Tag Archives: growing old

Finding My Groove, Keeping my Rhythm

When I stepped out onto the dance floor last week, I knew there would be trouble. I hadn’t danced in years, so I was completely out of practice in the art letting loose.

Through the fog and colored lights, I eyed up the DJ: young, serious, mohawk. I saw him survey the crowd. Then, he scratched out a song I didn’t know. Even before moving an inch, I began to perspire.

I could have used a drink, but the hardest liquor to slide across the bar that night was a regular Mountain Dew, straight up. I was left to my own non-rhythmic devices. I started at the hips. Left, left, right. Right, right, left. I pivoted my toes in an effort to twist into the beat, but my groove was stopped short by my boots and their rubber soles.

Note to self: a non-slip sole crushes all dignity when dancing.

The dance floor filled up with younger, looser-hipped bodies. My eyes widened, my shoulders stiffened, and I smiled as if I were in pain. I limited my dance moves to two square feet of space, hoping not to be noticed. But as each arm locked into an L-position and alternated from front to back, my hips jolted. I danced the Robot without any intention of doing so.

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I poo poo sororities. For the most part.

I was in one. I loved it, in the beginning. But, when my first major crush told me, “You know, sororities are just cults,” I played the victim.

“My mother made me do it.”

She had good reason. She, my father, and I showed up for Freshman Orientation at a college three hours from home. We walked the vast campus, in a land unknown. While standing outside an assembly hall–my face in shock and my mother’s face in worry–another mother took mine by the arm and mentioned “Greek” and “RUSH” and insisted “it’s the best thing for your daughter.”

My mother looked at me and likely envisioned my 98 pound self wandering down campus sidewalks and in and out of empty hallways, aimless and alone. She turned back to the woman and thanked her. During the last precious weeks of the summer, she helped me gather photos and fill out applications and put together a week’s worth of RUSH outfits.

She wanted to make sure someone took me in. And, one sorority did. With open arms, a lot of screams, a few tears, and a t-shirt.

A year and a half later, in front of my crush, I feigned indifference.

“Anyway, I think I’ve outgrown it. They have too many rules. And, formal dinners. And, I already know how to use a fork.” I sat up straight, pushed my permed hair behind my ear, and tried to look like a woman.

That was nineteen years ago. I’m over all that sorority business now.

But, when I an invitation popped into my inbox the other day, nostalgia got the best of me. Funny how I never asked them to remove me from their email list.

The invite said Red Dress Gala. Wow. Three course meal. Ooooo. Dancing and mingling. With sisters.

I clicked the chapter’s home page and groups of girls hugging and smiling flashed before me – photos from last year’s party, welcome week, a football game. I saw my face reflected in the pictures. For a few seconds, I considered flying down for the Gala.

My sorority past is like the time I found myself inducted into the Lion’s Club. I didn’t quite fit in, someone sort of made me do it, and I roll my eyes and smirk when I talk about it. Yet, I read that invitation with butterflies in my stomach.

I dislike the sorority’s popularity contest called RUSH, the teachable moments during formal dinners, and the sappy songs (I’ll keep the secret handshake, thank you very much, it’s so FBI-ish). But, what I long for is the wooing, the invitation to be a part of a collective–the female cohort.

Photos don’t lie.

In a few short days, I turn 39, on the brink of middle-age.

I’m not sure how this is possible. I mean, my birth certificate says 1970, but I don’t feel like I’ve aged since 1997. So, either I’m young at heart, or I’m immature.

I suppose, in the scheme of life, 39 is still young. But, my body keeps throwing out mixed signals.

I love taking hand held photos – close ups of me and my daughter or me and my son. Once in a while, I convince my husband to join me behind the macro lens. The end photos used to be cute and silly. Now, digital camera playbacks make me shutter. In the photo, I see a set of eyes surrounded by a roadmap of wrinkles. Squinting in macro shots is no longer an option.

Finding a pair of pants that fits well is a growing concern. Not because I’m an odd size, but because there’s an area around my waist that refuses to stay in line and will not be contained. Low waist jeans are too unwieldy. High waist jeans are too ’80’s. I wonder why we don’t just bring back the girdle. Oh, right, they did. It’s called Spanx.

At the beginning of summer, I bought a new, daring, swimsuit: halter top style. But, when I put it on, I questioned my sanity. The top bared too much cleavage for an “almost 40, mother of two.” I wore it only twice, and each time I got a familiar response from bystanders, familiar because I have done the same thing when confronted with a 60-something woman at the beach who crossed the line. Avert the eyes. Stare. Avert. Stare. Wow.

One of my favorite quotes from my dad is one he tossed out when flipping through vacation photos:
Who’s that old man in the picture?

I understand that level of denial now.

For me, my age shows up briefly in photos, in swimsuits, in the tug of my pants. But a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles stung even more. Apparently, this year, I’m due for a new driver’s license, new photo required. The letter might as well have read, “you’re old, Ms. Craig. Quick trying to fake it.”