Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What the Beatles said. (Subtitle: You say it's your birthday?)

What a momentous day. 40 years ago today my Mom woke up with a tiny brunette sasspot coming into the world. As we snuggled together that first day, me adorned in a hospital t-shirt pinned to a diaper and a handmade yellow sweater, my Mom likely dreamt of paper dolls we would cut, sewing dresses for me and teaching me how to make her chocolate chip cookie recipe (for the record STILL the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in my arsenal.)

As my Father drove us home (with me nestled on my Mom’s lap because seat belt laws? What seat belt laws?) I am sure he made a mental list of all the books he would recommend while making sure I knew how to throw a baseball “like a boy” and could adeptly identify all players by position name on a football field.

When I got home, my brother probably took one look at me before announcing, “Why is that squirrel screaming? Take it back!”

For those of you who have been at the Cocktail Party for a bit, you may recall the Birthday Letter I penned to myself. Well, all those sentiments still stand and that particular letter is one of my favorite blog posts.  40 is a significant turning point but age does not cause me stress. Are we not getting better with age? Of course we are. How do I know? Because at one point in my life, I wore a side pony tail (and not chic like Catherine Zeta but NOT chic like Toni Basil..awwww MICKEY!) and for several years I wore my jeans tucked AND rolled.  While we do improve with age, I consider several life lessons I reflect on now that would have been helpful then (and are still relevant now.)

Life lesson from grade school:

When you are forced to get glasses, it really is for your own good. You can’t see. You almost put shaving cream on your tooth brush. Get the glasses. Read the chalkboard from your seat. However, when your Father tells you to get glasses with the lenses that automatically turn dark when exposed to the sun, hesitate here little one. The glasses are really big. The tinted lenses will look like you are wearing two giant amber colored plates on your face. Your Father will assure you they are “trick.” This is a dual lesson: From this day forward, if your Father describes anything as "trick" well, run. Far and fast. Or politely decline. Whichever is easier. Second and more valuable, it is ok to have your own opinion and to share that diplomatically with others. If you don't really prefer the hideous glasses, speak up. The good news, lack of an opinion will NOT be one of your weaknesses, I assure you. However, in this case, rather than share an opinion, you merely made a face.

Oh, wait, another lesson: Making stupid grimaces does not nor will ever deter your Father. This should be the time you begin learning the art of crafty negotiation. You learn it, it takes time, but start earlier. This will also help you in other critical areas in your life such as: What We Are Eating for Dinner and Who Should We Get to Babysit These Children. Influence is a good thing. Practice now.

If it is too late to negotiate, here is a trick: pick another pair of glasses that cost less and merely say, “These will do. OH and look, they cost less Dad!”  This is how you do it. Oh, and in the future, picking the bargain version of anything clothing or accessory related will not be one of your strengths.

Life lesson from Junior High:

When you are a member of the track team, competing in the high jump and your coach tells you to practice more, the appropriate response is not “I don’t feel like it.” You are actually good at running AND at the high jump. And here is a tip, ask any competitive athlete the best way to improve your skills. Not ONE of them will answer: practice less. You are competitive. But sometimes at track practice you act less like an athlete and more like a teenage girl which means you spend time not on your craft but rather flirting and acting stupid in front of boys. Save it for after hours. This is important because you play sports your entire life. And because you play LIFE your entire life.  And when you get older even the postman on your running route will tell you the way to excel is never to practice less.  This applies to everything. And it is not true that practice makes perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So stop wearing your idiotic Cat Eye Vuarnet sunglasses around the track and get to work.

But on that note, being competitive does not mean being a cunning jackass. You will encounter plenty of that in law school. Look at competition holistically. Do what is good for the team and succeed without forsaking others. Except when your family is playing Taboo and it is all suckers for themselves. PS: You and your older brother will thrash any and everyone who challenges you to Taboo. Just a heads up.

Life lessons from High School (Three this time):

1. You certainly are boy crazy, aren’t you Misses? Like boys all you want. Boys are fun. However, relationships fail when structured similar to one-way streets. In fact, you should try to be a touch more demure. I know, you feel a scrawny given your wearing a size zero at this point and your chest actually caves inward. This doesn’t mean you should follow a particular boy around your entire sophomore year in hopes that he will like you. I am not suggesting you act coy and play games. Please don’t. I am suggesting you let things progress naturally. What is the opposite of natural progression? Writing I LOVE ____ _____ all over your spiral notebooks. 

Girls this age talking about love is like listening to Justin Bieber give relationship advice. It is unqualified and frankly, nauseating. Oh, I know. Your teen crush is handsome. And you think you would look absolutely smashing in his letterman jacket. But boys this age are also awkward and take time to process their thoughts above the waistline. You have a LOT of time for this. In fact, you are a bit of a late bloomer. Good. But why not work on the friendship component first. Oh, and when a boy likes you, you will know.

Another tip: When you do get a boyfriend and you decide to wear his letterman jacket around everywhere you go? Well, don’t. Did you realize it was approximately 6.5 times too big for you? Not flattering (while on the topic, neither are those hideous rugby shirts from the Gap you are in love with…sssstop it.) But you know who else thinks the boy’s letterman jacket does not flatter you? Both your Father and your Step-Dad. In fact, those two older and wiser men see that coat and think “That is what that ____ _____ is going to lay down in the back seat of his car while trying to take advantage of my daughter.” Spare them the heartburn.

