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My 75-year-old Self 

Getting out there

My former neighbors Jesse and Whitney just popped probably the prettiest sprogette in the history of baby-making. Not that I'm knocking the beauty of my own child because Lord knows my girl can brighten a national blackout with her smile, but my girl looked like a little gorilla when she was born. She even had sideburns, for chrissakes.

But I seriously challenge anyone to set eyes on a baby gorilla without instantly falling in love with it, especially a little gorilla with big kitten eyes and lips like a super model. I'm telling you, it was as if God had plucked all of the things that are impossible to resist and put them on this squirmy little bundle of baby pudge. If you can withstand that then you have a rusty ball of razor wire for a heart, that's all I have to say. Even Lary -- Lary, who will kick the cane out from under a blind street peddler -- even he was so overcome by Mae's newborn visage that he promised never again to torment the innocent. OK, not really, but still.

Anyway, Jesse and Whitney's baby wins the blue ribbon for the "Beauty Right Out of the Chute" category. His name is Grayson, and even at two days old he looks like he came from a catalog. The "Doe-Eyed Alabaster Skin" model.

"He looks just like Jesse, thank God," Grant laughed, "because Whitney is funny-looking!"

"Whitney is not funny-looking," I pouted. Whitney, in fact, is a sexy young hunk of man meat.

"Whitney's face on a baby would be funny-looking," Grant insisted, and this from a man whose own face looks like it was drawn by Hanna-Barbera (Lippy the Lion, I'm thinking right now, but I go back and forth). Does Grant not remember that his own daughter was born with his exact features? Only for her, they were hardly a handicap because somehow Grant's toothy crater mouth and cartoon eyes transposed onto a little girl translated into unimaginable adorableness. So if a man with the face of a rodeo clown can have a baby girl who looks exactly like him but then looks nothing like him, then that man should shut the hell up.

Beauty is so insanely relative, anyway. I can look at a picture of myself taken more than two decades ago and marvel at it as though it were of a stranger, and it nearly is. I remember the state of my brain when it was taken, worried as I was that my tiny ass might be sticking too far out of my jogging shorts. Christ, if I had that same ass today I'd be sitting in chaps and a G-string at the coffeehouse every morning. My older-ass self is pissed, I tell you, at my younger-ass self for not knowing this. I want to climb into the Chevy van of time-travel and knock the hell out of that 19-year-old I was then for wasting even a nano-second of stress over her appearance. "What the hell are you thinking?" I say to her. "Christ, you're beautiful. Get the goddamn hell out there."

For example, I remember I turned down perfectly healthy, spontaneous and, even better, meaningless sex with an Italian soccer player just because I couldn't get past the fact that I had underarm stubble that day. Really, what was I thinking? I remember my own mother, who had divorced my dad after 25 years and lived the rest of her short life fairly reluctant to test her toe in other relationships, I remember her telling me between puffs of the perpetual menthol hanging off her bottom lip, "Kid, just fuck 'em all, then decide." But by then it was too late for her, seeing as how she died six months later, and a little too late for me, too, I thought, as I had already lived a considerable hunk of my twenties curled up in a self-conscious wad of wasted self-image.

But I can't go back, and now is different, I think. I can't be all free and physically unfettered like I could have back then, right? I can't be prancing around like I don't know I'm different now. It's not like I'm Grant, who dates guys younger than his own daughter and doesn't seem to understand that there are limits, I guess, to what you can get away with. "Just fuck 'em all, then decide," he says. I can just see him at 75, because for some reason I've always thought of 75 as an age of self-reckoning, and I have to admit that at 75 Grant will probably be laughing louder than he is now.

So I think about Whitney and Jesse's little newborn baby Grayson and how incandescent he is, and I hope he will always know the beauty within him and the beauty without him. I hope when he is 75 he will be laughing, too. Me, I can see my 75-year-old self already, and Jesus God is she pissed. She's looking at pictures of me taken today, and wishing she could climb into the Chevy van of time travel to come back and knock the hell out of the idiot I am now.

"What the hell are you thinking?" she's saying to me. "Christ, you're beautiful! Get the goddamn hell out there."

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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