Am I Really Learning to Not Give a Damn?

Tina Fey Quote

Much like strawberry blonde hair or a dimpled chin, some people are just born with it.

I’m talking self esteem here.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who came out of the womb with Supergirl confidence. I hope so. I had to earn mine through bad hair choices, missed opportunities, and crappy boyfriends. Many women and people in general have gone through this same passage. Sadly, many do not make it to the other side, forever bound to ab-rolling and chemical peels.

I think I am almost there.

It’s a foreign and relaxing feeling to feel comfortable in one’s own skin, still care about humanity, but not care what others say or think.

Here’s a re-cap of my journey:

Elementary Years:  Very outgoing yet embarrassed to “show off.”  Back then boisterousness was a sin. Right up there with stealing and looking a nun in the eye. Did I mention I attended Parochial school for twelve years?

Junior High:  Awkwardness, braces, and negative breast size only added to the above. Even if I did have boobs and was super confident, it wouldn’t matter.  All the nuns were running a DEFCON Level 3 operation because of everyone’s hormones.

High School: The motherload of insecurity. Think about it: waiting to get asked to Homecoming; waiting to get your license so your mom doesn’t have to drive you to Snuffer’s; waiting to be free from wearing plaid uniforms; and waiting to get out of Geometry so you can see that boy in the hallway… then dutifully ignore him and feign interest in the Don’t Do Drugs poster. I’m guessing this is what Purgatory feels like.

College: Ah yes – the bubble. No actual reality takes place during these four years. The confidence level is better here, but college is still a lot like High School. Just with more alcohol and better parties.

Twenties:  First real job and being on my own – 1 Self-Esteem Point. Too many movies about some chick looking, looking, and looking some more for the Mr. Right; then becoming depressed because she only dated buffoons; only to feel good about herself when she found “the one.” – Minus 6 Self-Esteem Points. I remember thinking, “Is this how it’s supposed to go down? Man, I’m not even close.” Then I would pop in Caddyshack and feel much better. I fault the media and Sex in the City for this time period.  

Thirties: Much better. All neurosis about myself were transferred to my child. Worries about my acne were replaced with worries about my daughter choking on a teething cookie.

Forties (forty): F*ck it.  I’m tired and it is way too exhausting to worry about anything other than what I am going to make for dinner.

I’m pretty sure by the time I reach seventy I will be driving around town flipping people off just because I have lived that long. And let’s face it, angry old people are funny.

So it took some time to get here. While I do feel as though I act like an idiot most of the time, I really don’t dwell on it. I just shrug my shoulders and say “Oh well,” as I gracefully remove the food from between my teeth. I will probably never be queen secure, but I don’t trust the overly confident. They are hiding something.

I hope others don’t have to take such a long journey as I did, but there is a sense of accomplishment of having gone through the above milestones to finally feel good in my own skin and to not give a damn what others say.

Unless someone tells me I look fat in my skinny jeans, then I will key their car.  roseanne-barr quote

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Am I Really Thirty-Nine – er – Forty?

You bet your walkman-wearing britches I am!

The other day I turned the magic number of forty years of age.  It was a great night out with friends and included many a cocktail. Good stuff.  One young couple of maybe twenty-one staggered up to me and slurred said, “Wow! You look good for forty!” What did they expect? The creepy old crone from Snow White?

It was then that I remembered how the young view the “older than me” category.

I was ten when my dad turned forty.  My mom threw him a party and everyone bought him “Over the Hill” regalia. I remember thinking, “Damn, that’s old. What’s with the black balloons?  Hmm, maybe I should have bought him a cane.  Poor old, old dad.”

Clearly I was wrong.

In reaching these milestone birthdays, it is common to look back on one’s life and take inventory:  Am I where I thought I would be? Have I accomplished all that I have set out to do? What have I learned?

I am no different. So for kicks, I thought would share my ten-year-old thoughts on what I thought forty would look, in comparison to what has really happened.

Pop in your Depeche Mode tape, and travel back in time with me:

10-year –old Me

I will be married to John Taylor of Duran Duran.

What Really Happened

I am married, not to John Taylor, thank God. He’s way prettier than me and would probably steal all my face creams.

10-year –old Me

I will have seven boys.

What Really Happened

Ladies and Gentlemen, my uterus has left the building. Seriously, seven? Bah! I have one awesome girl, and let me tell you, she could do circles around seven boys. I guess I was watching a lot of Little House on the Prairie and Eight is Enough at the time.

10-year –old Me

I will live in a penthouse in NYC.

What Really Happened

I live in a home outside of Boston. It’s pretty cool, but very far from a high rise. I remember this housing goal so clearly. I pictured myself staring out the window, looking over the city in my purple rayon pantsuit, with shoulder pads, and long lacquered nails. It’s something I conjured up after watching the movie Mannequin.

10-year –old Me

I will not be like my mother.

What Really Happened

I am exactly like my mother. Right down to the loud talking, repeating myself, and constantly wiping down countertops. When I reached college I was shot with a lightning bolt of realization –  my mom is pretty much the coolest person walking the face of the earth and I have her DNA.  So be it life, she is bitchin’.

10-year –old Me

I will be on the hit show Fame. I loooooooved this show. I wanted to be in Debbie Allen’s dance class like nobody’s business. You know the opening credits when she is talking all serious and beating that stick on the wood floors? Oh, I get chills just thinking about it. That and she was always up Leroy’s ass about something. A recipe for awesome.

What Really Happened

I still watch reruns. That and I read trash magazines about famous people.

While my ten-year-old self is looking at me now and probably thinking, “What gives sister? Couldn’t you have done at least one of those things? And where are your legwarmers?”  I know better.

What parents, family, friends, and others in general don’t tell you, are all the things you learn and experience along the way to get to forty. How can they? There is so much.

How can you tell a child that you will learn to be comfortable in your own skin? How can you tell a child one day you will experience a love that will rip away at you and fill you up at the same time? Nobody can explain what it feels like to have life growing inside you, and that you could wrestle a bear with your bare hands to protect that life.  Can someone really explain how good it feels to walk on your own, pull up your pants by yourself, or be medication free after back surgery? How can a person put into words the sense of giddy gratification when you are in your first apartment, buying your own groceries, and paying your own bills? When your graduate school professor hands you the diploma you earned and you think, Holy sh*t! I did it! How do you tell a ten year old that one day she will know which friends to keep and which one to walk away from?

You can’t. You have to live it.

While I have accomplished many things these past forty years, unless I am updating a resume, I really don’t think about them. What I do think about are all the experiences and feelings that have puzzle-pieced together, well, me.

When it is your birthday and you are evaluating your life, think about what really pops up. The fact that you pitched a perfect game, or the feeling it gave you?  When you booked that acting gig, or the journey it took you on? The fact that you can say I have a child, or the feeling you get when you see them running up to you after school?

Forty is not the new twenty, but it is not the end of anything, by any means.  And I feel good – like macrobiotic-eating-freaky-yoga-touting Madonna good. Thank God no one gave me any black Over The Hill  balloons, because I would have choked someone with them – just like Madonna would do.

I’m starting this new decade of “Forty-geddon” with high hopes and big plans! I hope you will join me for this ride.

Right after I get rid of this mother of a hang-over.