As I swerve, merge, brake and cautiously accelerate my way through a human race in which social strategising seems the norm, I find myself arriving at a number of conclusions. One particular discovery that my teenage kids regularly and graciously – if you happen to consider chortling and eye rolling gracious – help me to realize: in the highly unlikely case that I ever was, I am no longer the least bit cool.
But, not only am I un-deniably un-cool, I seem to have acquired an actual aversion to cool. This became especially apparent a few months ago when my husband and I were the recipients of a generous hand-me-down from my father-in-law, a renowned lover of big-boy toys. The gift: a 1990 convertible Miata.
Although the words a stereotypical woman might use to describe this vehicle are “cute,” “shiny” and “red,” there are far more descriptive (perhaps even expletive) words that make it painfully – literally and figuratively – obvious that I really do not even come close to budging, let alone burying, the needle on the Cool-ometer.
After spending most of my life attempting to blend into the background, this fire engine red Miata effectively obliterates any sense of security I derive from the anonymity I hold comfortable and dear. And, although I really do like and enjoy the car, just about everything about it provides not-so-friendly reminders of my age and accompanying emergence of physical challenges.
The simple act of getting into the car requires precisely choreographed moves to execute a smooth and painless entry to avoid hitting the frame of the car…which reminds me of a car better suited for a shelf in a store. This was a lesson learned along with other mishaps which include, but are not limited to, a bruised knee, swollen fingers and forehead abrasion…all before the key was even in the ignition!
Although I’m well practiced at driving a standard transmission, our four-door practical family car is much easier to operate than the gear shift in the almost-antique two-door Miata. When changing gears in the Miata, I routinely rev its engine, each time cringing and cowering, desperately hoping nobody hears or sees me. A younger, cooler driver would offer this as a bold and intentional exclamation, smart enough to realize it’s more subtle than shouting, “Look at me!” but not quite clever enough to realize how ridiculous they look in such an obvious attempt to appear cool. For me, the revving is about how my middle aged, sluggish synaptic connections disentangle, journey from my foot on the clutch, all the way up to my brain, re-engage and head back down to my other foot on the gas…that, and an anxious attempt to avoid the more conspicuous of two results: stalling.
And of course, what goes in must come out again. I suspect that 20 years ago, my appendages and somewhat smaller self to which they were attached would have flowed in and out of that seat with fluidity and ease. Now, as I inch ever closer to half a century, extricating myself from this car is an embarrassing exercise that involves laboriously grasping parts of the car, hoisting, balancing and rocking until finally my limbs are free from the tiny compartment that some car designer – whose real job as a contortionist – mistakenly and ridiculously thought provided adequate room.
When I lament about the effects this car has on me physically, my husband recommends that I focus instead on the many positives of riding in a convertible. He, who lacks hair but not humour, encourages me to sit back and enjoy the wind whipping through my greying tresses as we drive through the lovely, fresh air. Once, when I wasn’t feeling particularly care-free about that aspect of riding in the Miata, he suggested that I might consider tying on a sheer kerchief, like the ones our grandmas wore, if I felt the need to protect my hair from the wind.
I’m thinking this car may be steering our relationship in a new direction, which may be a little more heated than cool!
Want to read more about getting older?
⇒My Dear Friend, Denial
⇒Playing Through the Ages