But, as you grow and develop relationships, know this:
You have to know your own worth.
And you don’t need to make boys like you.
And we teach people how to treat us.
And most importantly, the admiration of boys is not some blue ribbon you wear around to prove to the world you are somebody.

As you get older, you will learn that some men like you and some don’t in the same way you don’t like every pair of shoes, friend or teacher to the same degree. People have sliding scales of interest. But guess what? Not everyone likes France either but France doesn’t develop an awkward complex about it. France doesn't conduct an elongated sob party to ask repeatedly why doesn't he like me? France knows its strong points. France has a lot going for it. France is a great fit for some people. Just like you. 

But you feel a bit unworthy at age 15 because you lack self-confidence. Good news: This isn’t really a weakness for you later in life either. You will not be scrawny and flat-chested forever. Focus on your talents like wittiness, smarts, sports and sass. No, they don’t matter as much at age 15 as wearing a bra, but you will evolve. Oh, you will fret and twist over more than one boy. And when you do date, you will be a great girlfriend at times and a less than great girlfriend at times. (For example: writing a poem for a boy = great girlfriend.  Gathering your gaggle of girlfriends and spending an entire night toilet-papering your boyfriend’s house? Not so great. Worse than that? His parents get a motion light to “deter tomfoolery” which you tell all your friends and then all of you go back again a few weeks later to toilet-paper his house again. PS: Sorry EH!)

Opt for being a great girlfriend all the time, which will help develop the skills you need to be a great wife one day. And guess what? You want to be a smarty pants know-it-all, and good at everything so you should aspire to be good at marriage too.  I know, you have no interest in marriage. Not now and not really until you are about 35. Enjoy every minute in between and then you really, really enjoy when you find "the one." 

But being a great girlfriend does not mean putting up with bullshat.  But here is an awesome tip: If you don’t like the way someone treats you, they get one warning shot. After that, break up. Don’t spend time trying to change a person. This applies from age 15 to age 100. After age 100, you should only worry about remembering your own name. And making sure you can still make those chocolate chip cookies.   

2. You are a bad friend to one of your friends. You are very lucky to have an amazing group of friends growing up, many of whom you still know (and love) today. BUT, this one time, you are not a good friend. No, you didn't do anything too heinous like steal a boyfriend or gossip, but you were not there when needed. This is simply laziness and thoughtlessness. Guess what? Learn accountability and be strong enough to exercise it.  This includes providing sincere apologies at all times when warranted.  And don't give that fabricated apology that starts with "I am sorry you feel that way.." This is not an apology and in fact, is reserved for people who work at giant companies with automated phone services to say to customers who FINALLY get through. No one likes this. 

But adhere to these policies early on. They are relevant for your entire life. And will put you miles ahead.

3. You certainly like clothes. WOW. This becomes a lifelong habit. Good. You are not obsessive but you certainly enjoy getting dressed. I see this as a plus now and I see it as a plus then. How we present ourselves to the world is often our calling card and can either send the message: I have my sh*t together or I don’t actually want a job in corporate America. You have your own style. And you love a good high heel. Most of your ideas work. Other things don’t (e.g. the aforementioned rugby shirts, wearing your bathrobe to school and pretending it was a jacket, and taking a pair of your Dad’s jean and cutting them to make a miniskirt that is SO short the pockets hang out. And I won’t tell everyone you were long out of high school when you did that last one. Shhh. It's our secret.)

Your interest in fashion will be a fun hobby for life. And style is great. Find what you like and wear it with confidence.  I will overlook the cut off sweat pants phase and the mock turtleneck sweater over another turtleneck sweater phase because you never participate in the wearing boys boxer shorts around like they are shorts to be shown to the world phase.  

Oh, and the first time you get your sexy on and buy a shirt from Victoria Secret, umm, take a peek where the label is. You are wearing it backwards. You know how else you could tell? By looking at yourself IN the shirt in a mirror. But guess what? One day you get to Fashion Week in NYC. It is in-cre-di-ble. And you will see throngs of men and women with the confidence to wear just about anything. And they look great. And guess what else? Your husband buys you the most coveted handbag in the world: Birkin Birkin Birkin starts with B.  Add this under the sub-heading "One more reason to be a great wife."

You learned a litany of other lessons as a young person and the beauty is, you are still learning. Many of these lessons are still valid and valuable today. Happy Birthday Sasspot. I hope 40 holds amazing things in store for both of us. 


Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Happy birthday! Love the letter to yourself.

Intense Guy said...

Happy 29th* Birthday Jenny Mac!!!

*one of my own life lessons - no woman over the age of 29 wants to hear those numbers... so they are ALL always 'frozen' at 29 ... forever. :)

vanilla said...

40 years ago today...
the world became a much more interesting place! Happy Birthday, JennyMac.

the walking man said...

