There comes a wondrous time in a woman’s life, a time where age, experience and a plethora—yes, a plethora!– of high-octane hormones merge together to wreak havoc upon the general population. Our loved ones, who once found us so endearing, begin to white-knuckle their chair arms in our presence, dreading what we might say or do next. They wince. They cringe. They roll their eyes. At least my loved ones do.
I can’t help it, I really can’t. It’s as though I’ve contracted some sort of menopause-induced Tourette’s syndrome.
I’ve always been genuinely fascinated by my fellow and fellowette human beings— my heart wants to learn about their lives and world views, who they are deep inside. Almost every job I’ve had has required me to conduct interviews. My conversational style is often a series of probing questions, geared toward scratching beneath the surface and really getting to know someone. I’m a failure at chit-chat, at air-kissy social stuff, and this deficiency has worsened with age.
My daughter recently explained my personality defect to one of her friends. I’d asked him some blunt question that I’ve since forgotten, but I remember that he stammered for a moment, a little taken aback by my query. “Sorry,” I said. “I no longer have an on/off switch in my brain.”
It’s liberating in a way. For most of my life, I’ve been anxious and shy, worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, reluctant to express my opinions for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Over time, these concerns have been replaced by some sort of raging bull-in-a-china-shop mentality. Words fly out of my mouth like corn from a popper—my inner-censor seems to have found a more lucrative position in someone else’s head. At the same time, I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been, and happier than ever to be me.
I know some of you are nodding while reading this. I know some of you are nodding off while reading this. But a lot of women have told me that the same thing has happened to them. “Isn’t it fantastic?” they say. “Isn’t it freeing?” Well, yes and no. It’s freeing in much the same way that a lot of us feel at eighteen, after moving out of our parents’ house for the first time. It’s a period of self-discovery, of figuring out who you really are. You’re learning a lot about the world and experiencing fantastic new things, but you’re also making mistakes– horrible mistakes. You delight in your newfound independence, but it’s mixed with the horror of knowing that last night, you did thirteen Jell—O shots and took off your bra in the middle of TGI Friday’s. It’s a mixed bag of kittens.
Fast forward a few decades, and it’s happening all over again. Without the Jell-O shots maybe, but it’s happening. You’re changing, discovering yourself and screwing up all over again. Worst of all, this metamorphosis is beyond your control. The hormones are driving the bus, baby, and they’re reckless.
About a week and-a-half ago, I gave a presentation on blogging, entitled, “The Personal Blog: That Most Glorious, Miraculous, Transformative, Healing, Connective, Emotionally Powerful Medium in All the History of Humankind” – or something like that. It was part of a three-day event, and I was as thrilled about attending as I was about speaking. There were pre-parties and post-parties and a day packed with information sessions. I was looking forward to it for a lot of reasons: It was a chance to discuss a subject that I’m passionate about. I’d get to meet a lot of new people, promote my work and learn more about the technical aspects of WordPress. It was also an opportunity to improve my social media skills, which currently are on par with my two-year-old granddaughter’s. Seriously, yesterday, I caught her tweeting, “At Mimi’s house—wish she’d quit bitching about my lack of potty training. BOR-ing!”
In the weeks preceding all of this, Amadeus, my knight in breathable cotton armor, endured my angst as I prepared my presentation. Watch me refrain from tangenting about how I’m married to the most patient, supportive man on the planet– perhaps on any planet. I always have this feeling that, with Amadeus, all things are possible. I’m a braver person because of him. He makes me want to step up my game.
It was in this spirit of bravery and step-uppedness that I got ready for the opening night kickoff parties. I was excited. Prior to all of this, I’d developed some weird, stress-induced rash on my hands, about which I eventually consulted a doctor. I picked my way through my closet with steroid cream-covered hands, trying to decide what to wear. Eventually, I settled on a little thrift store sun dress, one that buttoned up the front and tied down the back and was sprinkled with tiny little flowers. A happy, friendly dress that nicely matched the creepy red welts that covered my fingers.
Deep down, I’m a shy person (Myers-Briggs: INFP), but my busted on/off switch, paired with a compulsive desire to please and put others at ease makes me behave completely counter to my nature. When I yearn to climb into my shell like frightened taco meat, I become perversely outgoing. I disobey my mother and talk to strangers. If they offer candy, I take it. Often, this tactic works, sometimes it doesn’t, but if gold stars were awarded for effort, I’d have my own personal galaxy.
So there we were, partying, getting our geek on. I was awestruck, being in the midst of so many social media wizards, techno-brainiacs and web deities. It was really swell. Amadeus sat completely at ease at a table and played Jewels Legend on his phone. I nervously stuffed a couple of southwest eggrolls into my mouth, then proceeded to mix and mingle. Fearlessly, I walked up to tables of strangers and chit-chatted, handed out my business cards and tried to keep the eggrolls down.
Everyone was so kind—some were outgoing and receptive, some seemed a little taken aback by my forwardness, but I’ve learned to honor my inner misfit and not let the reactions of others negatively impact me. In the end, I gotta be me. It’s always lovely when people “get me,” but I’m okay when they don’t.
I was loosening up, feeling happy and bubbly and social butterfly-ish, when suddenly, Amadeus grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s go.”
“But wait,” I said, pulling back. “I’m not ready…”
“Let’s GO,” he repeated, and dragged me out of there. I was hurt—he hadn’t been that gruff with me since I broke the lid of the toilet tank a couple of years ago.
We walked out into the lobby, and he turned and said, “The front of your dress is completely unbuttoned.” Sure enough, my belly, as white as a fish fillet, was exposed for all the world to see.* No wonder people were staring—I’d been flashing them for over an hour. Smooth, huh?
I have so much more to tell you, but this has already gotten way too long, so I’ll continue later. Fortunately for you, my laptop’s on/off switch is working just fine. Besides, my hands are itching.
*I am fifty-one. I have had two children. This was not sexy.