I went to the mall to kill time while I waited to pick my husband up from work. This was a mistake.


The mall makes me feel old. Part of this is because I'm now thirty-one, and not sixteen. Girls I went to high school with have kids who are eight years old; a few even have kids who are in junior high. Thirty-one isn't old, at least not these days, but it isn't young, either--it isn't like being eighteen and just starting out into adulthood, or twenty-two and hitting all the bars and hooking up with random guys. No, because now I'm old enough to have kids--and not infants, but kids. Which I don't have.

Instead, I'm a substitute teacher--not even a real teacher, which is what I'm trying to be, but a substitute. I feel like a copy of a copy of an old VHS.


The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated

"How old are you?" The small, blond Russian girl at the kiosk asked me, as she took my hand to buff my thumbnail. This was largely against my will.


"Really? You look so young!" Yeah? Sure I do. And how much is the lotion I don't really want?


I worked at the mall off and on, through high school and college, back when there were still bookstores and record stores--i.e., more than one company--at the mall. Before the internet took over, and gave us Amazon and Napster and torrents and YouTube. Now you go to the mall, and it's mostly just clothes.

But if I start to complain, I feel I sound like a monk, complaining about movable type, or like saying that TV killed vaudeville. This is what life is--everything changes, even if it does eventually only achieve entropy.

All the auburn highlights are gone, turning gray. My back hurts when I stand too long. I'm overweight. I'm married, monogamous, childless.  I feel stuck between being young and unattached, and old and settled. I'm not sure how I feel about all of that--whether I want kids, whether I have the willpower to lose weight, whether I'm OK with being married, paying a mortgage, staying home at night. Not because I don't like being married, or having a house, but it's weird knowing I abandoned being young.


Except, I didn't. It abandoned me. Because that's what time does. That's what it's supposed to do. You wake up one day and realize you're not a kid anymore, and you look ridiculous trying to act like you're still eighteen.


So I was killing time at the mall, today. It was self defense.

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