Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Everything's changed in the 22 years since I was 15

As I was rocking Taylor Swift karaoke on the eve of my 35th birthday, I had occasion to think about the twenty years that have passed since I was "Fifteen." That was already two years ago. It's been 22 years now since I was fifteen. This was written during those dark non-blogging years and saved. Why? Well, now it seems obvious.

So, anyway, I was singing my heart out that night and reflecting as follows:

In my head, I sound really good singing Taylor Swift's "Fifteen." As I belted out the familiar lyrics, I wondered what it would be like if you really “could go back and tell yourself what you know now.”

Here are a few things past me might be interested to know:

I was still hanging out with my childhood
pony, Sham, at 15. Younger me might be
surprised (or not) to learn that present day
me doesn't like horses. At all.
1. Boobs – At fifteen, I wondered extensively if mine were ever going to get any bigger. The women in my family are fairly buxom and it seemed a rather rude twist of fate to be sporting a pair of A’s. Really it was one nearly A and an A. I have pretty bad scoliosis which makes me an asymmetrical girl. By my late teen years, I’d discovered the Wonder Bra. I could take a punch right to the chest and never feel it. With the wonder of that special bra, my A’s looked like almost B’s.

At age 35, I could tell my younger self, unequivocally, that’s as good as it gets. The fall of 2015 offers no Wonder Bra that I can find. I wear a brassiere now due to a strange sense of obligation. If I was in an accident, I wouldn't want them just flopping around, would I? Also, the boys are getting lower.

Yes, all good news.

The fifteen-year-old me probably needs a dark corner for some alone time.

2. Skin—Countless hours were spent by that former version of myself cataloging flaws in pimple-prone skin. It was severe acne. Socially handicapping stuff. When is this going to go away? I wondered. How am I ever going to make it through this? I popped and I squeezed and I visited the dermatologist. I once gave up chocolate before prom. I coated foundation over red spots twice daily. Nothing ever worked.

Does the camera angle make my feet look big?
Yeah. It's just the camera angle.
Fast forward twenty years and I still have pimples. “Adult acne is much easier to control,” says the new dermatologist. She’s right. In the summer, sweat and sunscreen cause breakouts but the rest of the year things are kept in check by two creams and an adult me that can resist constantly touching my face. I’ve stopped wearing makeup. Totally.

It’s a victory for old me. Maybe. If I had hours to spare I could use them plucking those three stiff chin hairs that emerged at the 30-year mark. Or analyzing the five snow white hairs at the right side of my hairline. (2017 update: it's now over a dozen white hairs. Yay.) Those ones that cause my husband to sing Cruella de Ville’s theme song at me.

We’ll call it even, whippersnapper.

3. Feet—I’ve never been able to wear cute shoes. By age 15, I was sporting a size nine. It was okay. My mom wore size nine. It’s not like it was going to get any worse. Feet are constant. There should be no news about these puppies.

Except that my feet got bigger. I blame my kid again for this one. “Having a baby changes everything.” Even your feet. An especially unfortunate turn of events has me wearing shoes with a “wide toe box.” My new shoe shopping buddy is Ronald McDonald.

4. Friends— At fifteen, not one senior boy ever hazarded to “wink at [me] and smile.” The pimples made me behave like an awkward ugly duckling. Clearly, my high school experience was different than Taylor Swift’s after all. Boys aside, my friends were pretty cool at that age. We were all fifteen, took the same classes, liked the same boys, cheered for the high school football team. The biggest worry was which of the four lunch period assignments we’d get. Eating lunch with strangers for 180 days? No thank you.

Here in the mid-thirties, the friend pool is crazy. The obvious choice would be the parents of my daughter’s friends. Big thing in common there, right? Definitely.

But the sameness pretty much ends with the age and apparent compatibility of the offspring. I had one kid when I was twenty-four and then I was done. No more kids. She’s an only child.

No one does that.

Most people are just getting their baby makers warmed up around age thirty-five. Women with a ten-year-old kid run the gamut from those still having more babies to ladies with their uteruses falling out from disuse.

Sometimes it’s nice to talk about something other than the kid. Let’s check in with the class of ’98. We’re all 35. Should have loads in common.

You’re just married? I think I remember getting married. Sort of.

Newborn baby? The memory of that daily grind was wiped and I am glad.

Dressing your puppy in a tutu and taking it for a baby’s first birthday photo shoot? I got nothing.

It’s tough sledding in the BFF department.

5. Big Life Goals—Physical therapist, geneticist, landscape architect! At fifteen, I was jumping between fabulous career paths and their associated lives of awesomeness. Eventually I settled on corporate America. I was going to be the marketing director of a Fortune 500 company. That one’s written in the senior year book. I was an academic achiever. A mathlete. I was going places.

Twenty years later, I’m a wife, mother of one and an occasional (and mostly unpaid) writer. And I am happy. That life I planned wasn’t for me. This (except for the chin hairs, I could live without the chin hairs) is right where I want to be.

Fifteen-year-old me is by now completely and confused. Which brings us to…

6. It was pointless to try explaining this to you. Save it until you’re twenty-five. It will start making sense then.