But as our five kids got older, things that had once seemed alien to our version of young adult life became possible. Not only could we take off for impromptu dinners and happy hours, leaving our two teens in charge—a freedom we hadn’t experienced since we were too young to legally take part in happy hours—but it became easier and easier to leave the kids with relatives so we could go off on weekend excursions, too.
By this point we were approaching our mid-30s, and each time we headed out there was a mixed sense of, “Can you believe we’re finally doing this?” and, “OMG, are we too old for this?”
Am I too old to close down the bar?
Too old to “get low”?
Too old to listen to obscene hip-hop?
Too old to show that much leg?
Too old to have this much fun?
How about now.
I remember once when we were leaving a club in Las Vegas at 4 a.m. when I was 34. Jon turned to me and said, “We’d better enjoy this while we can, because we can’t be doing this at 40.”
I agreed. If anything, at the time that age limit felt overly generous.
But now that I’m firmly in my late 30s and will be 40 sooner than I ever imagined possible, the clear boundaries I once drew in my head are starting to seem less and less relevant.
A few weeks ago, Jon and I took a two-day trip to Las Vegas, where we saw a concert on the rooftop pool deck of the impossibly hip Cosmopolitan Hotel. We dressed up, got there a little early, and scoped out a good spot.
Somehow, as if by magic, a crowd of 20-somethings showed up at the same time, in the same clothes (mostly jeans and shorts), like a flock of birds responding to an invisible signal I’m no longer able to access.
For a minute I felt awkward in my little black dress, but I decided to squelch any self-consciousness by having as much fun as possible. We danced, we sang, we paid $16.50 each for cans of beer, we left on the early side and got a good night’s sleep.
Once upon a time I would have felt compelled to shut the place down just because I could; but in my late 30s I’m finally starting to recognize the law of diminishing returns.
Last weekend, my two best friends from high school and I went away together. Missy, Jenna and I have 10 kids among the three of us, and have never been away together for more than a night at a time. So to celebrate Jenna’s birthday, we booked cheap flights to Florida and planned to stay with my mother-in-law in a retirement community on the Gulf.
For weeks we’d been messaging back and forth, planning our trip. At some point, we’d dubbed it our DGAF (don’t give a f***) weekend. Back fat or cellulite showing in that swimsuit? DGAF. Not sure those shoes go with that dress? DGAF. Mimosas for breakfast every morning? DGAF.
But when we got down to Florida and found ourselves at an ocean-side tiki bar watching 80-somethings get down—and I mean really get down—on the dance floor, our bravado faded a bit.
“Man, these people could teach us a lesson in how to DGAF,” Missy said.
We’re getting there, though. Once upon a time, I honed in on the people younger than myself in every situation, wondering if it was some kind of proof that I’d crossed over into unacceptable (or just kind of pathetic) territory.
But now I find myself looking forward. At bars, at concerts, on dance floors, I tend to pay attention to people ten years or so older than myself: the late-40-somethings having a great time, not seeming to care what others might think. I can be like that, I tell myself, part confident, part hopeful. I don’t have to stop having fun just because I hit a certain age. Right?
I think those 80-somethings on the dance floor gave me my final answer: Right.
I’m sure there are things that would be unseemly for a woman of 37 to do, to say, to wear. But in truth, I already stopped doing those things a long time ago. As in the case of the Vegas concert, I couldn’t pretend to be 20-something even if I wanted to. I’ve simply stopped picking up on their sonar.
And I’ve become OK with that. Getting older isn’t just about what you can’t do anymore; it’s about what you can. You can show up at a club in comfy boots rather than sky-high stilettos because you’ve stopped worrying about what others might think of your footwear (and you can also walk without limping afterward). You can go on vacation with real grown-up money.
You can shut the party down. Or, you can go to bed at 9:30 without feeling like you might be missing out.
My only limits, really, are my own body, my own mind, and how much I decide to worry about what someone else might be thinking about my shoes, my hair, or my age.
I’ve crammed a lot of fun into the last four or five years, and I’m not planning on slowing down anytime soon. I guess, these days, I’m just feeling less and less worried about my “expiration date.” I’ve begun to realize that there will always be another opportunity to stay up late or get down on the dance floor.
When I’m 40.
When I’m 60.
When I’m rocking my bikini and owning the dance floor at 80.