God knows why, but I had agreed to meet a twenty-something-year old for lunch the other day. Said twenty-something was newly engaged, newly promoted and a strong subscriber to the Prince Charming fairytale of being whisked off to happily ever after, or as I now refer to it, Never, Never Land. What she fails to understand at her age and experience level is that the spliced pieces of reality that Disney spilled onto the cutting room floor were intentionally left for Cinderella to sweep up on her wedding night. You can bet that in the real version, after being whisked, Cinderella then Wisk-ed the stains out of Prince Charming’s briefs for the rest of his jockey-stained natural life. This young woman sitting across from me still believed that Cinderella's life was crusted. I give her until her first anniversary to realize that it's just not crusted in gold.
But there I sat, listening to her sing the pop song that is her life. Placed beside her purified Pellegrino sparkling water, my three-olive dirty martini looked oddly misplaced; kind of like that funny bachelor uncle your mother never let you near and who was ordered by Uncle Joe to sit beside Grandma at the grown-up table at every family gathering.
Ordering a second martini, post haste, I drained the sedimentary remains of my first from the glass chalice as I listened to her. As she spoke spiritedly and eagerly I wondered if I ever shared her confident enthusiasm; her dewy optimism dropping its life affirming splashes like spring rain all over the room. The only place my dewy optimism drops these days is into my Depends, or so advertisers would have me believe now that they have ushered me into a new demographic age range. A range, by the way, that includes the toothless and arthritic--my new compatriots.
How could my mind not retreat to some speculative place where I was left undisturbed to question how the decisions I made in my twenties led me to this godforsaken hell of the here and now.
Had the '90's come with equipped with a crystal ball, rather than marry the safe boyfriend (the only man I had ever slept with--gulp) I would have ran off with that Indie drummer from the East Village and never looked back. At the very least, he owned his rat-infested apartment on Avenue C and do you have any idea what that real estate is worth today?
I also would not have so casually passed up that opportunity with the lesbian lawyer with a house on Fire Island. Free and unlimited legal advice and a guaranteed beach vacation? WTF was I thinking?
Had I paid closer attention to the physical details of my then boyfriend, now spouse’s, apartment, I would not be surprised now that all of those piles of unopened bills haphazardly strewn across the sticky top of the kitchen table of his bachelor pad would result in a lifetime of having the utilities periodically turned off. Even now, every time I flip a switch and a light actually goes on I feel like I’ve won Final Jeopardy.
In 1995, when that buff marine fighter pilot whom I met at Fleet Week tried to talk me out of my static relationship and join him for a weekend of pure pleasure, I should have packed a little brown bag of indecent underwear and fled with him. I wouldn’t know 48 hours of pure pleasure now if it smacked me in the face. I had saved myself for what? Life with an unruly dog, more unruly kids and a husband who insists on being unruly just so that he can stay relevant?
Fifteen years ago I decided not to transfer to D.C. and work in the White House because I wanted to stay close to my boyfriend. Here I am now sitting in a closet with the dog, drinking wine and crying over spilt opportunities while listening to Dylan.
However, despite the missed opportunities, despite the waning of youth and virility, while at the dog park today a 28-year-old skin-head struck up a conversation that lasted longer than any conversation I have had with a man over the age of 8 and under the age of 60 in a long time. I briefly considered taking the dog and running away with my new skin-head lover. At least he wouldn’t complain about his hair loss.
But I didn’t. I stayed firmly planted to the earth as I watched him walk away. But I will admit that as I watched my skinhead's tight ass move in those faded Levi's, I was filled with so much dewy optimism that you can Depend there was a (Victoria's) secret garden growing in the land that time forgot.