One evening near my fifteenth birthday, I was summoned to stand before the Kitchen Tribunal.  My mother was there;  recently widowed, understandably shell-shocked, and exhausted by the demands of a fragile household and three needy teenagers.  Also in attendance were my two older brothers, their adolescent snickering temporarily pushed aside by the weight and severity of the matter at hand, which was this:  A few days earlier, an acquaintance of  theirs (several years older, a bit snarky, and appropriately enough, named Dick) had driven past me as I crossed the Market Street Bridge, then reported to my big brothers that their little sister walked like she wanted it.   The family was solemn and disapproving;  the kitchen smelled of fried egg sandwiches and scandal.

Well, I was affronted!  I was mortified!  I was. . .intrigued.  So after clearing my good name with Mom and the brothers, I retreated to ponder this new development.  I turned it over in my mind:  She walked like she wanted it.  Those words couldn’t possibly apply to me, a self-described wallflower and slow starter who hadn’t yet learned how to flirt.  I mean, I certainly knew what IT was, but I wasn’t sure I wanted IT anytime soon.  To be honest, IT was a little scary.  Besides, exactly how did I walk like I wanted it?  What was happening back there that I didn’t know about? 

Therefore,  I turned to my cultural icons for clues.  The men on Gilligan’s Island (even the Professor!) were dumbstruck each time Ginger walked by, but I’d have described my walk as more . . . Mary Ann-ish.  And there weren’t enough Underalls in the world to make my back porch swing like Ann-Margret’s.  But in the privacy of my room, I had to admit I kind of liked knowing something about the way I walked caused Dick to take notice.  Is this what made Aerosmith’s Walk This Way such a dirty song?

Conveniently placed bamboo conceals Gilligan’s interest in Ginger’s leopard skin swimsuit.

Until that moment, the only womanly walk I’d ever analyzed was my mother’s.  Her long legs moved with quick, purposeful strides.  “Keep up, Lisa!” she’d insist as we rushed from store to store each Saturday morning, trying to get our shopping done before some deadline (Yes, I grew up in a world with downtown stores but no 

Mom also instructed me on how to walk like a lady.  “Move your legs from the hips, not from the knees, Lisa.”  And because I tended toward pigeon-toes:  “Point your shoes forward, Lisa.  Don’t let your toes turn in when you walk.”  I assure you, Mom was not being critical;  back in the day, it was a mother’s duty to teach her daughter the finer points of being a woman.   How ironic that the very walk my mom worked to cultivate in me would one day attract the attention of boys like Dick.

I never managed to duplicate my mother’s walk, though.  At 4′ 11″ inches tall, I just don’t have the equipment to cover ground in the same fashion.  Now 79, Mom still out distances me step by step.

But as I made my way through the mall recently, I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of being stalked by my Great Aunt Lois (May she rest in peace.).  Great Aunt Lois was smart and generous, a veteran school teacher with a no-nonsense attitude, a woman esteemed by the family at large during my formative years.  Great Aunt Lois’s walk, however, was nothing like my mother’s. 

The Grand Dame was short, stout, and plagued by arthritis.  She waddled stiff-legged from here to there with knees and hips that moved like rusty gears.  I imagined her carrying an oil can in that oversized handbag on her arm.  And whoever was caught climbing a flight of stairs behind Great Aunt Lois had better not be in a hurry;  coaxing those creaky joints to rotate in such a manner was a process that simply could not be rushed.

And so it was Great Aunt Lois’s walk that followed me  past each store window— in the form of my own reflection.  Nowadays, I walk like I want some ibuprofin and a nice, long, soak.  And since he’s a grandpa now, I’m pretty sure Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler walks this way, as well. 

Dick, too.

And such, friends, is the walk of life. 




If you’re like me, you woke up on December 26th thinking, “Finally!  National Candy Cane Day!”*  Or you might have noted its secondary reason for significance:  The day after Christmas happens to be Jared Leto’s birthday.

