Monday, June 3, 2019

Whine Country

I scan the rectangular sign above the rack that so lovingly provides the 30% discount price for the shirt in my hand. Hmm, $31 for this shirt? Sure, why not? After all, it is Vera Wang.... for Kohl's. These days, with most of my free time spent with an infant on my hip, I cherish my lunch breaks from the office with leisurely shopping trips. Glorious one-hour respites where I can breathe in the retail air; an intoxicating mix of rayon and Jennifer Love Hewitt perfume, and feast on the frivolity that is quickly escaping my world. 

Thank goodness Vera Wang makes some sweet-ass flowy tops that properly hide my 5 month old post-baby midsection with some style. May as well look for some beaded dangly earrings to complete this boho-chic look. Sure, I'm a mom now, but this style won't scream it. YES, I see earrings are also 30% off! Oh, Kohl's... you and your inflated base price with perpetual discounts to trick customers into thinking they are getting a deal... I fall into your trap every damn time. 

With 4 shirts hooked onto my right pointer finger, I walk over to the labyrinth of jewelry racks, bopping my head to the Colbie Caillat hit playing over the sound system. 

"Oh, excuse me!" I say to an elderly woman I almost knock over in my retail therapy haze.

She smiles and makes her way past me when I notice the loot in her Kohl's cart. Laying atop a Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl and clearance rooster oven mitts are 2 of the same Vera Wang shirts I'm carrying. I freeze and a wave of panic washes over me as I realize that I have the same taste as this woman who is easily in her 70s. Sure, the shirts could be for a super cool and trendy daughter, but herein lies the danger of shopping at Kohl's; the unintended twinsie moment with a woman who's easily 15 years post-menopause.  

Do I sound like an agist jerk? Yes, I do. Do I care? Not really. I quickly replace all the Vera Wang for Kohl's tops and speed walk out of the store. So much for the relaxing shopping trip. I'm still young, I'm still young, I'm still young...  

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That Kohl's experience was back in my early 30s, newly mom-ed and trying to figure out who to be after my life was flip-turned-upside-down with so many changes. I'm not sure if all new mothers went through what I did, but all I knew was I was obsessed with not "seeming" old. With a changing bod and an avalanche of grown-up responsibilities, there was this desperation to show the world that I was still... um... well, "cool" sounds so lame and ironically dated, but that's the only way I can describe it. Hey, at least I didn't say, "hip."

Always Be the Baby
I was always the youngest... not only in my family and extended family, but also at school. With a late September birthday, I was the last one to get my drivers' license, turn 18 to get into the clubs and 21 to drink. I always longed to be older... it just seemed more fun and way more exciting. When I think back to my childhood into my teen years, I remember a persistent feeling of urgency to get to that next milestone. At 14, I yearned to be 16 so I could drive... at 16 I couldn't wait to be 18 and considered a legal adult, at 18 I couldn't wait to be 21 so I could legally drink. Beyond 21, however, the milestones became less attractive... unless you count the age of 25 so that you can RENT A CAR!! SCORE!

With the combination of being the youngest and a keen observer, I would notice the stark transitions of folks in my life as they aged. There were relatives I would see as teenagers and then a few years later, married with kids. In my youthful eyes, I would wrinkle my nose at how "lame" they seemed after settling down. Of course, "lame" was just my way of saying, "old." Even early in my professional life when I was the youngest in my department, I saw people in the office who I assumed were 40 (my "scary age" as a 23 year old). To my surprise, many times I would find out people were WAY younger than I had estimated. They had been in the adult, corporate world for only a handful of years, and I could have sworn they were on the verge of an AARP membership. The term, "24 going on 40," was used for those who acted so old for their age. That will never be me, I thought. 

Oh Right, You Weren't Born Yet
"Jake, your hat reminds me of Benetton!"

"Reminds you of what?"

"Benetton. Benetton? The United Colors of Benetton?"

"What's that?"

"It was a store! Like, a really popular store... back in the nineties... it was in every mall... I loved their perfume back... in.... high... school..."

Blank stares abound. 

Today, I'm used to being the oldest in the group. Since I started my career as an improv and sketch comedian in my early 30s, I'm usually the oldest, which has been a wake-up call for someone who was used to being the youngest in most circles. When I started getting heavily involved in the comedy world, the obvious divide was with free time. I was a mom and wife, while most of my peers were in their carefree 20s. But beyond the scheduling contrasts, my advanced age would show in more subtle ways. I'd refer to a show or movie from my childhood that most of them hadn't heard of, or they would talk about a current singer/band that I couldn't pick from a line-up if my life depended on it. These things would come up sporadically, but would be clear reminders that I couldn't rely on my improv buds to bond with me over my middle school Blossom obsession. 

I mean, what did I expect? Time marches on. However, instead of dwelling on it, I've made the conscious choice to distance myself from the cliched melancholy about getting older. Believe me, I went through a lot of distress when I found my first gray hair and approached 30, but part of me knew I was societally conditioned to feel bad about myself as I got older. Just as we marvel at women who can shrink back to a size 4 shortly after giving birth, we worship those who look SO young for their age and need to know all their secrets. I'm 100% guilty of all of this too, so I'm not here to say I'm better than any of that. In fact, I subscribe to most of it... except the notion that getting older means I should be drenched in shame. 

