If you want to feel delightfully young and horrifically ancient at the same time, go out on a Saturday night with your former roommate and your husbands in the town you where you went to college.
This is the lesson I learned recently while sipping a sugary Long Island iced tea the size of a Big Gulp (only $4!). This disgusting concoction seemed like a great idea after four glasses of wine and a comment from the bartender that I was old enough to be his mother.
OK, so that’s an exaggeration. What actually happened is I told the bartender my husband and I had met in that very bar 20 years ago. He exclaimed, “Hey, I was 2 then!” At which point, I nearly lunged across the bar to teach this youngster about how part of respecting your elders is not calling attention to the fact that they are your elders.
He followed up even more tactfully that it was okay because his mom was 42. And that’s when I yelled loud enough for the other 10 people in the bar to hear (it was only 10 p.m. in a college town, people) that I was old enough to be his mother.
At that point, our little foursome scuttled to the corner to throw some darts and watch the night unfold. My dart throwing was just as sporadic as it was 20 years ago, and I even broke a dart in half with my super human throwing speed. Not the first time that’s happened.
Much of the music was the same, too, (retro is so cool!), but the DJ booth had been replaced by a widescreen TV. Lame. No requesting “Come On, Eileen” for me. Those kids really missed out on my awesome dance moves that night.
Other things had changed, though, such as cup holders in the bathroom stalls. I can only assume that today’s college girls are above putting their cup on top of the tampon trash or holding it in their mouths while they pee. Or maybe they don’t travel in packs any more. I always assumed everyone needed a bathroom buddy to hold your drink—and sometimes your hair.
And to my surprise, I had no desire to make out with college boys. Not because there was no longer a dance floor or because I’m happily married, but because those boys looked like 15-year-olds. The thought of going near one of them felt disturbing and mildly illegal.
When the bar became too crowded and my friend and I were too drunk to throw darts—thanks to her husband buying us shots of RumChata, which was delicious but really just a fancy new name for a butterball shot—we moved to another old haunt.
It was exactly the same, and as I looked over at the pool table, I was transported back to a different night when smoke filled the room, Alanis Morissette’s “Head Over Feet” filled my ears, and my heart filled with the feeling that I might just be sitting on the lap of “The One.” Turns out I wasn’t just drunk back then. He was The One.
All night, my former roommate and I played that wonderful game of “do you remember…” Given how many brain cells I drowned during that time of life, I was shocked by how much I did remember. We rehashed bad decisions that had become legendary stories, and people I hadn’t seen in two decades came to life again in my mind.
I woke the next morning prepared to celebrate an early Christmas with my parents, brothers and five screaming little girls. I had the shakes most of the day and I felt wobbly if I stood up too fast, but really that’s not much different than most days thanks to strong coffee and low blood pressure.
Despite my prolonged fatigue and hangover, the memories kept coming all week. With the soundtrack of my 20s humming in my head, I felt a lighthearted a joy I hadn’t experienced in some time.
To be clear, I don’t want to be 22 again. Apparently you are now required to wear tiny black dresses and tights to hit the town, and that’s not my style. I am, however, grateful for every moment of that time in my life—the good, the bad and the ugly.
Sure, it’s really weird to realize I’m old enough to be a bartender’s mother, but it’s also a great reminder of how far I’ve come.
It was also a great reminder that the 22-year-old girl who never stopped dancing until bar time still lives in my heart. She is just as much a part of me as the women who can make a presentation in front of an entire board of directors or the woman who spent hours rolling out Tootsie Rolls for her daughter’s puppy dog birthday cupcakes.
All of these women live inside me, and each one has had her moment to shine. That Saturday night, the young and foolish part of me had a chance to play. And play she did.
Plus, I went home with a total hottie. And not only is he a hottie who will call me back in the morning, but he also went to family holiday functions with me three weekends in a row without complaint. And I didn’t even have to put on my lucky orange half-shirt sweater.