Bralettes & Minivans

The other night, I was watching television with my husband, and an attractive woman clearly over the age of 60 professed, “Well that’s what 20 year-olds think!” I practically jumped up from my seat on the couch in disagreement, “HEY!” I shouted at the flatscreen, “stop telling us what 20 year-olds think—you don’t know!” The moment the words came out of my mouth, they hit the air and instantly dissipated into a hypocritical cloud of dust that settled on me. Because what I meant when I said it was, “Stop speaking for us.” Us. Us 20 year olds.

I am turning 34 this year.

My 30s are are place of perpetual duality. I cannot drink, or eat, or stay up late, or even sleep in like I could in my 20s, and yet, I have somehow convinced myself that not only am I still young, but I sometimes believe that I am still in my 20s. Someone asked me, not that long ago, how old I was, and to my shock I confidently answered, “Twenty four.” And then I laughed awkwardly and said, “Sorry, I have no idea why I said that. I’m actually thirty three.” Ooops?

The year I turned 30, I would proudly announce to people, “I am thirty!” Because it was exciting and I loved to see the look of amazement on people’s faces when they said, “WOW! I thought you were in your 20s.” Those comments are less and less these days as the years are starting to appear in small ways on my face. I didn’t even get carded at the liquor store the other day, and I was all ready with my license! This is not a complaint, so much as it is a casual observation about my changing landscape. I am proud to be aging, and honestly, aging pretty well. Although, I am puzzled about how I can go to sleep perfectly fine and wake up with a sore back.

Here at 33, there are the beginnings of lines between my eyebrows, and there are small crows feet by my eyes, especially when I smile. The other day, as I tried to gently pinch away a fleck of stray mascara, the skin under my eye took an abnormal amount of time to bounce back from my pinch. My face, which was once nearly flawless, is now punctuated not only by acne, depending on where I am in my cycle, but also by an overall more rough appearance. My lips are not as pink or as plump as they used to be, and I swear, my nose keeps growing. I do not cover any of this with makeup because this is what I look like, and I am proud of that.

With all of these years behind me, one would think I have mastered my domain. But I have yet to crack the code of what type of skin I have. Is it oily or dry? Beats me, man. I try various products with no regularity and none of it helps. I do floss regularly, but I still have those weird dreams about my teeth falling out, so I am not sure if it’s working or not. And I’m now responsible for a whole child, which I think we aren’t fucking up too bad. Although, during a conversation about good touch/bad touch she did ask me, “What if someone tries to touch my asshole?” And as I told her that no one should ever be touching her “asshole.” I also kind of laughed because I think more than wanting to know if someone should or shouldn’t be touching it, she probably just wanted to say the word “asshole.”

Paradoxically, despite all this, I find a growing confidence coming to life. I proudly wear my high waisted jeans and my crop tops. I think I look better than ever, not because of the clothes, but because of the way I feel in them. I have finally settled on the hairstyle that makes me feel the me-iest. Since underwire is a torture device, and I will not subscribe, I wear Calvin Klein bralettes. Yes, my breasts look small, and you know why? Because they are small. And not the cute, perky small they once were. They are the breasts of a woman who breastfed for the better part of four years. I’m not going to put them in shaped cups to hide the truth of their bittiness. They are bitty, and to me, beautiful.

I dance to the latest Indie and Pop music, and I believe I am cool driving down the road in my ten-year-old minivan that we bought off Craig’s List. As I blast music, with my nearly five year old in the backseat bopping around, I think to myself, “Why didn’t I drive a minivan ten years ago? This is the coolest car I have ever had!” There is room for my tea, my water, my snacks, and my giant purse. If I was 20, I would have been able to fit all those things, plus my friends, into this van. My husband and I still act as though this is possible when we say, “This van was such a great purchase—there is so much room for our friends!” But we know that our friends will almost always opt to drive their own minivans because they might want to leave early.

Leaving early is almost always necessary when you have kids, aging pets, careers, and all of the other responsibilities you didn’t have in your 20s. Maybe all of these responsibilities have a way of shifting our thinking. It certainly has a way of making one try to conform, only to realize that conformity is hardly worth the cost. So I try to feel my youth because I am still young, but not as young as the younger young person. And that stings a bit as I shout at the woman just ahead of me on the life chain on the television and I see myself reflected back. I’m not sure if I enjoy the view, so I cock my head and contemplate all of these concepts from my face to my breasts, and my inability to sleep in, and my minivan.

And I, in the midst of thought and heavy silence, suddenly come to accept I am no longer in my 20s.

My heart will continue to believe she is timeless, which, of course, she is. That is the answer. There is, in each of us, a timeless portion of our heart that cannot be divorced from our youth. I love deeply the part of me that hears “those young people” and immediately fires back, “What do you know?!” It’s probable that even the commentator on television, well into the upper part of midlife, thinks that she knows what 20-year-olds are thinking just as I have purported.

