Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Artist Looks at Forty

“I’m afraid of growing older. Well, growing older might be fine. Shrinking older. That’s a major fear of mine.” -John Bucchino

I have often said that John Bucchino gets the lyrics for most of his work by sitting outside my therapy sessions and taking notes. Nearly every song I hear, I just sit and nod. “Yep. That’s me.” While the opening to his revue “It’s Only Life” is no exception, I never particularly identified with the title. “The Artist Looks at Forty.” I’d never looked at forty. I’d never even considered it.

Until about two weeks ago.

I had a nightmare that I was turning forty.

This is absurd for several reasons:

1. I’m only thirty-six.
2. I am told fairly often that I don’t look anywhere near my age.
3. I am quite happy with where I am in my life- what I’ve accomplished, who I’ve become, and where I’m headed.
4. I have plenty of people in my life who are over forty, and by no means do I think of them as “old.”

But I couldn’t shake this nightmare. It haunted me for a week. I started examining and stressing over my wrinkles. (They're there. Don't argue with me.) I started hallucinating gray hairs. (They're probably not there.) I told Ryan about it the other day. “That seriously bothers me that it would bother you,” he said. He tried to convince me I was being ridiculous. But I already knew I was being ridiculous. Academically, anyway. And yet. As my birthday approached, I grew more and more anxious.

And now, on my second day of being thirty-six, the anxiety is gone. It could be because I got to meet with my therapist (the real one. Not the ones I tried to have replace him. Fail.) for the first time in over two years. But I think it has more to do with the celebration of my birthday itself.

It started on Saturday night. Ryan and I went to Ford’s Theater to see our friend in a show. It’s a little surreal to watch a fellow Momentum Rep “Assassin” perform in the very theatre where one of those assassinations took place. But even more surreal was seeing the words “Momentum Rep’s Assassins” in his bio. After the show, we went for drinks with our Assassin friend and his girlfriend. And when I ordered a pomegranate martini, I was carded.


(In fact, I literally said that out-loud. “Score.”)

Thirty-six was looking a little less scary.

We talked about the show. And what it’s like to be home all day with someone who is learning to talk. And why “Animal Farm” was the perfect choice for the school where I just played. And we compared Worst Show Ever stories. (I won.) And all the while, my friend kept checking the clock on his phone. I knew he was waiting for midnight, even though he was exhausted from performing so many times this week. And I really, really appreciated the gesture. The clock ran down, the three of them sang, and we headed back to the hotel.

Saturday morning, after enjoying our free hotel breakfast, we explored the sites of downtown Washington DC. We saw the White House, and the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. And everywhere we went, Lily was the center of attention. She oo’ed and ah’ed appropriately as far as we could tell, although it was just as likely to be over a squirrel as it was a monument. And we got all the obligatory family photos. And when we got back to the hotel, she grabbed her bottle and her blanket, climbed into her pack-and-play by herself, and went to sleep, allowing Ryan and I to take a nap. It was a birthday miracle.

Once we were all well-rested, we drove out to the Virginia wine country to visit Chris- a college friend who runs Breaux Vineyards with his wife. And while I stood at the bar sampling nearly every wine they offer, I talked with Chris about mission statements. And how wineries are like theatre. And I discussed the state of education with the girl serving me my wine. She, too, had earned her Masters Degree in Education before deciding teaching in public schools was not for her. And she’d seen “Waiting for Superman.” And she had as many opinions about it as I did. I was in nerd heaven.

Chris and I shared parenting war stories while Ryan chased Lily around the room, we all took a tour of the winery, and we said goodbye with a bottle of their ice wine in hand. Back at the hotel, we ordered Chinese food, enjoyed our wine, watched “Undercover Boss,” and were asleep by 10:30. Lily slept all night.

And then this morning. After another free breakfast, I showered, took the time to blow-out my expensive haircut, and got on the Metro to visit with my therapist, feeling uncharacteristically happy about the way I looked. While waiting at a nearby Starbucks, a young girl (a college student, I know this for sure because I overheard her discussing her research paper) gushed about my nails. And I met with “Dr. Matthews.” And I realized how very, very far I’ve come.

I thought that was it. In fact, I started writing this blog, already happy with my birthday, and turning thirty-six, and life in general. But we made one final stop on our way out of DC. We needed coffee, and Lily needed milk, and I remembered a bookstore near a hotel where I had once stayed. I had written part of my book in the café downstairs, and if my memory served me, which it usually does, it was coming up on our right.

We pulled in front of the locally-owned bookstore and I ran in while Ryan changed Lily’s diaper in the car. I felt like things were coming full-circle, spending time in this bookstore now that my book was finished. I was waiting for the restroom when I overheard three older women talking. “I just got an email about ‘Urinetown.’ But I don’t know if I want to see something called ‘Urinetown.’”

Yep. That conversation really happened.

So I apologized for eavesdropping, and begged them to go. They were avid theatre fans, and the title was the only thing that had kept them from seeing the show before. I promised them that this very fact was addressed within the first few lines, and that they would love it. They asked me what I did, I told them a little bit about Momentum Rep, and they made me feel like a total rock star.

Then, I heard Lily cry. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “I recognize that cry. I better go see if my daughter is OK.”

“You don’t have a baby! You can’t! You’re seventeen!”

I got in the car feeling pretty good about myself.

This weekend I was reminded that I am a woman who does not look her age. And that I have young friends who will talk to me about theatre and ask what it’s like to be a parent and sing to me at midnight. And I have other friends who know exactly what it’s like to be a parent. And who care about mission statements and wine. And I have a family that understands the value of a good nap.

I know a lot about theatre and education. And I helped start a company that has provided a lot of opportunities for a lot of people. And I have the confidence to wear flowers on my fingernails. And I wrote a book. And I get to stay home with my daughter, who loves to dance.

And I get to share all of this with a man who has been with me for nearly fifteen years.

And the one thing that was absolutely required for all of this to be true was the passage of time. I have spent the past thirty-six years gaining experiences and building relationships and learning about who I am.

And that makes me excited to see what my life will be like at thirty-seven.

Or forty, for that matter.

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