I Was So Much Older Then

Getting ready to meet a colleague some 40 years after we’d worked together, I wondered how to begin the conversation.

“So, what’s new with you?” 40 years of “new” is way more than one lunch.

I looked in the mirror and considered the fact that 40 years ago I would have been more obsessed with how I looked. I would have changed two or three times. Asked- did I have enough eye makeup on? My 20-year old self was convinced there was no such thing as too much eye makeup. 40 years ago I wouldn’t have gone out to the mailbox without full makeup, contact lenses and matching underwear. You never knew when that bus might strike…you wind up in the ER with, gasp, mismatches! Oh, the shame. The headlines. My 59-and-some-months self put on the jeans that fit and touched up a few age spots, decided that was good enough.

As for glasses, I was as blind as a bat and wore Coke bottles. I starting saving for corrective surgery when I was 12, but once I had a husband, house and kids, there were plenty of other uses for the rare extra money. One day, somewhere in my 50s, after another day of juggling lenses, reading glasses and distance glasses, I wore my utterly, completely, totally useful, no-line, thin and light-as-a-feather bifocals to facilitate a class. To my surprise and joy, no one ran screaming from the room. My evaluations were fine. I never wore my contact lenses again.

I wondered what else I’ve gained and lost in 40 years.

The same ten pounds, that’s for sure. They’re as familiar as an old friend, and I’ve developed a sixth sense for when they’re coming. There are sure signs. I start to run into chocolate more often than usual, and Bugles appear in my grocery cart. Ah, salty sweet! Dinners with friends take on a strong Italian flavor, and apple pie seems incomplete without vanilla ice cream. Normally I’m neutral towards ice cream. (I know, right?) Coincidentally, I’m sure, my stress level rises and my sleep hours decrease at about the same time. Running into a 7-11 for potato chips and a Chunky bar is a bad, bad sign.

I also know the first sign that indicates those ten pounds are on their way out. The exit route appears about 10 minutes after I realize I’m at the top of my black pants size range. Hasta la vista, baby! Yoga pants shouldn’t hurt.

I used to pride myself on my multitasking skills. I could be mentally reviewing an item from the work day while making dinner, with one ear on what my kids were watching on TV and the other on “who started it”. I handily stored “to-dos” and appointments in the lockbox that was my brain.

But lately I’ve been finding myself in brain rooms with no idea why I’m there; the only option to return to where I started and hope for enlightenment. Soon I’ll need a breadcrumb trail to find my way back. If someone now interrupts me in the middle of an activity I’m liable to stop, hand in midair, frozen, unable to finish whatever it was I was doing, yet equally unable to handle whatever interrupted me.

I have the attention span of a moth.  Just trying to wend my way from the kitchen to the car, I start the dishwasher, refill the dog’s water bowl, throw in a load of clothes, let the dogs out and check my email, eventually wondering why I have my coat on. It isn’t until I get to the post office that I realize I forgot what I meant to mail. Two days later I find it on the dryer.

I am heartened to learn that recent studies prove that multitasking doesn’t even work. We just bounce from one thing to another, splitting 100% of our brains multiple ways. That explains the recipe that only tastes 30% good or the kid 20% dressed. Multitasking sounds good; semi-tasking not so much. I’ve let go of multitasking and gained better quality meals, and almost always go out fully dressed.

I didn’t lose any friends worth keeping and am at peace with the loss of the others. Just as well for all concerned. The 20-year old in me thought she had all the answers. The longer I live the more I realize how little I truly know. And I forgot the rest.

I probably won’t tell my old friend all of this. At least not at the first lunch. Maybe I will tell him that in my 40s, I gained a tattoo. I guess it was my mid-life crisis, but it worked out well. My husband liked it and was just glad I didn’t run off with Dennis Rodman. Me, too, now that’s he managed to offend even the North Koreans.

Which reminds me. Since I last saw my old friend, I divorced a boy and married a man. My colleague knew my first husband, and thanks to Facebook, he’s seen pictures of me, my last husband and our kids. I’m sure he sees the difference in my expression. I’m so much younger now.

Now why do I have my coat on?


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