving and practicality in most areas of my life. This reality occurred to me when I decided to go for a short walk last Saturday morning. For some reason, instead of wrapping my scarf around my neck, I draped it over my head and tucked the ends crossways under each arm before putting on my coat.

It was wonderful!

Not only did it protect the top of my head from the cold (from where, my mother always insisted, "we lose 80-percent of our body heat." [Whatever, Mom. I'm not wearing that ugly toboggan you bought at McCrory's without consulting me!]); my ears were unmolested by wind and the back of my neck didn't even know it was winter.

Of course, when I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window - grey headscarf, grey coat, grey sweatpants - what looked back at me might have been a sad, shuffling babushka who wouldn't have been out of place in the "Odessa Steps" scene from The Battleship Potemkin.

I didn't care.

I may have looked like a clueless eccentric, an oddball oldster to any teenager passing by, but the joke was on them: in addition to covering my ears, the scarf on my head was hiding a pair of earbuds, and coming out of my earbuds was the 17-year-old voice of Lorde: "It's a new art form/Showing people how little we care/(Yeah)."

More importantly, I was warm and protected from the elements. After you spend 44 winters on Earth with hope in your heart that you'll see 44 more, these things begin to matter more than how you look achieving their ends.

In fact, after discussing it with my friend Jeannette that evening, I decided that this spring I might look for some of those neatly folding plastic rain bonnets my mom and every woman over the age of 40 used to wear back when I thought there was nothing that looked more ridiculous.