On my sixth wedding anniversary this past September, I drove into town with my 4-year-old daughter to run a few errands. I was feeling pretty good that day. I’d recently landed a freelance job after being off work for a while, the weather was gorgeous, and my husband and I had dinner reservations at one of the best restaurants in town that evening. As my daughter and I approached the parking meter, I readied the coins for her to put in (she insists on putting them in every time), and I noticed an old man shuffling across the parking lot toward us. I could never have predicted that the words he was about to utter would grind my near-perfect day to a screeching halt. “She’s cute,” he said, looking at my daughter. Then, looking at me, “Are you her mom or grandma?”
Stage 1: Shock
Did that old man seriously just ask me that? I must have misheard him. Do I need to have my hearing examined? Holy crap, maybe I am old. Wait—look how freaking old he is! He’s the one who needs to get his eyesight checked. That’s definitely it.
Stage 2: Denial
I shake my head in disgust. Is he kidding? I don’t look like a grandma! No one has ever asked me that before. Can’t he see I’m young(ish) and hot? Fine, I didn’t shower today, and maybe not yesterday either, but I still look pretty damn good. This must be some kind of joke. My daughter and I look exactly alike; there’s no way I could be her grandmother. Get it together, gramps.
Stage 3: Anger
“What the fuck did you just say to me?” Okay, so I don’t say that out loud, but I say it so loud in my head that I’m convinced the old man can hear it. I turn to a middle-aged man who has just overheard the exchange and say, “Am I doing something wrong here?” He assures me that he never would have thought that I was a grandma. Damn straight, sir. Clearly this old man is some kind of asshole.
Stage 4: Bargaining
Wait a minute, old man—I mean, sir. Can I show you my face up close? Not too many wrinkles considering I’m 42, right? I mean, most people think I’m in my mid-30s. That’s what they tell me to my face anyway. A person in her mid-30s can’t be a grandma, right? Damn, I should have showered this morning. I promise I’m going to shower every morning now before I go out, and put on a full face of makeup. And maybe I’ll start to dress a little sexier, start wearing heels again. I think I can still pull off a miniskirt. Should I get a tattoo?
Stage 5: Guilt
Oh my god, this old man truly thinks I look like a grandma. I should have had a kid sooner. I waited too long. There are probably tons of women my age who are grandmas. Granted, I didn’t meet my husband till I was in my mid-30s, but instead of dating and traveling and having fun for two years, we should have procreated immediately, or at least after our third date. Can I please go back in a time machine and meet my husband five years earlier? A few of my friends were already having kids by then; I could have jumped on the bandwagon. I’m the worst mom who ever lived, and my daughter will grow up to be the most famous female serial killer since Charlize Theron gained weight to play Aileen Wuornos.
Stage 6: Depression
My life has gone horribly wrong. I bet everyone thinks I’m my own daughter’s grandma. They’re lying to me when they tell me I look young. What is the point of even trying to look good anymore? I’m never going to shower again, never put on makeup again, maybe never even get out of bed again. But then who’s gonna take care of the kid?
Stage 7: Acceptance
So I’m a little bit of an older mom. So I had my kid when I was 38. Technically speaking, I’m of advanced maternal age. I have plenty of friends in their early 40s who just had their first kids. I’m hardly in the minority. And didn’t Kelly Preston have a kid when she was almost 50? It’s all good. At least, it will be—once I go slash that old geezer’s tires.