Tale Tues: The Remark

“Do you still have kids at home?”

What? At 49, do I really not look young enough to still have young children under my roof? Even with my own unnaturally natural-looking blond hair?

She was on line in front of me at Petco – An unnaturally-natural blond, belying the fact that she too might be straddling middle age. Right down its possibly girdled-middle.

Anyhow. As a newly-minted dog owner, I  strike up conversations with any dog owners, as I used to with any moms at BabiesRus, our newborns still secured in their infant seats, in our carts full of adorable onsies, chewy baby toys, and plush pastel teddy bears.

No babies to be had at Petco, but perched in her cart was a perfectly well-mannered little shih tzu, adorned in what seemed a designer sweater replete with possibly real cashmere trim.

I thought he was a puppy.

“Oh, no, he’s thirteen. But he’s still my baby. Goes everywhere with me.”

I was feeling a tinge of guilt now, for having left Toby home in his crate. But, at five months, at the mere sight of another dog, he would not be nearly as well-mannered; would leap at the poor elderly dog’s head, rake him with his paws.

There was little room for him in my cart anyway, with all the new doggy stuff I was depleting our bank account on:  another cushy dog bed, door-gate, as well as the irresistible, stinky dog bones and discounted Halloween squeaky Superman and orange-masked raccoon doggy toys.

While waiting on line, I’d been debating buying more squeaky toys, those discounted 2-for-$3 ones hanging strategically where you have nothing to do but throw more cutesy pet stuff into your cart.

I was considering a squeaky striped frog when this shih tzu owner, equally well-dressed in a cashmere coat, smacked me with the Do-you-still-have-kids-at-home remark. (Yes, it was a question. But struck me as a remark.)

She was already making her way toward the next available cashier. All I could do was yell out defensively,  “Yes, a seven and nine year old!”

She glanced back over at me, as she unloaded expensive organic dog food cans, eco-friendly (i.e. pricey as well as colorless) dog toys and one of those Fresh N’ Floss dog toys that actually flosses dogs’ teeth and freshens their breath (mint? spearmint?), and remarked, “Oh, well, mine are all grown and on their own. It just makes it easier.”

I never got a chance to find out what she meant. What’s easier? Having the kids still home so you can train them to train the new pup, and take him out for his walks in freezing cold, rainy weather?

Or the easier of once your kids no longer are home, grown and on their own, to fill that gaping hole with an adorable little Shih tzu in a fancy coat?

It didn’t matter. I put back the frog, coming to my senses;  it was cheap because it was made of thin cloth and Toby would rip through it in two minutes. And I admit, I’m all for saving our planet and for the eco-friendly non-toxic, but not at $17-plus for colorless dog toys, even if it might mean Toby’s breath would smell better than mine. If I must have doggy toys littering our entire house, they must not be bland but bright and colorful as Toby’s favorite pink dog:

As I moved up to the next Petco cashieress (a young 20-I’m-just-starting-out-something with an anchor tattoo below her ear) I was thrust back to a reality I hadn’t realized was quite so real until that remark (one now as indelible as my son’s toddler permanent marker scribble on our cedar kitchen wall): At 49, despite the more common, more complimentary, remarks of the oh-you-don’t-look-your-age, I do just possibly, look my age.

Or close to it. At least to this fellow middle-aged woman. To her, I looked what I should have been: a mother getting ready to shuttle her kids off to college,  or to pack for their twenty-something Europe back-packing I-need-to-find-myself-before-I-go-to-college cafe-hopping-internet-connected adventure.

So the first thing I did when I got home was look in the mirror.

Actually it’s the first thing I did when I got in my car, look in the rearview mirror – possibly one of the worst mirrors to examine yourself in. Especially at that time of day, late afternoon, when your face is all in shadows; those shadows that deepen the most shallow of laugh lines into crevasses. So that you look a good ten years older.  In the gray light, gaunt as well as old. I could have been on my death bed.

I should have waited until I got home and looked in my badly-lit bathroom mirror. By badly-lit, I mean flattering. The light is not so bright as to illuminate large pores and  crows feet (not even that miniscule wrinkle that on its first discovery had traumatized me this past summer).

By the time I did get home, I’d forgotten all about mirrors. I was far more interested in freeing our new pup from his crate and tossing him Superman. Which, with little thanks, he added to his toy collection in the middle of the living room floor (rug-less after his first rug poop):

When he was done there, he went to his new bed and peed in it. No matter. I’d been through the potty training before, just with my boys, not a dog.

My husband, coincidentally, emailed me out of nowhere – between emails about his needing cutips, and could I drop off a package at UPS – that my 50th milestone birthday was “only 3 months away.”

And whether I wanted to do something “spectacular.”

“If you don’t have any ideas yourself, just ask,” he wrote.

