Slightly older, significantly wiser

Like many Americans, I was deeply saddened by the death of Nora Ephron. With humor and heart, she brought relatable women to the silver screen, a welcome relief from the feckless feminine tropes favored by Hollywood.

But I must admit a disproportionate degree of my sorrow came from an unsavory source--a line buried deep within her obituary. My vanity was stirred by the vague and unwelcome recognition that I am moving into a new phase.

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.”

― Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

Today is my 34th birthday. From Nora’s lips to God’s ears, I’ve crossed the threshold.

For quite some time, my hairdresser has been hinting it’s time for a shorter, more age-appropriate bob. “Ma’am's” outnumber “misses” 5:1 when strangers address me. And when the teenage cashier calls the higher-ups to check my ID at the liquor store, the manager takes a one look at my burgeoning crow’s feet and sensible shoes and waves me through, from across the store. No need to get up and take a closer look.

My age has snuck up on me in subtle, peevish ways.  My skin still breaks out like it did when I was a teenager, but I need to keep a much closer eye on the topography of my moles. An acquaintance recently inquired about my new spider tattoo – turns out it was just a vein. And body parts just don’t spring back into place the way they used to…more sag and sway than bounce, that’s for sure.

Now, I know some will read this post with a glib smile and think, “HA! 34? Nice try, honey. Wait until you are 40!” or “52!” or “68 years, four months, six weeks, and two days!”

I get it. I’ve got a long road ahead of me – thankfully so! And just as the sixth grade version of me rolled my eyes at the naive fifth graders who complained of too much homework and shouted back “just WAIT til next year!” I know someday I will look back and laugh at the lamenting 34 year old me, who had no idea of the damage to come. The more mature me will assert that she’d gladly face down varicose veins and simultaneous acne in exchange for whatever phase of the aging process I am experiencing at that very moment. I know it.

 In truth, I am enjoying the aging process -- perhaps not the all physical signs, but the emotional benefits are great. This post exemplifies the best of older me. The midriff baring (good God, what was I thinking?) me of yesteryear wouldn’t dare write in public. What will people think? Too much risk. Potential embarrassment. Inappropriate! But the older me just doesn’t care a lick.  doesn’t give a crap.  doesn't give a SHIT! (I know it's ill-advised to swear on the Internet, but just look! I am doing it, anyway, just to make a very bold point! Look out, world. I'm for real now.) I am finding a voice, at last. Before you know it, I'll be that opinionated Granny in Glaucoma glasses from the Hallmark cards, telling it like it is.

Today I turned 34. I'm no longer dabbling in my 30's, I'm fully immersed. I’m not yet a bona fide oldster, but certainly not a “girl” anymore. Women don’t have a comfortable word like “guy” to bridge the vast crevasse between “girl” and “woman,” like men and boys do. Likewise, there are few female role models in the middle, between Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep. I’ve been resisting the latter, but the former just feels silly. Why has it been so hard for a feminist like me to call myself a "woman?" There's a gravitas to the word "woman" that I've resisted, in favor of  flimsy, cutesie alternatives like "chick," or "gal." This is silly, and contradicts my values and beliefs. So what's the hold up? Confidence, I guess. It’s time to make the leap and embrace that title as my own! (Now I need to figure out a new Twitter's currently @vtfarmgirl)

I am a happy, confident, 34 year old woman today. Happy birthday, happy coming-of-age to me, and to all the women out there who are traversing the great divide to womanhood. Lingering pimples, emerging wrinkles, mandatory mammograms...bring it on! I'm ready for all of it. It's a beautiful thing.