Being mature and well-adjusted, sometimes

I have at least reached an age where my self-destructive urges are mostly limited to thinking about cutting my own bangs. I remember angst and that feeling of hating the world and just wanting to die, but then I remember that at 36, I could be diagnosed with breast cancer anytime. Anytime. This perspective helps me deal with the teen angst I still have.

Twenty-five is still young. Thirty-five is not. When I was young, I don’t think I ever envied anyone over 30. Now I do. I envy the women who wear dangling jingle bell earrings at Christmastime. Oh, I’ve worn Christmas sweaters, but I didn’t mean it. It was a joke, and even then I could barely pull it off. If I wore dangling jingle bell earrings, would I be carefree? Could I be in the moment and remember what it was like before everything was a means to an end?

It would be nice to reconnect with a time before I was worried about the way that I look. I once told a boyfriend, “every day is ruined for every woman because she doesn’t look like a supermodel.” He didn’t get it, but my best friend agreed. She was a former ballerina and when people said she was beautiful, they meant it.
Aging obviously doesn’t solve the problem. For many of us, it makes it worse.

It must be really traumatic for the truly beautiful – aging that is.

But what about those girls who’ve never used mascara or covered a blemish? Where do they get their confidence? I guess it is like Maya Angelou said in Phenomenal Woman:

“It’s the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet …”

Well, I’m not there yet.

I do a lot of hand-wringing about the effect that our appearance-obsessed culture will have on my daughter. From the time we are little girls, we are told how important our looks are. And the truth is that appearance does matter. It is just an unfortunate truth.

So I go back and forth about whether Annabelle should do ballet. Her gym teacher tells me that she’s “a little athlete.” I love to hear it because I was the kid who was afraid of the ball, the one who got picked last for everything, except spelling bee. (Somehow, in seventh-grade, we had teams for spelling bees.)

And so as I seek to live vicariously through the next generation, I weigh not only the positives and negatives of each extracurricular activity, but my own biases as well. I realize, too, that at this age, the overscheduled kid is largely the result of the bored parent.

There’s a logical part of me that wants Annabelle to play ball, but the selfish part would rather go to the ballet.


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