I’m rarely one to begin a sentence with, “At the risk of dating myself . . .” (There are so many reasons for that, most of which exist at the intersection of ageism, feminism, American standards of beauty and value, and plain old stubbornness. And I’d love to discuss it, but that kind of digression would take a few years – and at my age, I don’t have that kind of time.) But essentially, that’s what I’ll be doing when I begin this story by referencing a 1981 Saturday Night Live sketch featuring George Kennedy, of Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Airport (1970) fame, singing an off-key lament about being “53 at Studio 54.”
For those who didn’t grow up in the 1970s (or earlier), Studio 54 is the short-lived-yet-long-revered New York City nightclub that opened in 1977 and boasted all-star clientele during its roughly 5-year heyday: the Warhol crowd, Liza Minelli, Baryshnikov, Diana Ross, Elton John, Calvin Klein, Cher . . . pretty much anyone a regular, 70s-era, Kansas-bred schlub like me wanted to be when he or she grew up – including one particular person I’d venture to say everyone wanted to be (surely it wasn’t just me): the stunningly gorgeous Bianca Jagger, who was famously photographed atop a white horse inside the club. (Despite decades of ensuing lore, Jagger denies having ridden the horse into the club, which is too bad, because if anyone could have pulled off that kind of bad-assery, it would be her; however, whether or not she actually went Lone Ranger that night was of little consequence to those of us who knelt at her proverbial feet – or maybe at her horse’s proverbial hooves.) But again, I risk serious digression.
Back to SNL. Kennedy’s woes, put to music, detail the reasons his age makes him an ill fit for a “hip joint” (and of course the SNL writers make use of that double entendre) like Studio 54, including lines like
Once I get down, I can’t get off the floor
It’s no fun to be 53 at Studio 54
It’s no kick to snort and smoke and joke with artists and their models
when you wheeze and cough and only take your drugs from plastic bottles
Unfortunately, I was unable to locate an online video of the sketch (what gives, YouTube? I can watch a thousand videos of Justin Bieber doing and saying idiotic things, but I can’t get some old-school SNL?), but if your cyber-sleuthing abilities are better than mine, and you can find it, I highly recommend it.
Why, though, do I bring up a 1981 SNL sketch about a nightclub that fizzled out (under new ownership) not long thereafter, you ask? Because Kennedy’s dirge about his – to borrow a quote from Danny Glover as Lethal Weapon’s Roger Murtaugh (which reference dates me once again, I know) – “too-old-for-this-shit” situation is one of the first things that popped into my head after I, at age 45, huddled awkwardly over my own lap in a Target bathroom stall to hold that famously prophetic white stick in a stream of my urine . . . and read the word “Pregnant” in the results window.
Let me repeat: Age 45. This is the age where most of my college friends are sending their kids off to college; when maybe some of them are slightly saddened (or perhaps invigorated) by newly empty nests; when a handful of them are even welcoming grandchildren into their arms and hearts and spare bedrooms. And here I am, readying my “spare” room (which I recently redecorated and set up as an in-home office for myself, but so much for that) for a child from my own aging loins. Granted, I’m no stranger to late starts; I gave birth to my first (surprise!), and so far extremely spoiled only child (boy, is he in for a rude awakening) at age 37, when most of my friends were already lamenting the fact that their once sweet, innocent, and loving babies had suddenly reached the infamous eye-rolling age, and were beginning to look upon their parents with more disdain than a Studio 54 doorman on a C-list actor. So I’m well aware of both the advantages and the pitfalls of what the medical community calls “Advanced Maternal Age.”
But this time I am beyond “advanced,” y’all. And unfortunately, moving beyond “advanced” in this case doesn’t mean I’ve achieved “expert” level. In fact, it more or less implies I’ve aged out of the damn contest (the chances of a woman my age conceiving without medical intervention are somewhere around 2%).
At this point, however, I’m nearly halfway to D-Day, so I’ve made peace with the whole idea, and – after a slew of nerve-wracking tests to ferret out potential chromosomal abnormalities (which so far have shown none) – have actually come to be a little bit excited about this impending new addition to our little tribe.
But there are still moments. Oh, there are moments. Moments when the reality of all this really sets in – like when I overhear a conversation between my mother (who is exactly 40 years my senior – I was a surprise to her, too) and my best childhood friend, who are busy tsk-ing and tutting with one another about my “old eggs.” Or like when I toddle precariously on cushioned flats, with aching hips and one hand poised for back support, towards the break room at work . . . and cross paths with another expectant mother, further along in her pregnancy than I am in mine, who struts jauntily by in cute skinny jeans (skinny maternity jeans, which to me is a total oxymoron) and three-inch pumps. Or perhaps most of all when my husband and I make the requisite cutie-booty Facebook pregnancy announcement – which features our 7-year-old son in a “Big Brother” t-shirt, along with a couple of pithy Godfather movie references – and the hundreds of responses range from expressions of excitement and congratulations to those of a couple of bravely honest souls, who reply simply, “WHAT???” or “STFU.”
