Once, I was asked if I was an undercover cop.

Whoa. Let me back up a little.

Last week, I turned thirty-eight. Now, allow me a moment to toot my own horn:

When discovering my age, a man in his twenties recently asked me how I managed to look so young. “Is it Avon,” he queried “because I had no idea.”

A few months ago, I was carded when entering a twenty-one plus establishment. “Really,” I asked while he checked my DOB. “Man, I was like ten years off,” replied the young bouncer. I smiled and then tripped over my own feet.

When telling a new friend that I had been working at the same job for fifteen years, he said “You don’t look old enough to have worked at the same job that long.” “I’m thirty-seven,” I said. “Well, the years have been good to you,” he retorted with a smile.

Then, a few weeks ago, a young attendant at a gas station teasingly carded me for a pack of smokes. “Do I need to ask for your ID? And, where are you headed looking so cute?”

Stop. Just stop. Okay, no, go on.

Cheap flattery? Petty lies? Who cares? I’ll take it.

But, I wasn’t always the recipient of such compliments. And, with good reason.

You see, I went through a very awkward fashion stage in my mid-twenties. If you read my blog, you already know about some of my unsightly but oh-so-comfy nightwear. You then also know about my color coordinated eye shadow and my obsession with mascara. You probably realize that I am no fashion diva, but, during the day at least, I try to keep things real. (Although for you beauties out there that don’t wear makeup, I will quote Macklemore in saying that “The greatest trick that the devil ever pulled was convincing women that they looked better in their makeup.”)

Still, for me, I recognize that in my mid-twenties, I suffered from an acute bout of fashion crisis. Not only did I forgo makeup, but, amid a plethora of out-of-date oddities in my closet—tight ribbed turtlenecks and ill-fitting sweater vests– there hung on clunky wooden hangers a not-so-meager selection of calf-length jumpers. Not of the retro-trendy variety. No. These “dresses” were straight up teacher wear. One, for example, was both corduroy and purple and pink paisley. Another—the star of this story—was navy blue velvet with some ungodly strip of strange material running down the front and a faux leather belt fastened around the rib cage.

And, these lovely get-ups didn’t just hang there all gloomy and dejected. I actually wore them.

So, what does this all have to do with that cop shit? Maybe you’ve figured it out. But, I will relay the story anyway.

It all went down in a modish nightclub in New Orleans called the Funky Butt.

I should say that I have graced the filthy beautiful streets of New Orleans on a number of occasions. I even have a dress that I refer to as my New Orleans dress. This dress, unlike the melancholy jumpers, is vintage-hip and all sorts of happening and looks great with clunky brown heels and blue eye shadow. This dress is entirely me, and I have rocked it up and down Bourbon Street many a time. I wear it every time I visit the city. Every time, except, well, this one time…

I was on a business trip to the Big Easy and found myself, as I imagine many business trippers in NOLA do, in a bright blue feather boa with a foot long Hurricane in my hand. After dancing and sipping and sipping and dancing my way under balconies and through bars and down alleyways I probably shouldn’t have been dancing down, I also found myself, at 3AM, in the Funky Butt.

Imagine the steamy, smoky interior. Imagine the blaring trumpets and smooth saxophones. Imagine the women in their slinky, sequined dresses and the men in, well, whatever fashionable men wear. Now imagine me, not in my New Orleans dress, but in my blue velvet jumper with strappy worn navy flats, and my newly acquired boa. I might have even been wearing sheer black pantyhose.

But, despite my awkward and out-of-place attire, I was feeling full of fun and confidence. So, when I saw these fellow youngsters lighting up in the corner, I thought I’d approach them all casual-like.

“Hey there,” I slurred with a little wave of the head “What are you kids up to?”

With rolling eyes and curled upper lips, they looked from my shoes to my dress to my long hair pulled up in a bun and fashioned together with a pencil that may or may not have been nibbled on. Then, without hesitation, one of the young hipsters asked “What are you, a cop?”

This kid, not much younger than me really, did not say this in a comical or light-hearted way. He asked with all the disgust in the world. They all, these late teens who had probably snuck in, waited for half a second. And, then, they went back to their business. So, I did the only thing I could do. I struck a Napoleon Dynamite like expression and just slunk back into the shadows.

I had, somehow, and over a period of only a few short years, gotten old.

At the time, I was struck not only with a feeling of embarrassment but a realization that perhaps I was past my prime. And, that was over ten years ago. Now, at thirty-eight, I feel like I am finally settling into adulthood. And, it feels good and attractive and real.

Honestly, I think my maturity only pounced upon me recently. I think the majority of it came with my sobriety. (A year next week I might add!) I, apparently, spent many a year acting as and dealing with emotions much like a child. Maturity now means not only not approaching teens who have snuck into bars, but it means finally taking some responsibility—for both what I have done and what I am doing now. Understanding that my behaviors affect others. They ripple. This is a good thing, and it keeps me in check.

Yet, I recognize the work that I still have to do. I recognize that life is not a straight line, but unfolds in a spiral. As Anais Nin put it: “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

I am climbing that twisted stair with grace and a budding wisdom that will allow me to grow, allow my cells to expand, allow me to see my inner constellations. No matter how cute or young I look! No matter my matching colors or newsprint heels. (Yeah, I found these great heels with a newsprint design!) Even if I blunder, I do not have to strike a Napoleon Dynamite like pose. I can dance through life, maybe not at the Funky Butt, but through life much as N.D. did in the end of that film. Only sexier and with more rhythm.

So, I am not getting old. No. I am coming into my own. And, thank God, I am doing it jumperless!


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