I’m 40… something-years-old, and this morning while washing my face to get ready for the day what do I discover? A zit, really?! This has to be a joke. Maybe there is a spot on the mirror I didn’t wipe down when I cleaned the bathroom yesterday. Nope, it’s a big ole zit. It’s red and sore, front and center on my chin. What is up with that? How is it that I don’t remember having a problem with these when I was a teenager, but these days I can connect the dots on my face and it resembles a celestial constellation? In my most angst ridden teen voice I say to myself “Whatever!”
My teen years were the late 80s and early 90s. We wore tight jeans and had really big hair. Most girls wanted to dress like Madonna or Cindi Lauper, and most parents were smart enough not to let them. We wanted to watch MTV on Saturday, and secretly enjoyed the School House Rock ditties that played between Saturday morning cartoons. We saw great movies like The Goonies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ghostbusters and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Teen’s in the 80s watched the creation and beginning of what now ties people from all over the world together — the Internet. President Reagan accelerated the “War on Drugs” and demanded the Soviet Union dismantle the Berlin Wall. On my brother’s birthday in January of 1986, with every television in every school in the U.S. tuned in, we witnessed the disintegration of Space Shuttle Discovery 73 seconds after it launched. We cried.
So what did I see staring back at me while all of this is happening? First and foremost, my hair was too frizzy, especially on rainy days. Yes, I was that girl that looked like Little Orphan Annie if I didn’t smother my unruly mane with a handful of mousse. God forbid I ran out of White Rain hair spray, because in those days my motto concerning my hair was “the bigger the better”. Of course that was after wrestling half of a can of mousse into it. I could never get that darn blue eye shadow to look right, but I wore it anyway, and there was no such thing as too much. The same could be said for my red lipstick. If I ran late getting ready for school in the morning, I may not have had time for the whole make-up routine, but you could bet I had on my red lipstick. At this point you’re all picturing this in your head right? Let me apologize for that, as I’ve recently looked at some pictures of me in the 80’s and all I had to say was “WOW” and “what was I thinking?” Teenage girls put too much pressure on themselves to look “just right” all the time. Looking back, I wish I would have spent a lot more time just being me instead of worrying about what others thought. I should have also spent more time with my nose in the books, but you know what they say about hindsight being 20/20.
I got married in the 90s and we welcomed our sons. Technologies like cable television and the internet gave us a window into what was happening outside of our immediate communities. I remember watching with horror the news on the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City Bombings, and learning what the words “domestic terrorism” really meant. We started hearing about Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. It seemed with more channels to watch, the more bad news we heard.
The 90s seemed to me to be a busy time. President Clinton was in the White House. The House of Representatives impeached him, and the Senate acquitted him. The Hubble Telescope was launched into space. The MP3 player was born, and EBay changed the way we shopped. We watched in awe as we learned about Dolly the first cloned sheep, and we mourned with Columbine, Colorado after 12 students were shot by classmates.
I was at home chasing two toddlers. I don’t think I owned a shirt that didn’t have a spit up stain on the shoulder, and my hair was always in a ponytail. Gone were the days I worried about lipstick. Who has time for that when there are 2 little boys running around that hate to wear clothes? I would no sooner get Nick settled down for a nap and Nathan would run through the house stark naked and squealing, and the chase would be on! So maybe I didn’t worry too much about getting prettied up every morning, but I was tired, there’s always tomorrow, right?
Now here is where life really gets interesting, Nathan is headed to kindergarten. Did any of you think you would be busier once your kids started school? I thought things would slow down a bit, but boy was I wrong. While the rest of the world was waiting for Y2K, I was getting my first born ready for school. We were so proud. The first week of school Nathan came home with his first homework assignment. He was to make an ‘All About Me’ book and show it to the class. We made the book in the shape of a big crayon and set to filling up the pages. Parents were invited to visit the class on the day their child was showing their book and I was excited for my first school function as a parent. I sat in the back of the class with the other parents and beamed with pride when it was his turn. He stood so tall, and went from page to page showing the pictures and telling all about his favorite food, his dog, his little brother and his daddy.
He then turns another page, points at me as he smiles and says, “This is my mom, she’s right back there. She’s fat, but she knows everything!” You could hear half of the other parents gasp as the others tried to stifle their laughter. I laughed until I cried. I carried an extra 20 lbs. back then, (I’ll admit I carry a bit more than that now) and he just told it as he saw it.
I think back over the last 20 years and so many notable things come to mind. Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, LA in 2005 causing a massive loss of life, while creating an opportunity for the people of neighboring areas and states to open there hearts and give aid to others in need. Etched forever in our minds are the images from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, and the War on Terror has become a way of life for all Americans in some way. Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s 44th President in 2009, becoming the first African American President of the United States.
One can’t help but be affected by their history. The things that happen to us and around us shape who we are. I see the changes in the mirror year after year. A new wrinkle shows up every now and then, and as a true Southern girl I refer to them as “laugh lines”. My fabulous beautician Jerri Kay keeps the gray hair at bay; I purchase night cream and sunscreen by the bucket loads, and have enough skin and hair products to keep L’Oréal in business “because I’m worth it.” I look in the mirror and see a wife who after 18 years of marriage, still thinks her husband is the best man she’s ever known, and a mom who is proud of her children every day.
I could spend more time cleaning house, shampooing carpets, and washing handprints off the windows, but I would rather carve pumpkins with my husband tonight so all that can wait. Reflecting upon our past is a funny thing. We all have things we would change if we could, but in the end, we have no choice to accept ourselves for who we are and strive every day to be better. It took nearly 40 years for me to realize I don’t have to be perfect; I just have to be the best me I can be.