All week I’ve been in a low-grade bad mood about my upcoming birthday. Normally I don’t mind aging; I consider my age a badge of honor in that way that 18-year-olds lord their senior status over freshmen in high school, and I’ve happily anticipated the stylistic and intellectual freedom of the self-realized space crone. But this has been a challenging year full of problems I’d hoped to have outgrown by now, and it’s given me a case of the What’s-It-All-About-Alfies. Anyway, last night I had to pay to see a movie whose press screenings I’d missed–a movie I was ambivalent about reviewing even when seeing it for free–and I decided to take back the whole situation. So I requested a senior citizen discount from the snotty-looking 19-year-old in the ticket booth, and, without blinking, he gave it to me. I know, I know. Members of the AARP would justifiably bludgeon me for such deceit but in that moment I needed a tangible payoff for getting older. The universe, g-d love it, gave me one.
Coming home on the subway tonight from a gala, I was decked out in grownup lady finery–high heels, LBD*, hair blown out, mascara, red lipstick, sheer stockings. At first it was pleasant. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be out and about in high femme garb since I’ve been dressing like a 12-year-old boy for months now. Then this guy sailed on at Union Square and began making eyes at every girlygirl on the train. Actually, “making eyes” is an understatement. The lout (30ish, clad in bratty fratty gear) was working his way down the traincar, leaning over every unaccompanied woman wearing lipstick, and saying things like You’re gorgeous. Will you marry me? until she finally looked up and everyone else looked away to avoid poking the bear.
Then he headed in my direction.
I had steam coming out of my ears. Here I had thought one advantage of middle age was invisibility, and this Alexander Dumbass was haranguing me like he’d been appointed king of a goddamned harem. And then it hit me: I really didn’t have to take this crap. I’d never had to, of course, but at this point I was old enough to know I didn’t have to. I’d been living in NYC for 22 years, and had every right to take a subway in my hometown–on my own line, even–without a joker acting like he owned my personal space. I wasn’t some stammering coquette. I was a grown-ass broad.
I stared at him. “So this is your game? You’re just going to walk down the train and mess with every woman you like?” He raised his eyebrows and hands– Whatsa matter? I’m just complimenting you–but I channeled a furious Harriet the Spy. “C’MON, FINK. GET OUT OF MY FACE BEFORE I MAKE YOU.” A few guys shrank as if I’d just screamed at them but most of the female passengers started cackling. And when the dude heard our laughter, he beat a hasty retreat to the next subway car–where, I hoped, another weary middle-aged woman was poised to bellow at him some more.
*Little Black Dress!
Normally I don’t care much about New Years Eve–to me the new year is an individual phenomenon that begins for each person on their birthday–but 2014 was such a trying year on so many levels that I welcome any opportunity, however symbolic, to put the hardship behind us. Here’s to a year of expansion, kindness, clarity, communion, amazing adventures, and, yes, governmental and personal accountability. Not the sexiest resolution but, oh, so necessary. It’s time for us all to grow up. The good news is we’re ready.