I celebrated my 35th birthday on July 20th.
For as long as I can remember, my mom friends have always referred to me as "the baby." After all, I had Mae when I was 28. When I joined a new mom's group in NYC, I was a decade younger than everyone else, and they teased me: "You're so young!"
But it is time to leave babyhood behind. Thirty five. You can't help but see the number as a rite of passage. It's the cusp of middle age. It's often the cut-off point for men who are seeking baby-making women (oh, yeah, I did that already).
Don't get me wrong. I love my life. I'm writing a 5th grade teacher's guide this summer for Pearson Scott Foresman. I'm doing yoga again. I'm picking up a super-happy camper (Mae) every evening, and we chat the whole way home.
But, but, but... Something still pokes at me. It usually hits after Mae is asleep. And usually I'm premenstrual. My kid is sleeping with me again. Our girl-kitten is sleeping with me. There is no man in sight. I start talking to myself:
You're turning 35, and you're still single. How the hell did THAT happen? You were supposed to be married by now. You were supposed to be celebrating your anniversary with a hunk of a loving man.
Believe me, I'm not hopeless. Really I'm not.
(Okay, maybe I am a little, for like five minutes every day.) It's just that some nights I'd love to feel a man squeeze up behind me as I wash the dishes-- or maybe even help me? -- or stay up late watching a movie together, or beam proudly with me as we watch Mae's hip hop dance on stage. This feels like a grown-up longing, not like when I was 30 and I just wanted flesh-on-my-flesh.
So, the other night, I got up and buzzed around the apartment. I washed the dishes. I looked at the moon. I checked my email. And that's when I got this crazy idea that maybe I'd go online and browse. Yes, as in, browse men.
Why not? I'm single again. Although I'm recently out of a relationship, I know who I am. I know what I need and want. The last time I looked online was in 2005. Ironically, both Yossi and I were on JDate, the premiere Jewish dating service, although our paths never crossed because he was above my preferred age range.
Even before I logged on, I had this foreboding that I'd see Him. Him as in Yossi.
And sure enough, there he was. Right there in my home. Right there on my desk. I should have turned computer off then and there.
He'd posted the exact same profile he'd used for five years running, the one that his woman-friend wrote for him (the same friend who had set us up). I was shaking as I scrolled down and read the familiar description -- well, except for one additional line, re: his "adorable" dog. He posted the same old photo, probably a decade old, before his black hair went gray. Oh man, women are in for a surprise.
He said that he owned "a succesful [sic] construction company." Maybe his next girlfriend will teach him how to spell successful.
He said that he was a "non-smoker." (Women, just don't breathe when you're around him, okay?) His said that his body type was "Firm and Toned." (Women, just don't lift his shirt and peek at his belly hanging over his jeans, okay?)
But this is what really got me. In response to what his "ideal relationship" would be, he said: "We support each other though thick and thin, with lots of romance and laughs along the way."
Clearly, I got the thick, but not the thin.
But this is what really made me stop breathing: Yossi re-posted his profile just one week after we'd moved out. One week! Ouch.
I'd been crying every single damn night for the past month, and here he was, back out there.
It was at this moment, in the midst of my angst, that I came up with this brilliant idea: somehow, someway, I would hack into Yossi's online dating profile and clear things up.
If I were Yossi, what would my password be? I shut my eyes. I guessed. I typed it in. On my very first try, I was in. My fingers were shaking. I felt bad, very bad. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.
I was so tempted to make some major changes, like for his ideal relationship, I'd write: I dream of being with a woman whom I can impregnate, after which she'll cook me three meals a day and wash my underwear...
But no. He'd notice that. So, I went in and made some itsy, bitsy changes. I changed "non-smoker" to "smoker." And I changed his body type to "average" (although I really wanted to click on "a few extra pounds.") That's it.
I was so pumped that I couldn't sleep. To say that I felt triumphant, however, would be false. I'm not really a hacker. This was wrong. I'd never let my kid get away with something like this.
And as fate would have it, the next day, as I picked Mae up at camp, Yossi happened to drive past us. Berkeley is a small town and we were bound to run into each other. He was holding a cigarette out the car window, and when he saw Mae he dropped it onto the street.
That's when I outed myself, sarcastically, as I'm known to do when I'm hurt. I said from the sidewalk: "It's a good thing that you were honest about being a smoker on your profile."
He squinted his eyes at me. He didn't say anything. I didn't have it in me to keep this up. He jumped out of the car and gave Mae a hug. She kissed his dog. He said, "Hey, Rach." I said, "Hey, Yossi." I wasn't breathing.
That night, when I logged onto J-Date, he was a "non-smoker" again with a "firm and toned" body. His password had been changed. And so had I.
I'm a 35-year-old single mom now, and, yes, it gets lonely sometimes. Especially after Mae goes to sleep and I turn to a book in bed, when I what I'd really love to do is turn to a man. That grown-up longing isn't going away, but fortunately, there's a grown-up around here (yours truly) to keep me sane.
And to be sure, I'm not the only one going through rites of passages. Mae has been asking for months to get her ears pierced and a few days after my birthday, she said, "I'm ready, Mommy. Really." She wanted our former neighbor -- a freshman in high school whom Mae adores -- to come and hold her hand.
When it was time for the piercing, Mae sat up straight and stoic. As "the guns" went off, she didn't make a sound. Back at home, beaming in the mirror, Mae turned her head to admire the shiny gold posts. "Mommy, I was scared," she said. "But look, I'm a big girl now."
Here's to big girls all around.