Older and Wiser Girl

It’s 7 PM, and I’m on a business trip in a weird town in a bad hotel in inland Maryland—and, yes, I’m drinking. Someone is in the room next to me. I think we are the only two people in the hotel. I’m not sure why they planted us next to each other.

This person seems to be in either continual pain or ecstasy. It’s hard to tell. All I know is that a low-grade moan has been emanating from the other side of the wall for the past five days.

Yes, five days, in the middle of nowhere (who knew that Maryland even had a middle?), drinkin’ wine, and wishin’ I were anywhere else.

For example, here’s where I’d like to be: 26 years old, and full of hope and possibilities.

But instead, here I am: a middle-aged matron with a level head and lots of good advice to offer.

In a moment of desperation and loneliness, I sought out a local gay bar last night. I entered as I do at this age, full of confidence and a sense of self.

I took a seat at the bar, ordered a cocktail, and immediately attracted a flock of admirers. These younger gals were attracted not by my devilish good looks, but by my world-weary charm and faux sophistication. They were lined up, literally, for my take on their lives.

I spouted off nonstop, telling them exactly what I thought of their ridiculous life choices: dating married women; falling in love with girls who aren’t in love with them; or giving up a promising career in the insurance industry to write a novel.

I knew that as much as they might nod appreciatively and manically, once they left the bar, they wouldn’t follow one damned bit of advice I gave them.

How did I know this? Because I once was that kid, desperately attracted to 40-something, stable women who, I thought, could save me from myself. Yet, they never wanted me.

Now, I know why. While 20-somethings are awfully cute, they are idiots. No offense, kids, just a fact of life. Enjoy your idiocy. It will be your favorite part of life.

Aging has a few benefits, too. One is that you can blame weight gain on perimenopause. Another is that people tend to take you seriously—even if you aren’t serious.

I am not serious, and no one ever should follow my advice, but I do have a certain presence. I’m tall; I have good posture; and I know how to hold and swirl a drink. Also, I can lift one eyebrow independent of the other, which is pretty impressive, and can be intimidating.

So, there I was, deep inside Maryland (OK, if I were in vaudeville, that would be a funny joke), surrounded by cute girls, and feeling mighty full of myself. Then, suddenly, a hand was on my thigh.

A kid I had been counseling was smart, an artist, and very cute. I caught sight of myself in the mirror behind the bar. It was as if I were looking at a stranger. If I were in my 20s, I’d be attracted to me, too. I had become everything I wanted at that age, including the inability to be attracted to anyone 20 years younger than myself.

I turned to the kid, and said, “You’ll make plenty of mistakes, but I’m not one of them.”

I gave her a peck on the cheek, and told her to stay away from married ladies. I left the bar, and returned to my stupid hotel—alone, smug, and knowing that I wouldn’t have to get rid of some stranger in the morning.

It’s good to be old.

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