Monday, February 1, 2016

On zebra print and other signs of aging

Last night, I sent the following message to three of my best friends:

"I am sitting in a hotel room. In Bethesda, Maryland. Drinking chamomile tea. And wearing a... wait for it... zebra print negligee. And I'm by myself... This, ladies, is me staring 40 right in the face..."

Before you get too worried that this is going to be an R-rated post, what with me talking about negligees and all, I want you to stop and think about what I just said. A zebra print negligee. Who in the world finds a zebra print negligee remotely attractive? Except maybe a zebra... So no, dear reader. I promise you I am not taking you down a torrid, sultry path. Because there is no zebra in this story.

The garment in question. Or shall I say, the
questionable garment...
Really though, this garment is patently ridiculous. So ridiculous that I'm really not even sure why I have it. Let alone why I packed it for a 2-day business trip to the suburbs of D.C. I mean, normally, I wear a Bruce Springsteen concert tee and shorts to bed. Plus, I don't even like overt instances of animal print! Come to think of it, I honestly can't even tell you how this little ditty came into my wardrobe in the first place. Did Hubby have a momentary lapse in taste and buy it for me? Or worse, did I have a momentary lapse in taste and buy it for myself?

How it came to be lounge wear in my personal collection aside, there I was, at a Marriott hotel in Bethesda, MD, at 11:54 pm, having just come back from dinner with friends in a kitschy American eatery owned by none other than Ted Turner in Crystal City, VA (from one interstate D.C. suburb to another), sipping on a chamomile tea, climbing into bed with my Kobo, wearing a silly looking zebra-print negligee, with nary a zebra in site. And I just had to tell my best girl friends about the ridiculousness of it all. Mostly because I knew that it would make them laugh. But also because I had one of those self psycho-analysis moments where I see my life - and the decisions I make about it - in perfect clarity.

This zebra thing has nothing to do with fashion (clearly). And everything to do with me turning 40...

That's right. I turn 40 this year. In precisely 10 months, in fact. Gulp.

Now those who know me well know that I have been very vocally and vehemently fighting this milestone birthday for over a decade now. Since my actual 29th birthday, Hubby has been inviting friends to celebrate my 29th birthday. Every. single. year. And they all joyfully play along, clogging my Facebook page every year with "Happy 29th!" messages and little winky faces.

Everything was right on track for me to celebrate yet another 29th birthday in November 2015 - the 11th, to be precise. Hubby and I were in Winnipeg for the Grey Cup. My Ottawa Redblacks were playing in the big game. The Ottawa Citizen got wind that I had traveled to see my team play. So they sent a reporter out to track me down and interview me. He must have read this post about how growing up, I thought my parents were throwing me a big birthday party each year when in fact, they were just throwing a Grey Cup watch party. Because he asked me all about it. It became the centerpiece for his story about my love of football. And it was a great article. Except for one thing...

He stated in his article that I was turning 40...

This article came out a few days before my actual birthday. And friends who saw it posted it over and over and over again on social media. Which means that everyone and their dog saw it. So on my actual birthday, instead of saying "Happy 29th, J, wink-wink", I got "Welcome to your 40s!!!" messages. All. Day. Long. When I walked into the office the day after my birthday, my assistant had a cake waiting for me, lovingly in the shape of a football, with "HAPPY 40TH" scrawled across the top. And she got me a Happy 40th birthday card, signed by a whole bunch of my team.

All of this was ONE WHOLE YEAR EARLIER than my actual 40th birthday!

No, no, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!! I am still supposed to have one more year of being 29!!!! It's a mathematical fact!!!! Everybody knows that you get 11 29th birthdays before you turn 40!!!! Not 10!!!! 11!!!! Oh cruel world, what ever have I done to deserve this!!!!

Believe me when I say that I shouted from the rooftops that it was not, in fact, my 40th birthday. Although I'm not proud to admit this, I even considered asking the Citizen for a retraction. Because I was not yet ready to face - one whole year earlier than anticipated - that my 30s were truly and rather quickly coming to an end. I knew that I had two choices before me. I could either continue to rage against the tick-tock of time, or I could just accept that I am, indeed, a woman on the cusp of her 40s.

A small dose of introspection made me realize that I could no longer fight this stark reality. My body, after all, has been giving me signals for a couple of years now of the impending doom that is my 40s. Somewhere around a year and a half ago, my metabolism gave me the middle finger, demanding that if I wanted to keep my 29-inch waist, I could no longer eat ice cream and chocolate every other day. Despite weekly yoga sessions, my knees practically graze my ear lobes whenever I sit cross-legged. And in the past six months, going up and down stairs hurts so much that I told my real estate agent (we are in the midst of house hunting) that our next home must be a bungalow. My body is clearly trying to tell me to give up the fallacy of the repeated 29th birthday.

So if my body is ready to accept the dawn of a 5th decade on earth, why can't my mind? What is so difficult to accept about being forty, anyway? It is, after all, just a number. It does not take away or give me additional success. It does not take away or give me any more love. It is simply a repeat of the day I was born.

And so somewhere during the past 2 months, and I can't pinpoint precisely when, I decided to start listening to that steady tick-tock of time. I've stopped eating chocolate every day, and accepted that from here on in, maintaining my waist line will take more discipline. I've come to terms with the fact that I could do yoga 7 days a week from now until the end of time but that it won't undo decades of abuse on my body. And I seriously am looking at bungalow after bungalow after bungalow for our next house.

And, I'm wearing animal print negligees to bed. Not because I find them particularly attractive. But because, at a certain point in a woman's life, it is just okay to wear animal print. It's like a rite of passage, a welcome to that age where you don't have to give a shit anymore about what people think of you because you've walked a path in life that includes success, sorrow, joy, contempt, and every other gamut of emotion. You have earned those (zebra) stripes. Or leopard spots, if you prefer. And you don't have to apologize for any of it.

And so there it is. This ridiculous looking zebra-print negligee - and it is ridiculous looking - is actually my emancipation from a life of denying the progress of time. It is a symbol of the hard-fought battle that has been my life up until this point. It is a mark of all the successes and defeats that I have had. It is...

Oh, who the hell am I kidding. It is a ridiculously ugly zebra-print negligee and I really don't know why I own it, or why I packed it instead of one of the other more me-like sleepwear outfits I own. But I did. And I'm wearing it. And I am quite sure that I would have never worn it in my late 20s or early 30s.

But I'm not in my late 20s or early 30s anymore. I'm knocking on the door of 40. And it's probably time that I start being proud of that.

So bring on the damn animal print.