At 46, I should be beyond having an identify crisis, right? I mean, come on, that stage of life should have been put to rest along with my Bonne Bell flavored lip glosses and Jean Nate bath spray. Having an identity crisis is so 20th century. Now that I am a modern 21st century woman, I should have transcended all my junior high insecurities.
Alas, I have not.
I blame my new Ugg boots. They’re red. I found them one day while scrolling through Facebook. A woman, a stranger to me, was selling them on a virtual yard sale in a nearby town. $15 in mint condition. They just weren’t her style, she explained. Hmmmm. It took, oh, all of about four seconds to click on the comment, “Interested!” I was the first one. Those Ugg boots were mine. SCORE.
I picked them up and they were amazing. As comfortable as I had heard them described through all those years when celebrities like Kate Hudson wore them to pick up her dry cleaning on the pages of Us Magazine. I was finally like the stars who are just like us, only ten years later. I loved them. Soon I was wearing them to school pick-up and the grocery store and on errands and trips to the park. How had I lived all my life without Uggs? Well, because I’m cheap and don’t like to spend money on trends, that’s why.
But one day last week, in the midst of a perfect storm, an identity crisis set in. It started when I was walking hand-in-hand with my toddler while wearing those Uggs. We were at my older son’s school and walking past a small Elmo doll displayed on the front desk. I started chatting with my boy in my best Elmo voice, “Hi! I’m Mama, and my feet look like Elmo’s! They are red and big and kind of furry. Do you like Mama’s Elmo feet?” And, at precisely that moment, another mom walked past, overhearing our silly exchange. She smiled, a little, and kept walking. Fast and purposefully. In clean black heels, clickity clacking down the hall.
This mom was serious. Determined. Wearing a suit with a brooch. She had on a shell under a blazer, for criminy’s sake. She was not wearing Uggs that make her feet look like Elmo’s. I had seen her around at school meetings. She was the kind of gal that carries herself with great comportment. Dignified, adult, mature. In other words, she is a grown ass woman.
Sheepishly, I looked down at my red Elmo feet. There is very little that is dignified or mature about red Ugg boots. Suddenly, and with visceral force, I was miserable. I felt like a jerk, silly, the insecurities bubbling up all around me. In that moment I hated those red Ugg boots, comfort be damned. In that moment, I hated a lot of things.
I hated that I wear “soft pants” approximately six out of every seven days. I hated that my most meaningful, adult exchanges occur through a keyboard. I hated that I shower much less than I would if I saw more people through the day. I hated that I eat too much chocolate to comfort myself. I hated that I will just keep getting older and older. I hated that I didn’t know what I was making for dinner. I hated that I was so tired, with bags under my eyes.
Haters be hatin’ yo.
The bad feelings and insecurities that were unleashed in that moment stuck with me for days. I confided them to a friend who, gratefully, said all the right things. “How do you know that woman didn’t wish she were wearing red Ugg boots? How do you know she doesn’t curse the pantyhose she surely wears to the office? How do you know she wasn’t pining to be silly with a young toddler, holding hands, and giggling through her day?”
The truth is that I didn’t. The truth is that the other gal didn’t matter in the big scheme of things — she was a convenient symbol I used to identify and project my own unhappiness and insecurities. The truth is that my life looks nothing like I imagined it might twenty or even ten years ago, but then again, whose does?
Those silly $15 red Ugg boots were running a number on me something fierce.
Working from home with young children is a hard gig. I don’t take care of myself the way that I should. I have gained weight and am feeling that physically and emotionally. I live every day in grief, surrounded by the most loving, silly boys I could ever wish for. My days are equal parts joy and sorrow and that can be exhausting.
Gratefully, the identity crisis brought on by my Elmo feet seems to have lightened in the last few days. I remember how I assigned the title of “grown ass woman” to the mom I envied, and then realized, for better or worse, how grown ass I am myself. I’ve buried a child, provided care for two parents in the last year of their lives, adopted an infant and negotiated the complexities of an open adoption, am acting as the executor of my father’s estate, switched careers, keep my kids basically fed and clothed and safe and vaccinated.
Yeah, it’s true. I am, indeed, a grown ass woman. Who just happens to feel more comfortable, at least for now, in red Ugg boots and soft pants.
All the rest I can work on. I can shower more frequently. I can step away from the chocolate. I can get to the gym. I can do all those things. And I should. And I will. Because grown ass women take care of their business when it needs taking care of. Watch me.