As a 40 year old, I color my grays and practice skincare routines that minimize wrinkles, but those personal choices do not mean I'm embarrassed about my age. It's not about tricking the world into thinking I'm younger, for me it's about feeling like myself and at present, myself doesn't feel like a gray-head with wrinkles. I also recognize that this notion of "myself" is ever-evolving and someday that feeling could be all about rocking a gray head of hair with reckless abandon and giving in to the sags and wrinkles of my face. All I know for certain is that I won't treat aging like the enemy, but rather an inevitability that I will approach with acceptance and humor. 

The Tweet Heard 'Round My Head
The Netflix movie, Wine Country, solidified my footing in the 40+ club. And I couldn't be prouder. As a ridiculously huge fan of Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and others in the cast, I was looking forward to this movie about a group of women spending a 50th birthday weekend in Napa, and the hilarity that would ensue. I'll admit, when I watched the trailer, I saw some of the cheesiness and low-hanging-fruit humor that could make it a disaster, but my faith in the cast of amazingly talented women kept me on track to watch it the night it was released. 

I was NOT disappointed. Look, it's not on par with Bridesmaids or The Heat, but for me, it scratched that exhausted-mom, wine-loving, life-reflecting, badass-women-loving-bitch itch I so needed. As a friend said to me, "It's a B minus movie, but it spoke to me." As I'm getting older and more aware of the shittiness in the world, a 1 hour 43 minute romp of lady silliness is a welcome escape. A network of at least 7 of my friends were texting about this movie and how much we loved it. Since its release, I've probably watched it over 10 times... it has been the perfect wind-down, dildo-joke-laden lullaby at the end of the day to send me off into dreamland. 

A couple of days after I watched it, I saw a tweet that annoyed the f*ck out of me. I tried to search for it for this post so I could illustrate what it said verbatim, but after 7 minutes of searching for a tweet that was over a month old, I was pissed I had wasted that much time on a whiny a-hole who clearly has a chip on his shoulder. So, instead, I'll paraphrase:

"Wah wah, Wine Country was full of bad jokes, wah wah, I didn't like it because it had one scene that made fun of millennials, wah wah, I'm disappointed in these women who used to be funny, wah wah, I expected more as a 20-something dude who needs everything catered to my enjoyment... WAH F*CKING WAH."

I think you get the gist. Now, I want to be clear that I do not expect everyone to like this movie. In fact, I talked to some women who didn't like it, one of whom had to turn it off 20 minutes in. My reaction wasn't, "YOU'RE CRAZY!" but rather I recognized that not everything is going to appeal to everybody. The women I know who didn't love it, are much younger than me... so it makes sense. Back when HBO's "Girls" came out, I was baffled that it was a success. I watched the first season because I bought into the hype that it was a genius show and Lena Dunham was some comedic prodigy to whom we should all bow. Nope. I hated it. It was the first time I had to recognize that perhaps... I was too old to get it. At 33, I can admit that it stung... but eventually, I fully embraced that I had crossed over into an era where certain things were un-relatable due to my age. 

What bugged me about this tweet was the ignorance that perhaps, god forbid, Wine Country wasn't made for his enjoyment. He probably knew the premise of the movie, so I'm not sure why he felt it would appeal to him. More-so, after watching the movie, maybe he could have just said, "Oh, I bet my mom would like this, but I find it unfunny," instead of insulting the women who have been groundbreakers in the world of comedy, all because he was butthurt over one scene that made fun of his generation. In an industry that pretty much erases women after the age of 45, a comedy featuring a cast of women who are pushing and past the age 50 is a feat in itself, not to mention the film was produced, written and directed by women. If they call out some mild absurdities about millennials in a single scene buried amongst 58 other scenes that all make fun of themselves, stop whining about it. 

Back to my "Girls" example, I never chided people for loving the show. I knew loads of people who revered it as the best show on television. I just simply accepted that it wasn't for me and that it did speak to others. Watching "Everybody Loves Raymond," was torture for me, but my parents laughed so loud the windows shook. I'd rather watch paint dry than see a Jay Leno stand-up show, but the 60 and over contingent would beeline right to that casino theater. I seriously cannot listen to the current pop music without dry-heaving. The term, "Social Media Influencer," confounds me. And it's all fine. It's just not for me.... it's not meant for me. I don't get it. But, I won't ever spread negativity and say those examples are bad because, clearly, they are hitting the right notes with the people for which they are meant. Spreading negativity doesn't do any good. Unfortunately with social media, we get mired down in voicing any and all opinions we have, but that's a whole other post I will never write... because it would bum me out too much. 

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A question I often get asked about my children is, "What age has been your favorite?" My answer, which is 100% the truth has always been, "Their age right now." As a parent, I love witnessing each year of their lives, because it never fails to amaze and fascinate me. Turning that philosophy inward, I can honestly say that about my own age as well. Sure, life has gotten tougher and more complicated in many ways, but I have to also recognize all of the beautiful growth experiences that came along during the years. I'm a 40 year old woman and I wouldn't have it any other way... well, until I'm 41... and then I wouldn't have it any other way... and so on and so on. Of all the things I will worry about in my life, age will not be one of them.  

To quote Lady Sunshine from Wine Country, "Get over all your shit, because it is later than you think."
  

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