‘Hey, ladies!’

While walking home from the A&P, I got stuck behind a large group of tipsy people coming out of a Hoboken bar. They walked in that irritating touristy way – four across the sidewalk in two slowly shifting rows, like enormous drunken foosball figures.

They must have heard my eyes rolling because one of them at last said, “Hey, move over and let this lady pass.” “This lady.” They meant me.

Thank God I was only one block away from my apartment. I sprinted the block, tore up the stairs like a bat out of hell (An old bat? Please, God, no) and into the bathroom to get a good look in the mirror. My usual face looked back at me. I hadn’t aged 20 years in my 45-minute trip to the grocery store. I was still me in my low 30s.

“This lady.” The nerve! Before I went to the store, I’d been at a bar smoking, shooting pool and drinking beer on a weeknight. Not exactly a “ladylike” habit, correct? Not a day goes by that I don’t utter the word “dude” in one way or another. I have a buck-fifty a day Gummy bear habit. These are not the hallmarks of an older woman.

When I hear the word “lady,” a few things spring to mind: British aristocracy, those dogs sharing a plate of spaghetti in that Disney movie, and Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits. Certainly not me. In my early 30s, I’m just now getting over that I’m not a ‘girl’ anymore. I’ve adjusted to “ma’am” rather than “miss.” However, I can’t yet bring myself to call myself “woman,” or “lady” just yet – they simply sound too old for me. For the present, I just avoid referring to myself as anything but “I” or “me.”

It’s true that I dye my hair – not because I don’t like my natural color, but to hide the gray. I haven’t quite started wearing “sensible” shoes yet, but I’m definitely wearing more flats than heels. I’ve added a wrinkle-reducing eye cream to my skin care budget. Last week I found myself in a conversation with a friend my age about how rude kids are these days. My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be, but I attribute this to too many nights at the bar. I admit, I am no spring chicken; but I am pretty effing far from “lady.”

And yet the voices of the drunken sidewalk-blockers came back to me. I was heading home with groceries. They were on their way to the next bar – on a weeknight. Their voices had the unmistakable smack of youth. I longed to give them an unmistakable smack for making me feel old.

So there I was, staring in the bathroom mirror (Another gray hair, I just dyed it!), desperately clinging to the last vestiges of what I perceived to be my youth. Was it time to take up crocheting? Order the first season of Matlock on DVD? Get the local Bingo schedule? Or rather, was it time to get Botox?

James Joyce wrote, “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

Finally I say, “Eff that.” There’s nothing wrong with growing old. And there’s no rule that says getting older has to entail fading and withering dismally. Who said that I couldn’t find the full glory of some passion with age? No, I’m not getting Botox. And I’m certainly not going to let a careless word from a drunken kid ruin my evening, or worse, my middle age.

I put on my jacket and headed back out. It was Ladies’ Night somewhere. – Tracy Nahas


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