I turned forty-five this year. I had to look for a minute to see if I’m the one writing this post or if my third-grade teacher is hanging over my shoulder with her fingers on the keyboard.
I can’t believe I’m that age. I remember twenty years ago thinking people my age were old.
Now that I’m here though, I don’t feel that way. However, I found out recently that twenty-somethings still feel the same way about people my age as I did twenty years ago.
My husband and I went to Mumford & Sons’ final U.S. tour stop in Bonner Springs, Kansas, this past September. We’d been fans for a long time, so we queued up at the gates early. We did so because, a) although it had been a while (ahem, years) since we’d been to a general admission concert, we remembered that only the early birds get the “close to the stage” worms, and b) we had nothing better to do than stand for five-plus hours.
But it was so worth it. The early birds got the worm, baby—ten people back from center stage!
Other than one pee break for me between opening acts, we didn’t move from our spot.
About ten minutes before M&S hit the stage, the pushers and squeezers (PSers, for short) appeared on the scene.
The ones who think they’re too cool to queue at the gates and figure their mere presence on this earth deems them worthy of the spot ten people back from center stage.
The first group of PSers were five or six petite, young ladies, arms linked, smiles cracked wide across their faces, and their pie holes cackling laughter. My husband and I guessed these ladies’ first post-concert activity would be a beer-fueled puke-a-thon given the number of plastic glasses sloshing in their hands and their milky, half-moon eyes.
Three of them made it about four rows ahead of us. The others got separated from the rest of the herd by a couple of seven-foot tall gents who were not having any of their, “Excuse me, excuse me” niceties.
“Don’t let them through! Don’t let them through!” chanted the other long-suffering early birds surrounding us.
(Here I will stop to give these PSers credit—at least they used their manners in their attempt to rush the stage.)
The second group included one PSer with mad acting skills.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for my teenage daughter. She’s got long brown hair, about this tall. Anyone seen her?” she asked to no one in particular.
I almost fell for her pleas. Although the woman didn’t look quite old enough to have a teenage daughter, the mother in me kicked into overdrive when I saw the worried look on her face. I felt a strong urge to join her search party, my ten-people-back-from-center-stage spot be damned.
What gave it away was her friend who huddled behind her, laughing her ass off, impressed that her friend’s “concerned mother” schtick actually got them that close to the stage.
By this time, I was pissed and ready for a fight. I’d be damned if anyone else was going to push and squeeze their entitled, most certainly drunk asses in front of me and my feet that had been fused to the same spot for five-plus hours.
And who do I happen to see pushing and squeezing their entitled, most certainly drunk asses to my right but a fight incarnate—a lovely towheaded cherub of a boy, his toddler-height, helium-voiced girlfriend, and his corn dog-sized sidekick.
I took one, huge stomp to my right and cut the Little Rascals off at the pass.
Towhead pushed against me. I stood firm.
“ExCUSE me!” he said.
“What? You think you can keep people from moving up? It’s a free country. I can stand wherever I want.”
“Not in front of me, you can’t,” I said.
“Yeah, really. How long have you been standing here?”
“‘How long have I been standing here?’ You think that’s how it works? I can stand anywhere I want. You can’t stop me.”
“And how long have you been standing here?”
At that point, M&S hit the stage, and the Goonies decided to give it up.
Of course that didn’t stop them from kicking plastic water bottles and empty beer cups against my legs and telling my shoulder blades what they thought of me:
“That b#$ch is so old the last concert she probably went to was Barry Manilow.”
“I’m surprised she can fu@#ing stand, she’s so old.”
But I also received high praise from another woman around my age to our left.
“That was awesome what you did, keeping those punks from cutting! Thank you!”
While this kind woman’s verbal back slap helped, what those toddlers said created a demarcation line in my head. The first step from before into after.
I realized that night I’d crossed to the other side—I was now an old broad in the eyes of twenty-somethings.
I’ll admit it: that realization stung. When I thought of myself, I didn’t think “old.” So when people (albeit obnoxious, vertically challenged strangers) categorized me as such, it left me stunned.
For days after that, I walked around like someone had thrown a mangy old coat over my shoulders and told me I couldn’t take it off.
I felt like I did when, after years of grocery shopping and eating sandwiches together, my husband confessed to not liking whole wheat bread—totally baffled.
After a while, those feelings faded. But to be honest I think it was mostly because no one else ever came right out and called me old. At least not to my face.
It also helped that the fifth-grade girls in the class I occasionally facilitate told me they thought I was nineteen. Eleven-year-olds are really smart.
But facts are facts. I’m forty-five. I’m double the age of a good share of people in their twenties.
And before you say it, I know. I’m also half the age of an ninety-year-old.
Since that age-shaming concert, I’ve realized there are some perks to getting old(er). The best one is that I get to be exactly who I want to be…finally.
For me, that means a writer.
I spent a sh!t-ton of years doing busy life stuff because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. Writing was a hobby, not serious work.
At first those years seemed like a waste. They represented time I could have spent writing the gazillion bad words I need to write to get to the good ones.
But now I see that all that busy life stuff was like tons of carbon buried a hundred miles below the earth’s surface, under tons of pressure, over millions of years. It’s that stuff that turns into diamonds.
Now, I’m not saying my writing is like a precious jewel or that with more time and pressure (i.e. holding myself accountable for being who I want to be) my writing won’t get better.
But it’s only by getting old(er) that I’ve given myself permission to start mining some of the good stuff that’s been buried under layers of what at first seemed like worthless crap.
That’s the golden years, my friends.
So tell me, when have you seen yourself differently through someone else’s eyes? How did it feel? What did you learn about yourself? Did you believe it, own it? Or did you reject it? How has life changed, for the better, for you as you’ve aged, no matter if you’re eighteen or eighty? What are you most looking forward to giving yourself permission to do once you’ve reached the “right” age?