The Birthday Boy

Depending upon the number of candles you’ll blow out this year, you might recognize Jared Leto as a founder of the alt rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, or all pudgy for the role of John Lennon’s murderer Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27, or drugged out and sexed up in Requiem for a Dream, or as Jordan Catalano, the object of Claire Dane’s angsty teenaged desire in the short-lived but much-loved 90’s TV drama My So Called Life.   Point is, dude’s got legs and December 26th was his 40th birthday.  You read that right:  Jared Leto is 40.

My So Called Life, Requiem for a Dream, Chapter 27, 30 Seconds to Mars

My brain took several paths to comprehending this information:

1)  What the crapping crap?  This is what 40 is supposed to look like?  How come I didn’t get to look so good when I was 40?  And where do I send my tersely-worded letter of complaint?

2)  Jared Leto’s being 40 makes him totally doable.  True, the age difference is greater than the seven years my dear husband is older than me, but  less than the 16 years Demi Moore had on Ashton Kutcher.

And finally, 3)  Holy sh*t!  Jared Leto is middle-aged!

It’s true, you know, by the arithmetic.  If the average life expectancy for an American male is 77.9 years, then Jared actually reached his statistical middle age last year.  I passed that benchmark ten years ago, though it just didn’t seem right to think of myself as a middle-aged woman until well afterward.  Still, as any of my math teachers would claim, numbers don’t lie.   That doesn’t stop numbers from bending the truth, however.

Age-related numbers are tricky.  Not only do they denote, but they connote.  It’s a big deal when a kid moves from a single digit to double digits, and every adolescent will tell you there’s a world of difference between 12 and 13.  We know well the rights and privileges which accompany the 16th18th, and 21st birthdays;  just as well-known are the restrictions, caveats, and addendums attached to certain ages. 

“Do I still have to sit at the kids’ table?”  
“Act your age!”   
“Aren’t you a little old to be wearing that?” 

Don’t we all, on occasion, find it difficult to reconcile our chronological age with our perceived one?  The numbers themselves seem finite –we grasp each for exactly 365 days–but how we feel fluctuates dramatically during that time.  For some people, just one aspect of their personality seems to dance to the beat of its own drummer:  clothing choices, musical tastes, political leanings, or recreational activities might seem out-of-sync with others of their peer group.  But those restrictions are artificial, anyway;  who decided it was appropriate to continue reading the newest books, watching the newest movies, and following the changes in our favorite sports teams through the years, but inappropriate to continue listening to the newest music or maintaining an interest in popular culture?

On his 40th birthday, I looked closely at Jared Leto’s photographs for any signs of laugh lines.  You see, I’ve become very aware of those tiny creases radiating from the outer corners of my own eyes.  Perhaps it’s because these brown eyes are the only physical characteristic I actually like,** and therefore about them I still maintain a bit of vanity.  Perhaps it’s because, as the “baby” of my family I’ve always perceived myself as relatively young, and such obvious hallmarks of age chip away at my illusion.

I do know I’d like to find the person who nicknamed the little wrinkles laugh lines and kiss her square on the mouth.  Doesn’t laugh lines sound so much gentler than crow’s feet?  And the term is totally accurate!  An expansive, scientific study consisting of me staring into my bathroom mirror revealed that the creases are really only present when I smile or laugh.  And I am both a smiler and a laugher.  So in their own way, my laugh lines prove to the world that I have approached life with a sense of humor, that I have laughed through good times and bad, that I have a ready smile

Of course, that knowledge didn’t stop me from pissing away $32 on a 1/2 ounce jar of eye cream that was supposed to magically make my laugh lines disappear, and instead only made me feel like big rube standing before a snake oil salesman.  As P.T. Barnum might have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

I might not be embracing my laugh lines, but I am learning to live with them.  After all, what choice do I have?  Besides, I earned them.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the fine Jared Leto into the ranks of the middle-aged–mathematically speaking, that is.  By the time Jared sees laugh lines staring back in his bathroom mirror, my own eyes will be so bad I won’t be able to find the bathroom.


*Not making it up.
**Those who know me will say I’m also fond of my feet, which I love to dress up in cute little shoes.