Spectacular. Just the word makes me tired and want to slip into my comfy purple now puppy-chewed slippers.

As if I haven’t had enough of the spectacular at the other end of the spectrum in the past year, with my 94-year-old mother winding up in emergency in the middle of a northeaster and my tank on red with Sandy’s gas shortage.

I no longer even own any clothes to honor any kind of spectacular, nevermind a milestone. Could I even anymore squeeze into some spectacular slim, black, lacy something-or-other?

I emailed my husband back. That I already had the spectacular, right here on my lap, this kinky-haired apricot fuzz poodle ball:

Who had made his way into our home with the even more spectacular of my husband having given us his blessing in our becoming dog owners, rather than just gerbil ones.

What better spectacular could I ask for?

Ok. I might suggest a cozy dinner at a new restaurant we have never frequented, to rekindle that youthful 30-something fire of our first date. He might actually hold my hand across the table, rather than our scarfing down arugula salads while grinding our teeth over issues about our children. That would be spectacular.

Still. Just out of curiosity, I may have to ask about his own ideas he hinted at for the “spectacular.”

Really, just curious. I’m happy in my purple slippers:

Though I may need to research new spectacular anti-wrinkle creams. As my boys say with great glee at their mathematical genius, “Just switch around Gramma’s 94 and you get Momma’s 49!” I wish they weren’t quite so adept at digits.

About Sandra

Author;editor of The Woven Tale Press at thewoventalepress.net; mother; weaver
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24 Responses to Tale Tues: The Remark

  1. Sandra, your writing is spectacular and so are you. I’m sure the lady meant something nice with her comment – but she should have stayed to explain it. Age is just a number – I’m only two years behind and catching up fast! 🙂
    And I’m in love with your toy-scattering, rug-pooping, bed-wetting little chap! ♥

    • Sandra says:

      Your’e the sweetest! You made my day telling me I’m spectacular! Nevermind my writing…can you knock on my door and thell it to my face?

  2. LOVE those purple slippers!!
    Spectacular to me is my jammies at 8pm, curled up on the couch watching my dumb shows. OR have 3 days off in a row, like I am forcing myself to have for Thanksgiving. No matter your age, Sandra, I am younger than you and experience the same things. And I DO have a college age, and two in HS. I don’t know what easier would mean, as when you think one aspect gets easier, it only means a new difficult aspect arises. Just enjoy each moment, that is the spectacular we all should strive for. 🙂

    • Sandra says:

      Yes, as I get older, the moment becomes more important — I don’t feel nearly as ambitious as I did when I was younger. Not sure if that’s good or bad but perhaps some peace in that…

  3. Amy Morgan says:

    Sandra – Loved this and your take on “the remark”. I turn 50 next January 22nd. Abram (only son) turns 24 on the 20th, just two days before. I’ve given a lot of thought lately about how much it doesn’t bother me to turn 50. Have no desire to color the gray that’s coming in and honestly, I’ve earned every one of my wrinkles. I think it’s going to be a great year for both of us!

    • Sandra says:

      Really? Then your’e only a month older than me! Gosh, I feel younger already! My milestone is Feb 5th. Maybe if I had grown children I’d feel more at peace about it, I don’t know. Or maybe I”m naturally a person never at peace. sigh.

  4. Truly entertaining. Love it. I vote for a ‘spectacular’ night. Why not! You can never have enough spectacular in this life time, can’t it? 🙂 And I want a tale out of it with photos of you and your husband.

    • Sandra says:

      lol, thanks sweetie. Though I hope NOT for a “tale’ from a romantic evening; if there is a tale in there, then that means conflict and interest to the reader. A good romantic evening would be boring to read about:)

  5. You really are a skilled comedy writer, Sandra! I always get a laugh!
    I can just say that at 72, I’m pleased I’m still closer to you than to your mother! Nevertheless, I can now speak from the dubious wisdom of the senior citizen! My 50th birthday didn’t bother me at all – I was so busy taking care of two elderly people that I hardly even knew when it passed. Now the 60th bothered me more because then you’re really headed toward senior citizenship – five years away from Social Security, etc. And 70 was more of a crisis – like, my god, I’ve been writing these (to me) great books for 10 years and I’m bogged down in this interminable WIP that’s never going to be publishable – if I don’t do something about publishing soon, everything I’ve written is going to die with me. So now here I am, two and a half years later, one year into my self-publishing venture. Huh. All I’m worried about is staying alive long enough to get some recognition in this business!

    • Sandra says:

      You’re mentally clearly VERY young and keep up exercising like my mom who was doing an aerobics class in her 80s (with 20-somethings) and youll live well to a 100! Havee you tried for a publisher? Your ideas are so amazing there must be a market for it so you don’thave to self-publish.