But deep down she probably also knows, like me, that there is this other part of us that is rooted in humanity and the inescapable timeline of years. We gather experiences like a snowball rolling downhill until we have become so heavy we stop and are planted. As we sit there-- a chunky hard bit of snow--the sun comes out, the season changes, and then we begin to melt until we are once again small, and then nothing at all.

{ {Mommy} }

“Mommy, it’s morning.” She says with her voice just above a whisper. The sun has just peeked above the tree line, but she’s been awake for over an hour, patiently absorbing herself in play and awaiting that sliver of sunlight to appear so she could come in and announce that it’s morning. Who needs a rooster when I’ve got my own 5 year old songbird?

“Mommy.” She says it just to say it. She sighs. “Mommy...” it sounds like a breath. I’m trying to will myself out of bed. “Mommy!”


“I want to make a fishtank for my Moshi animal.”

“Mommy! I want to dance to my favorite songs on YouTube!”

“Mommy! Look at the art I made—I’m working hard to be an artist!” She announces all of this in the small space of time it takes me to go from the bed to the hallway and click on the coffee maker. I tell her that’s nice, that sure we can listen to YouTube, and, yes, your artwork is wonderful.

Time for coffee.

“Mommy! Haaaaalp me!” She bellows as I pour my cup of beige coffee—lots of creamer—wondering why I am so tired, why I didn’t drink more water last night, and if the cramping in my side is menstrual. Please let it be menstrual, I silently pray.

I go over and help her make a fish tank, which entails pouring water into designated plastic containers with lids. She’s pulling out all the Tupperware. She needs several aquariums. They need to be see-through. They need to be stacked. “Mommy, look! Mommy, I can pour it myself, I’m big now...Look Mommy! My aquarium is a city!”

And Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, makes it's own rhythm all throughout the day, sometimes all throughout the night. I can’t always tell if it’s that she wants me, or that she wants to simply know I am there, as a sort of quiet observer, taking in her childhood. A safety net. A home. A Mommy.

I sit, sunken in to my well-worn place in our old leather sofa, between two carefully arranged pillows, ignoring whatever background noise is going on, pondering the fact that most of the day, I don’t feel like a “Mommy.” I'm cozy there, sipping my coffee, still feeling 25 years old and sort of scared. Will this always be my default? Slightly buzzy in a sort of a peaceful scared? The passage of time is both mysterious and untouchable, and I wonder about how in the wide world this stuffed shark came to be in living room. What ARE shopkins? And how exactly did I come to know so much about LOL Dolls?

Sometimes, in the still moments, when my daughter asks me, “Mommy, do I have to go to school today?” I want to scream, “No! None of this matters! We should be learning to grow our own food, and raising livestock! Let’s drop out!” But Mommy can’t do that, can she?

Mommy is steady on the outside, yet confused on the inside. Mommy is thinking... should we be going to church or something? Is god everywhere? Can we stop lying about Santa yet? Why do people give me weird looks when I tell them my daughter is obsessed with talking about death? Why can’t kids do anything unsupervised anymore? These questions are constantly clicking behind my eyes, furrowing that space between my brows and making a well-worn path as if to say, "this is the map to your inner thoughts."

I have done so many strange and outlandish things in my life. I’ve sold scrapple sandwiches at music festivals. I quit my job to become a writer. I’ve paid way too much for boiled wool blankets that I rarely use because they are way too nice. But of the all the weird things I’ve done, being Mommy is the weirdest. At my best, Mommy and Billie meld into a single person as they move through their day together. At my worst, Mommy is on her own, and Billie only looks out through the eyes of Mommy, trying her best to come to grips with the presentation of the day.

As I push my daughter on the swing outside, I make fart noises and say, “Ew gross, you fart too much!” And she laughs like I am the funniest, most brilliant human that ever, ever lived. Which, to her, I am. Later in the week, she yells at me in the grocery and people I don’t know give me looks I do know that clearly say, “you are both failing.” But I don’t care because they don’t know: I’m Mommy, and I make all the best fart jokes. And also killer quesadillas. Fuck them, I think, as I push my cart, like a steadfast ship with a screaming passenger, through the aisles. This is "don't judge me" Mommy. And she is a total badass.

Oddly, I find is there are as many incarnations of “Mommy” as there are utterances of the word. As my daughter sing-songs "Mommy" as a request, a reply, and a comfort throughout her day, this Mommy person bobs and weaves to meet demands and fill roles.  The Mommy that crawls out of bed looking for coffee is different from fart joke Mommy, and grocery store Mommy, and school pick up Mommy. End-of-the-day Mommy is a woman apart, having lived all the moments of the day, she’s tired, satisfied, and has a two story limit. She has Mommied all day with reverence, joy, bewilderment, and likely some anger.

“Mommy,” she says after the second story, “can you cuddle me?” And as I wrap my arms around her she says, “I’m a baby and you’re a baby, and I’m a mommy and you’re a mommy.” And oh my god, how true and strange it is, laying there, tangled up in her little bed, that we are exactly the same, at once, babies and Mommies only made separate by the invisible passage of time.