So this is what 34 looks like.

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When I was six, I wanted to look just like my cousin Vicki. She had dark brown hair; big, beautiful brown eyes, and a mega-watt smile. (She still does.) She smiled a lot. Imagine the cutest brunette cheerleader you can, right down to the petite, athletic (not twiggy) physique and you’re probably close. I was also completely enthralled with her bedroom which was decked out in purple and gold, our local high school colors, and especially the giant bulletin board filled with mementos like prom pictures, concert ticket stubs, and other evidence of utter coolness.

When I was eleven, I wanted to be Latina. Of course, I didn’t know the name for it then, but these were the days of Menudo, Lisa Lisa Cult Jam, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine and the movie Playing For Keeps and Purple Rain. I wanted the big, curly, dark wild hair, the beautiful brown skin that looked tan all year, the heavy eye make-up and the hoop earrings. I also wanted the accent.  I wanted to look wild and exotic, and most importantly, I wanted to be the most awesome dancer ever. There is a part of me that has never moved on from this aesthetic.

I honestly can’t remember who I wanted to look like when I was sixteen. That’s because I was more focused on boys and what they looked like.  If my junior year school picture is any indication, I still had a strong preference for big curly hair, but heavy make-up was not my thing. I do remember loving wild sweaters and thinking that turquoise and purple was the best color combination ever. I also could not wear enough jewelry at any given time.

At 21 I was dating my future husband, and I had figured out that I was never going to be glamorous, Latina, or a size 4. I wanted to be classic so I wore lots of long, floral, flowey skirts, solid colored blouses, and conservative jewelry. In other words, I dressed like someone my mother’s age. I was okay with not being beautiful, because heaven knows, I didn’t want to look like I was trying. Whatever I was, I wanted it to be nearly effortless, because to me there was nothing worse than someone trying so hard to look like something they just weren’t.

It was probably between the ages of 10-12 that I spent hours locked in our only bathroom, music on, performing the songs into the mirror. I studied myself very carefully: me serious, me smiling, me laughing, me silly. I wondered when I was going to stop looking like me and start looking like a woman.  And truthfully, even now when I look in the mirror there is still that thought rattling around in the back of my mind. What? I still look the same? When am I going to stop looking like me and start looking like a woman? And by that, I don’t mean that I think I still look 12 years old. I suppose what I’m looking for is the easy grace, the effortless beauty, the self-assurance, the vaVOOM that is woman to me.

But I’m assuming that when one reaches 34 years of age, there really is no need to hold out for womanhood to arrive. I suppose I’ve been here for quite some time now. I guess this is what me as a woman looks like. Huh.

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