      • Yeah, I think I’m still mentally competent, but I have horrible arthritis – hands and shoulders, plus now it seems to be getting into my legs – right knee and hip. I still take walks but that’s the extent of it. I can’t reach anything anymore – I’m always looking around for somebody to get stuff off the top shelf for me in the supermarket. Sigh. In a couple of years my joints may all be frozen up and people will be carting me around like a mummy. I just hope I can continue to able to type and work the mouse.
        Re publisher – I started out a year and some months ago querying agents. They usually make you wait two months and then they never get back to you. Three months later, I thought, this is ridiculous – I could go another ten years and never get a nibble, so that’s why I decided to self-publish. I do have one infinitessimal possibility right now, but I won’t talk about it. Probably nothing will come of it. For now, I’m just continuing to plug, plug, plug my books and to prepare more for publication.

        • Sandra says:

          Well, I still say 70s in young. And I do admire your computer saavy – you seem to have it all down! the self-publishing is way beyond my scope so I especially admire that.

  6. Kathy says:

    I know how you feel to the extent I have a 7 and 12 year old and most people my age have grandchildren. I just imagine how OLD I will be when they have children. UGH. I have had people come up to me at school functions and ask if I was my kids grandma. I simply want to deck them and growl I am their mother. LOL You were able to relay all the scope of feelings a person goes through as we cope with how old we truly are!


    • Sandra says:

      luckily, there are other moms like me in their 40s but yes, i think I’m the oldest. For a while i had my kids believing I was only 29 but…kind of like they’re starting to be suspicious about the whole santa thing… I didn’t plan it this way, for sure. Right guy just came along way too late…

  7. Sandra, if things had gone differently I could have been in your shoes–I was 42 when I got married but never had kids, even though we were ready and willing. So I could have a 19-year-old by now! Wow. Anyway, I don’t think I look 62, and people tell me I don’t look it, and I hope that’s true because my husband is younger than I am, and I don’t want anyone thinking I’m his mother!! That’s why I won’t let my hair go gray until his does . Like Lorinda, I didn’t mind being in my 50s, but the 60s give me a little pause–overall, though, I’m pretty upbeat about it. Today I asked for the “senior” discount for the first time at the grocery store, then got in my car and turned on my favorite alternative rock radio station. It’s all in how you look at it. My mother stayed young in spirit till the end of her life, so I hope I can do the same!

    • Sandra says:

      lol just love that, taking the senior discount then turning on your favorite rock station – if you don’t use that I’ll have to! You have a great post right there. And especially about being married to a younger man, cool! You usually only hear the other way around (I almost married, twice, men a good 13 years older).

  8. P.S.: Love your little doggie. They keep you young, if they don’t wear you out first!

  9. Anne says:

    Sandra, you’re really such a livewire. I can just imagine you telling this story in my face. I’d have a fit of laughter! Seriously, you made my day. And yes, for one spectacular lady, have a spectacular day!

  10. Jenn says:

    Funny how those pet stores zap your bank account–even when it is already zapped! LOL. Your dog is precious, I’m jealous of your purple slippers. I want purple!! As for that lady– I’d like to know what gets easier about not having kids at home?? My oldest is 16 and in a year and a half he will be 18, graduated high school, and going off to college. I’m already a nervous wreck about the whole prospect and my heart is definitely breaking, thinking about it. I love having my kids at home– I’m not looking forward to the day they leave. So…more power to YOU if you still have kids at home–cuz that is the BEST thing ever!!

    Cheers, Jenn

  11. Robin says:

    I always want to leave a comment when I read a great entry. Your entry made me reflect on a comment made to a few weeks back. The nurse in the waiting room asked me, “are you still having a period?” That comment tilted my axis for almost a week. I think I might share my experience as you have done here. Thank you for showing me how

    • Sandra says:

      lol. that comment certainly would put me as on the defensive as the kids-at-home one! I’m actually waiting for those hot flashes to start, but so far I’m stil “young” in thaat department…

  12. Lynn Rios says:

    What an enjoyable post! Sometimes the littlest things trigger unexpected responses, and I love the way that you turned that into such an amusing story. With a very large, very active dog, I have given up entirely on the cute plushy toys. I am a sucker for the value of a large animal bone, calcified & sterilized. They cost a bit more, but anything else I giver her is gone in under 10 minutes. I will be back!

  13. Hi, Sandra! ~

    WoW! I feel like I came to visit you at your house with your new puppy. Adorable! You storytelling style is very engaging!

    Seems like that woman triggered something inside you, right? I guess, in a way it doesn’t even matter what she meant — it matters what you get out of it…

    Good Luck with that!

    PS Thank you for visiting my site, too! I have responded to your comment 😉

  14. Hi Sandra, this was such a relevant share…..I think that whether or not she meant something by that remark, it should not be taken seriously. We just enjoy our lives and our purposes! Thanks for sharing!

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