I certainly hope that you have a fine day with BigMac and TinyMac and that in the goodness of it, it signals the first day of a very fine year ahead.

brainella said...

Happy Birthday. 40 is good. I find that I'm more willing to ignore the stupid and embrace the now. My opinion tends to flow more freely and that's that. Enjoy the freedom.

Unknown said...

Such a brilliant read JennyMac, I feel as though I want to print this out and give it to my daughter - in a few years time! Great life advice, all of it.

Happy Birthday to you....you are one cool and fantastic girl, if I could do it all over again, I'd be you please!!! xx

Maria said...

Happy, happy birthday to you, JennyMac! You share a birthday with my beloved mother in law. How lucky we all are to have both of you! Hope the year is magical!!

Unknown said...

Happy birthday, Jenny Mac! and may you have at least as many more!

Great post!

Ed said...

Happy Birthday Lady!

Holy Shit, 40?!

Hahaha...I still have 4 more years. Well, 3 1/2. But I am stretching them out.

Anonymous said...

An excellent post to celebrate your day! Happy Birthday, my friend!

Jen Feeny said...

LOVE this post! Happy Birthday you fab-40 Mac-awesome!

B.o.B. said...

happy birthday! wonderful lessons that every girl and woman should go through.

i'm happy to report i passed the boxer shorts as shorts phase but was really into the ked and colored scrunchy socks with bongo jean shorts. yikes.

brokenteepee said...

Happy Birthday!
July is full of great days...

I am sure you will have a day full of fun, laughter and apparently fashion but now you have a goat hug too! How many can claim that?

Mrs. M said...

Happy Happy Birthday - your 40 years have brought so much wisdom and entertainment to the lives of all of us. :)

MommaKiss said...

Sasspot. I love it. Happy Happy Day, friend!!

The Bug said...

Happy birthday! I remember my 40th with great fondness.

I was a late bloomer too - & not particularly smart about it. Thank goodness I found the right guy in spite of my ineptitude :)

BB said...

A Very Happy 40th Birthday! Enjoy and celebrate.

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

Happy Birthday. Mine was Sat.

I loved my 40s. I enrolled my youngest daughter in Kindergarten that year, amongst the 25year old mothers. When I was 42 my oldest daughter graduated from H.S. Enjoy these years. Be kind to yourself. You've earned them.

Chain Stitch Crochet said...

The best of Birthday's to you JennyMac!

Tumbleweed said...

Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday!!
Just for some clarification: I didn't think you were a noisy squirrel..>I thought you were a little noisy BABOON!!! The sass started at about 3 months and 10 minutes old and has continually evolved since!! And I love you all the more for it!! You ALWAYS bring something new to the table...a thought, perspective, or opinion...and although I may not always like it or be comfortable with it...you certainly make me think and RE-think my position or opinion. You continually challenge me to pick up my game and make it, and me, better!

40 years ago you showed up...and have been (mostly!!) a continual blessing to me and an INVALUABLE friend and confidant. I am very thankful to have a sister of your caliber and humorous disposition!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - hope this year holds many great things for you!!

Love you Tons!!


Oh, and you are SO RIGHT...there ain't a pair on earth that can take us down playing taboo...open challenge to ANYONE!! We freekin ROCK it!!! ("...D - where the EFF did you go?!?!?!" hahahahahaa!)

GunDiva said...

Happy Birthday! I love the letter to yourself - those are good life lessons.

Too bad the teenagers (namely, my daughter) who need to learn from those life lessons know everything anyway :)

Hope you have an amazing day.

Pseudo said...

Happy birthday! I remember when I turned 40, seems like just yesterday and not 13 years ago...

joanne said...

Happy Birthday Sass...have a wonderful day..;j

So. Cal. Gal said...

Shwew! I made it just in time...

"Happy Birthday!!!"

Welcome to your 40s. I've been here 7 years...come on in, the water's nice. : )

Kir said...

JennyMac Happy Birthday my dear friend! 40 looks stunning on you.....smooches and may all your candle wishes come true! Xoxo

Marcy said...

My friend....wonderful post! (Sorry i only read it today). I'm glad i got to tell you in person how i feel about you and how blessed i am that you are in my life. I stole the vocabulary thing from you too and the kids are eating it up (so far...) Thank you for the inspiration and the love and the FUN. Oh, and I too want to print this out and share it with my daughter when she's ready. Although as we all know, most life lessons are simply learned and not taught.

Wishing you many many amazing moments in this, your 40th year!

The Random Blogette said...

Happy Birthday to you! I love this letter so much. It is amazing to look back on all of the mistakes we made when we were younger, but if we didn't make those mistakes we wouldn't be the amazing women we are now!

SmartBear said...

Happy Fabulous 40 girl! These are some great lessons for everyone. I wish I could give speeches to college girls about putting up with boy bullshit!
Have a great birthday!

BlueRidgeLady said...

Happy Belated Birthday Jenny!!! Hope you had a perfect day. Loved your life lessons, I think I will forward this to my daughters!!

Anonymous said...

JennyMac -- Hopy you enjoyed quite the happy birthday celebration this weekend. I love this post but I must admit that my very favorite post from you was about why you can't/don't drink tequila.