Wednesday, June 27, 2012

being a grown up

When I was eighteen, I had a job at my mom's office that I really shouldn't have even had. I made lots of mistakes and was bored all the time, and the only thing I learned from it is that I don't work well in offices. I endured it much longer than I should have because the pay was better than the retail jobs that my friends were working, and when I got laid off due to budget cuts, I had to force myself to keep from breaking out into a big smile.

I remember one night I was sitting at my desk, waiting impatiently to get out because it was my one year and four month or whatever anniversary with my boyfriend, and we were going to go out for dinner somewhere fancy. We were kids in the suburbs so "somewhere fancy" meant Red Lobster, but it was at least a step up from Dennys. I had my outfit all planned out and I couldn't wait to wear it...I think it was a silvery A-line dress with silver shoes, very Clueless-inspired. A couple of my coworkers asked me what I was doing that night. They were ones I kind of was a single mom and the other was in his mid-20's and very sweet. I talked about my outfit I had planned and they laughed good naturedly about how I was like a little girl, excited to put on a pretty dress. Then they suddenly switched gears and started telling me how eventually I'd grow out of all that and I wouldn't care about what I was wearing anymore. I protested that yes, I would! They did the world-weary adult thing of, "No you won't, you'll stop caring, you'll have more important things to be concerned with."

Way to ruin my evening, coworkers! I remember that I went home, put on my cute dress and shoes, and went out with my boyfriend, and not even tasteless, rubbery lobster could cheer me up. I was in a funk the rest of the night about the death sentence that just got put on my grown up life was going to be gray and joyless and I would be too worried about bills and kids and my crappy office job to enjoy putting on a cute dress every now and then.

I'm 35 now, and putting on a cute dress still makes me smile. Yes, there are plenty of more important things to be concerned with, but that doesn't mean I can't still get excited about planning the perfect outfit to wear to a friend's wedding or a restaurant that isn't part of a nationwide chain. I actually like being a grown up, and quite frankly I wouldn't trade the problems I have as an adult for the problems I had as a nineteen-year-old for all the John Fluevog shoes in the world. I married a man who doesn't leave the house without putting on a fedora and knows how to rock pinstripes. I'd say everyone in our circles upon circles of friends are a fun loving bunch who know how to dress with style (from crunchy granola to librarian chic), and I'm relieved to see that parenthood hasn't changed that for any of them. I'm happy to say that getting older doesn't mean your personality has to change. It can deepen into something much better and much more you as the years go on, but it doesn't mutate to fit a mold of what society thinks an adult is supposed to be.

I wish I could take credit for this next quote, but it's something that a friend of a friend posted as a "happy birthday" on a facebook page, and I loved it so much I copied and pasted it so I wouldn't lose it. "My 20's were pretty interesting, but my 30's turned out to be even cooler, and my 40's even cooler still. Life seems to be like some kind of self-renewing plant - as long as you keep adding water and re-pot now and then, the darn thing keeps turning out flowers and getting more beautiful."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Little Old Ladies

At the train station about a month ago when it was still cold, I saw this little old lady buying a ticket, and by that I mean she was exactly the image conjured when you hear the words "little old lady"—headscarf, old wool coat, thick beige nylons, white nondescript sneakers. She saw a couple pennies that had been dropped on the ground by the machines, and made a noise as if she had found someone's lost engagement ring. She approached a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) employee, and tried turning them in to her. At first I didn't understand what her little-old-lady logic was. Did she think someone was going to come back to the Jarvis station and check the lost and found for the two pennies he or she had dropped? It can be confusing and slightly irritating when little old ladies do stuff like that. It's something my grandmother would have done, but she grew up in the Depression, so somehow that makes it understandable. Remembering that made me wonder what this little old lady's story was. Perhaps she had lived through some time in her life where every penny counted?

In any case, the CTA employee refused to take the pennies, explaining that they weren't allowed to take money from people. Little Old Lady's voice was too soft for me to tell if there was a language barrier, because she didn't seem to understand. She tried putting the pennies on the counter and the CTA employee got all snappish and said, "You can't do that! You can't put those there!" That was even more irritating. I wanted to get involved and say, "Come on! She's not giving you money, she's a little old lady trying to do the right thing by turning in dropped pennies. Do you think you're gonna get fired for taking them? Just take the fucking pennies and say thank you and throw them out afterwards if you want!" But I'm fairly certain that would have just pissed off both parties even more, so I just let it go and walked upstairs to catch the train.

Moral of the story: When a little old lady hands you something, just fucking take it.