Miss, Are You a Grown-Up?

I got called “Miss” at two separate retail establishments today: a tire store, and the grocery store. At the tire store, they didn’t charge me for my service. And, at the grocery store; well, I had to pay. But, both of those “Miss”-es made my day. As a woman firmly in my “ma’am” years, it occurs to me just how nice it is to be “Miss”-ed, every now and then.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d not go back a single year in age, not for anything. Well, I’d do it to be less close to death, sure; but, I’d not do it for the lack of wisdom or experience. I’m comfortable with every part of me. I’m happy with my life choices, my appearance (generally), and with who I am. That’s something that I don’t think I could’ve said, confidently, in my twenties. Every year older I get, I am more and more confident about who I am, as a woman.

So, why does “Miss” feel so nice?

I think, for me, it’s being told that, in my mature and confident skin, I’m still pretty. But, why does that matter? Why does it matter that I’m pretty to the tire shop guy? Why does it matter that I’m pretty, and look, dare I say it, young, to the checkout kid? And yeah, he’s a kid to me; because, nothing says maturity and age, like calling everyone in their twenties a kid. If I’m confident and assured, why does it matter that I’m being reminded of my perceived youth and attractiveness?

Is it evolutionary? Is it something so simple and silly that my eggs aren’t quite dried and shriveled yet, and the young bucks are appealing to my unhatched young’ins? I think, probably not. Mostly because if my eggs are yearning for a checkout boy at Von’s, they are severely in need of better selective radar.

I think it’s simpler than that. I think it’s about experience, the same experience that I just talked about giving me the confidence and wisdom of age. While confidence, the best kind, comes from the inside, there’s a fair spate of it that comes from compliments. The same way someone can dash your day by telling you that your ass looks big; there’s no doubt that your step gets lighter with a compliment.

I picture your confidence is a bit like a jar, being filled with compliments that are like metaphorical pennies, or marbles. The more you get, the fuller it becomes. So, when someone calls a middle-aged woman “Miss,” he’s saying “you look younger than your age; you’re pretty;” and bam, a penny goes in the confidence jar. The older we are, the more pennies we have in our jar; thus, the experience of age works in our favor, filling our jar with more years of compliments. Of course, it’s not just “you’re pretty;” it’s “you’re smart,” and “you’re talented.” Maybe those last two are more like quarters in the jar.

I know a girl who is all giddy and full of palpitations because she just got a promise ring from her super-serious boyfriend, of less than six months. She’s something like, I don’t know, twenty-four. She’s part of the selfie-generation and I tried to count, once, how many selfies she posts in any given week. Remember, I'm doing some research for a book about online support groups; I’m not a crazy person counting some chick’s selfies, I swear. I didn’t count any pictures that she took with others, because I considered those far less self-involved. But, I finally lost count somewhere after fifty or so; I have a life outside of this person’s photos of her breasts squeezed into a tank top.

In my mind, her jar must be very deep, and very empty, for some reason. And, I don’t think she’s unique. She gets dozens and dozens of comments from her friends, on every photo. So, whatever she’s doing to fill her jar is certainly working for her. There are the typical “no-make up” selfies, with tons of actual makeup, of course; selfies where the boob-to-face ratio is something like 80/20; and selfies where it’s all about pondering lip gloss or mascara choices.  

It makes me wonder though, that despite the differences that I perceive between people like her and people like me, just how similar we are, if being called “Miss” felt so good today. See, I tell myself that we are starkly different because after being called “Miss,” I didn’t go to twenty more stores to see if whatever I was pulling off today worked again. But, when a piece of praise makes my day, are we, fundamentally, the same? If the only difference is not actively seeking out praise, what’s the difference between us?

It’s one of those things that I’ve spent some time pondering as I get older. I sit back, and do a little eye-roll as I see yet another selfie, but then wonder if I’m not much different. I think that the main difference, the most important one that comes with age, is this step, the self-reflection step. I know that I didn’t spend much time on self-reflection, and certainly not much on behavior modification if I did find anything icky, when I was in my twenties.

On a side note: promise rings – yay or nay?

I think they are one of the stupidest things ever. I always have. There seems to be little point in them, to me. An engagement ring makes sense. It’s a placeholder for a wedding ring; a promise to wed. A promise ring is a promise to promise. What’s next? The only answer to that is really, a promise to promise to promise. In this logic, there would be no end to the madness and you could start the promise ring cycle at any point. Collin could promise to promise to promise to promise to marry the girl he has a crush on right now. I think that's why the promise ring idea has always smacked of immaturity; it's a shifty half-promise by which you take the sincerity out of the actual promise, or engagement.

I get the idea of being swept up in a new relationship’s excitement, and being so eager to make a commitment that you feel like you need to do something, but also too afraid to make it permanent-permanent. There’s two options for that, then: do, or don’t. That’s why we are given the luxury of choice and time. I’m no one to judge rapid decisions; Bryon and I were living together in under a month, and engaged in under a year. No one says quick is wrong; but I’d have thrown a promise ring in his face.

People can do whatever they want in their own relationships, of course. But, buy a girl a necklace. Hell, buy her a ring; but, don’t call it a promise, because frankly, you aren’t promising anything. Promise to be in a committed relationship. Promise to continue the way things are going. Promise a million other things. But, don’t promise to promise. That’s just…weird.