It unfurled just before I was married, before he became a producer, aged backwards as Benjamin Button, or showed us his butt in Troy. Before a word like “Brangelina” made any sense.
Although my memory is foggy on the exact words, it went something like this:
My Roommate: “Wanna go bowling? We’re going with Brad Pitt.”
My Roommate: “Brad Pitt. The guy from Thelma and Louise.”
Me: “You’re serious?”
My Roommate: “Dead serious. My sister met him at a club last night. He wants her to bring friends.”
Me: “I can’t bowl!”
My Roommate: “Don’t worry, he’ll like you. Best thing is, if you run out of stuff to say, you can just stand there and look at him. I’m sure he’s used to it.”
And what would a middle aged woman, as I am now, 20 years on, do if in such a position? Would she run in for a bit of quick Botox? Get a pedicure? Would she spend hours trying on the coolest designer Manolo Blahnik bowling shoes (surely this product must exist, for exactly these moments)?
Here is one thing a middle-aged woman would not do: she would not say no.
She would not say “no” to going bowling with this man, under any circumstances. If her child were graduating from high school, she’d hand her husband a video camera and say, “Tell her I wish I could be there. Get me some video. I’ll be back by midnight.”
If her beloved dog of 10 years has just died, she’d say, “Put that thing on ice until tomorrow…I have some pins to take down!”
But, since I was only 23 and didn’t have the wisdom of age, I said: no.
I had just met my husband-to-be, Tim. I loved him, and still do. I loved him more than Italian sausage pizza, more than crème brulee. I had more feelings for him than Brad Pitt had muscle packed into his derriere, which is saying a lot.
But these thoughts still ran through my mind:
“What if I’m hanging around with all these A-List celebrities and lose my anonymity? Could I still go to WalMart undetected by paparazzi?”
“What if Brad decides I’m the perfect leading lady to star in his next film, and I need to move to L.A., away from Tim?”
Of course there was the best of all, the question still conjured up purposefully at times when I need a laugh:
“What if Brad falls for me, and I have to choose between Tim and Brad?”
These are the thoughts of someone who is 23. At 23, we’re romantics. We still believe the endings of movies. We have big, watery eyes. If you could somehow draw a picture of our souls, the portrait would have eyes like characters in Japanese anime — huge, reflective, dual abysses that reach deep inside, but see only possibilities and never ghosts. Back then, there was one thing we definitely would have all believed in: the notion that a People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive could somehow cause us a dilemma.
A married 45-year-old does not have such thoughts. Here’s what she thinks:
“He’s rich…maybe he can pay for my bowling.”
Or, more than likely,
“Damn, it’ll piss Tim off if I go bowling with the sexiest man alive. I’M THERE!”
And that’s the extent of it. We of middle age have been around the block a few times. We know nothing unusual would happen.
Even though she still might have the last minute Botox, the middle-aged woman has seen enough to know that talk of French fries and bowling form would be the likely conversations. Why? Because despite what you may think, this is what people talk about when bowling, even people with rock hard abdomens.
Gals who have crossed the zenith of that “over-the-hill” hill accept that our bowling companion may be A-List, but we already have the real sexiest men alive.
The really sexy ones are waiting for us at home. They’re sitting on our couches, grinning like boys because they secretly took the remote control when we got up to pee. They’re the ones cutting the grass, sweaty bellies sticking out from under yellowed T-shirts.
The real sexiest men alive are snoring in front of the TV, tired from working to pay for the dream house and college fund. Their feet are up, propped on top of our stack of women’s magazines featuring photos of a certain Mr. Pitt. They’re tired from loving us so hard.
They love to look at us despite our saddlebags and gray hairs. They stand by us. They don’t duck out after a quick game. They stick around, always letting us choose which restaurant we’ll go to, which video we’ll watch. They rarely comment on our form. They build something with us every day, something worthwhile, and, in some instances, everlasting. And we know that nobody in a bowling shirt with “Brad” embroidered on it could ever have an effect on any of that.
So we middle-aged ladies, we’re unafraid. We go bowling. We stare at the abs, unashamed, with absolute glee.
— Kara Martinez Bachmann
This essay is a shortened/adapted excerpt from Kara Martinez Bachmann’s essay collection Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age. Her work has also been heard on NPR radio and has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Writer, Funny Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Find out more at Karamartinezbachman.com.