I’ve never thought of age as much of a barometer for age. It really is, as they say, a state of mind. Boomer rock stars are a testament to this adage, as are children with the poise and discipline of high functioning adults. As a tween at Boletteri Tennis Academy, I was very aware of this preternatural quality, because while my fellow racqueteers enjoyed cutthroat competition and merciless hours of sun-baked drills, I looked forward to air-conditioned socializing at lunch. I was twelve hurtling into puberty; they were twelve going on Steve Schwarzman.
Now in my mid-thirties, I don’t feel all that different than I did in my twenties. I’ve managed to avoid the accumulation of children, a mortgage, and a sweater set, the three lodestars of adulthood. I go out several nights a week. I’m still feverishly writing my way toward the three B’s: a big break, a one bedroom, and a basset hound. And I continue to go out on dates with all the wrong guys, in the hopes that, one day, I’ll meet Mr. Right. Not much has changed in the grand scheme of things–except the skyrocketing price of my rent. So while many moons have passed, it just never occurred to me that I was, in fact, older.
But then a few mornings ago, I wandered into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and, even after a sober night’s sleep–I appeared savagely hungover. The dark, puffy eye bags and deep, tired wrinkles weren’t a result of last night’s antics, and they wouldn’t be gone by the time I’d finished a Bloody Mary brunch with friends. Because this is just how old looks: like I have a permanent hangover. There is no makeup artist creative enough or orchid-infused eye serum strong enough to hide the fact that, particularly in the eyes of the service industry, I am no longer a Miss, I’m a Ma’am.
It’s a bitter, if fiber-rich, pill to swallow, the indignities that come with age. My body, once a quarter-bouncing temple of low maintenance, now requires more upkeep than there are hours in the day. I have begun to ask myself rhetorical questions like, “When did those smile lines turn into crow’s feet?”, “Is that a grey pube?”, “What’s the difference between a hand freckle and an age spot?”, and “Is it possible to Botox the wrinkles on the soles of my feet?”
Really, my feet look like meaty prunes, there is no longer any distinction between the back of my thighs and my buttocks, and I have hair sprouting from places I didn’t know I had follicles. Like, for example, my chin. No, no. These aren’t blond wisps or dainty peach fuzz. My lady hairs are so tough and coarse, I suspect that they spend their spare time in leather chaps bandying about on Harleys.
On top of the rogue chin hair, there is also the inescapable fact that my metabolism has slowed to a Saharan trickle. In my youth, weight simply spread evenly over my entire body or magically disappeared altogether. But now the extra lbs. gather, like a fatty flash mob, right on my hips–thus causing the elastic in my now-too-small-underwear to press into my flesh and create hip ripples, or, hipples, the kissing cousin to the muffin top. Obviously, I will not be buying larger sized underwear, so the only logical solution to the hipple problem is to not wear underwear at all. But going commando in a wrap dress poses its own set of ponderific challenges, like: How gusty is it today? and What kind of signals might this send on a first date?
While I don’t have hard and fast answers to these questions, there is no doubt about the stage of life I’ve entered: ma’amhood. While at times I long for the Miss moniker and all the perks of youth, with the added benefit of hindsight, I have begun to intuitively understand things that Misses do not, like orgasms, compassion, vulnerability and patience. As a Ma’am, I’ve experienced enough laughter, loss, heartbreak, and success to pass on some well-earned wisdom to my Miss friends and all you Ma’ams-on-the-brink: As the years pass, it’s inevitable that you will appear ever more hungover. First, you’ll look as if you’ve been on epic benders, then entire lost weekends, and eventually you’ll just look British. So just accept the fact that the whims of nature are entirely out of your control. And always keep a pair of tweezers in your change purse.