How many of us feel that we trade sex appeal for self-confidence as we get older? This might be one of the areas in which you wish you could have it all-forget the "not all at once" part. Last week, Hillary Fields wrote in ruing the fact that at just 35, she feels she has lost her mojo. She says she now lives on the mild-rather than the wild-side. Reading her piece, I found myself thinking that her mojo's still alive and well, and living a hearty life in her writing. If any of you feel that something has been left behind, slipped, or gone forever as you've got older, tell me about it. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "mojo" in the subject line. Now here's Hillary.
I used to be sexy.
Or at least I thought I was. And the men with whom I plied my wiles were, on the whole, kind enough to allow me to continue in my beliefs. Which amounts to, in my book, pretty much the same thing. The end result was the same, at any rate. I got the feedback I wanted.
Much has changed.
From the lady in the 24-inch tightlaced corset and towering high heels, the bon vivant who swilled cocktails and teased cocks, I have since been transmogrified into the comfortable frump who no longer even bothers to carry both "getting there" and "being there" shoes with her. Where once I trod the boards atop bars and reveled in my youthful allure, now I apologize for my sags, bags, and greys.
And I’m only 35.
In the course of just a few years-but much wising (and sobering) up-my mojo’s slipped away. In its place has come a great deal of self-awareness, including an awareness that most of the sexiness I thought I possessed was pure insecurity, a selling of self in exchange for a fleeting chimera of confidence that never lasted longer than the lingering lustful glance, the cheap one-night stand, the wolf whistle, or the leering come-on that left only the taste of ashes in the morning-after mouth.
Time was, I ate that attention up, walking with a strut in my stride that would’ve given Sheena Easton something new to sing about, dressing daringly, to say the least, acting brashly, to say the best. It was part of a lifestyle of youthful delusion, and one that was exhilarating at the time ... until it wasn’t.
And yet now, that dangerous predator, nostalgia, makes me long again for something of that life. Despite the many, many joys of my current existence-lovely husband, stable relationships, productive work, clear eyes, and clean conscience-something is still missing.
Sure, I’ve let myself go- a little . I’m no hag, but I’ve gained a bit of weight, stopped wearing makeup daily and following fashion with as much care as I once did. I simply can’t take that stuff as seriously as I used to-I’m a grownup now, after all, and life isn’t all about the frivolities. So yeah, I don’t look as smokin’ as I did in my "heyday." And my, er ... assets ... definitely aren’t as perky as they were back when. But that’s not really what I’m getting at. It’s more that a piece of my identity-my wild side-has been traded in.
I live now on the mild side. And 90 percent of the time, I’m just fine with that. The mild side feels safe. It feels good. It feels smart, self-sufficient, adult, and estimable. I can look in the mirror.
Except when I can’t. Then I am haunted by the beautiful girl I no longer see reflected in that mirror. The young girl, the sexy girl. The girl with danger in her eyes and men panting after her, the girl with the world caught fast in her vermilion-painted claws. In such moments, self-awareness turns to self-consciousness, and I feel shame and a galling sense of tentativeness, a lack of an identity that never truly was (nor ever should have been).
Is it this way for every woman entering her mid-thirties? I can’t say. I only know I’ve got to find another kind of mojo. A respectable mojo-a "matron mojo," perhaps.
I’m convinced there is such a thing. I see it in others every day, in women I admire, mature women who’ve come into their own, and not in some grandmotherly Maya Angelou way. Women who are, as my husband puts it, "drippingly sexy, yet without one shred of youthful naïveté." Women who love themselves 100 percent of the time, whatever shoes they’re wearing.
I’m not there. I haven’t located that inner mature mojo for myself. I’ve been practicing every last voodoo ritual I can dream up to conjure it, from eating 90 Salads in 90 Days , to trudging endlessly on my accursed treadmill, to meditating on as many mountaintops (or roof-decks) as a non-yogi with a fear of heights and an unhealthy dose of cynicism may reasonably be expected to scale. I’m ready, willing, and open (mostly). Yet nothing so far has given me the keys to my deep, true, full-grown feminine mystique.
I’m not giving up hope. Instead, I’ve decided to turn this into 'The Year of Kooky Commitments," and just keep trying ever-zanier (how else to keep myself entertained?) self-improvement techniques until a) one sticks, or b) I wise up and realize I’m just fine the way I am. In other words, I’m gonna keep at it until I find a way to really internalize the mojo message, even in that last holdout 10 percent of my psyche that still feels like it owes the world push-up bras and other even more uncomfy underwear.
If you’ve found a way to hoard a stash of that elusive lady-magic, let me know ... maybe I can borrow some of yours. Until then, I’ll stay safely in the 90 percent, and think wistfully of the 10.
Hillary Fields is a writer, editor, and web producer. Her blog, Everyday Ethics, can be seen at http://blog.beliefnet.com/everydayethics .
Photograph of Hillary Fields by Alyssa Wessner.