And don’t even get me started about kindergarten. It was what I call the “Kindergarten Realization” that nearly knocked me on my ever-widening ass. For you see, when this precious bundle of joy and tears and snot and puke and giggles and wails and love I’m carrying starts kindergarten, I will be over half a century old. I will be eligible for AARP. The year will be 2021 (frankly, up until this realization, I truly believed any year beyond 2019 only existed in science fiction movies). My child will be five. I will not quite be 53 in Studio 54, but I will be 51 at Kindergarten Roundup – which is, in many ways, the same. I have already begun to imagine the far-hipper-than-me regulars I’m going to find in this club:
The 7-Months-Pregnant Mom. You know, the one who is wisely and carefully planning her family so that her kids are far enough apart in age that she only has to deal with one daycare bill/diapered butt/2 a.m. wailer at a time – but close enough in age that they don’t end up being virtual strangers when they’re adults who will be required to share in her and their other parent’s care and feeding. As a bonus, she has managed to hold on to most of the key baby items from her first child, so that she doesn’t have to buy (or beg for) every. single. solitary. thing she’s going to need for her second baby all over again.
The Barely-Out-of-Her-Teens Mom. This is the mom who has also experienced a “surprise!” baby – but at the other (read: teenage) end of the age spectrum, so she is a virtual font of youth and energy. Her child will be whip-smart and full of confidence, because not only has she had the unending adolescent energy to engage with him non-stop, she also has a youthful disdain for conventional parenting advice – which means she’s talked to him and treated him more as an equal than as a ward. It’s kind of admirable, really – but still, playdates will be awkward, because she doesn’t get the pop-culture references of the Over-50 crowd (after all, that’s, like, her parents’ generation).
The Hot Mom. This is the mom who is a little older, maybe, than the two aforementioned moms, but looks at least 7 years younger than her real age, thanks to daily runs, yoga, and a low-carb diet. (While I may look good as well, I won’t hold a candle to this mom, because just running across the living room to save my child from concussing him/herself on the fireplace bricks is a likely to be all the workout I can handle at that point.) She’ll be extremely warm and friendly, but her deep knowledge of the latest health foods and fads will make every other parent silently insecure about serving hot dogs and store-bought cupcakes (which her kid probably won’t even eat) at birthday parties.
The Cool Dad. He’ll show up for the first day of school with his ball cap on backwards. He and his kid will arrive in matching sunglasses (or perhaps matching piercings) and engage in whatever the 2021 version of the fist bump is as the kid takes his seat in the classroom. This dad will casually drop the name of whatever video game all the kids LOVE at that moment – with promises to play it with his kid after school. He and his mohawked offspring (will mohawks ever go out of style for cool kindergarteners?) will not hug goodbye, but rather throw horns at one another (again, this particular expression of “cool” seems timeless) before Dad ducks out to rock out on his motorcycle ride home. This dad will like everyone – and everyone will like his kid – but nobody will quite trust him to properly supervise a birthday party.
The Clingy Parents. Bless their hearts. This is their first “sending a kid off to school” rodeo, and they won’t be ready to let go. They’ll both show up on the first day of school, take 1,000 photographs (kid in front of house, kid from behind as she walks to school, kid in front of school, kid in front of classroom door, kid at desk), and stay long after the other parents have left, just to get in one more hug. (Finally, the teacher will be forced to fake a seizure and, when they run for help, lock the classroom door behind them.) They, too, will be incredibly nice – but it will be obvious that this is the first kid they’ve sent off to school, because they don’t yet realize what this means in terms of their own freedom. The good news about playdates at their house is that the snacks will border on gourmet, and there will likely be Pinterest-worthy craft projects, for both kids and adults.
OK, I confess: with my first kid, I was the latter type of parent (I mean, I thought he was going to be my only child, right?) – but when the next one heads off to Kindergarten, I’ll likely fit into this club about as well as poor George Kennedy among the Warhol/Jagger crowd, because I’ll have at least a good 10 years on the eldest among them. What I hope I will also have, however, is my original set of hips (in good working order), more stories to tell . . . and gratitude for the ride thus far.
Wish me luck.