My neighbor was telling me about her daughter today—the one with the 12-book deal with film rights who is overwhelmed by success at the age of 32. Do I know any brilliant men who’d like to go out with a girl who undoubtedly earns more than they, has little time for courtship rituals, can’t find a suitable husband? Who finds it hard to have fun when her college roommates have not just pushed out their second child but lost the excess weight.
Running for a bus in the rain late afternoon I met another girl…on her way to an audition, cursing the weather, splattered and flustered, edgy and twitchy and fun. 32, she tells me. The same number as the balance in her bank account. Sick to death of nothing to show for 10 years in Manhattan in a cramped studio without a view, sick of brushing sleeves with wives of billionaires who seem undeserving of their charmed existence, who take for granted 5-star lunches and nanny-managing, who don’t have to forego Starbucks for dry cleaning.
I read every day how 50 is the new 30. But apparently for these women, 32 is the new 50. Over the hill-- nervously considering another chapter in the dream-book might have to be edited out.
Me, I might be the new 70. I avoid mirrors. I had a woolen scarf on my head today like an old peasant woman. My shoes have rubber soles and don’t slip. If kids didn’t tease me, I’d be wearing Doc Martens. I am 'over it'. I don't even remember what 'it' was. I embrace the last throes of single parenthood with enthusiasm. I am not a man-hater. Both husbands were ‘de-jour’; sex was great, marriage was witty and unconventional; other women envied me, as women do. I envied me, when I looked, which I hardly ever did. Because that kind of marriage doesn’t last. Besides, I am democratic, spontaneous. I let my life-book write itself. I gave up control. No one envies me now.
I stopped in at P.C. Richards to look for a replacement laptop for my son—the one who loses and breaks everything, including his girlfriends. I sometimes wonder what 32 will look like for him, but for now I must consider 32-bits. The salesman is cute…a not-too recent college grad who probably had mediocre grades in a trendy major. Maybe a former athlete, judging from his body…or a refugee from a boring health-club job. Maybe even an ex-military guy. But the guy is energetic—nice. He knows his stuff—is honest, doesn’t talk down to me. Handsome, in a doggish way. So would the successful writer think he is a keeper? She would not. Or the unsuccessful actress? This guy would have no connections. Maybe lives in Queens. How many PC Richards employees live in Manhattan? Not many.
I like the guy. I want to buy a computer from him. I trust him. I wonder if, at the age of 32, I would have gone out with him. I would have. That’s the difference between me and the new 32. I wasn’t looking for a catalyst; just someone who was fun and sexy. And today? I’m glad to meet a salesman who doesn’t treat me like dogshit because I’m wearing a 7-year-old coat from Eddie Bauer’s final closing sale. I appreciate civility. I appreciate my own time, including the minutes in the day I spend listening to disgruntled 32-year-olds and 25-year-olds at my gym who are already miserable or overworked, stressed, hate their mothers, hate their boyfriends, their med-school schedules, their apartments, the weather. I listen. I care about them. I even make them laugh-- at themselves.
I don’t like Pike Place. I want the old Starbucks coffee, even after 5 PM. I admit—I like Starbucks, even though it goes against my hippie democratic grain. But aside from that, life is okay. Even when my own neighbors are suing each other and my IRA couldn’t buy me a decent laptop. I have heat-- at least tonight I do. I like my apartment. I like my ex-husbands, wherever they may be, and I never asked for child support. I’m not bothered that my parents and kids think I‘m a loser. I like my kids. I have a couple of friends which is a couple more than most have. This year my son even sent me a Christmas card. Maybe I like myself. The new 22. Or 66. Who’s counting?