Dispatches from Midlife: The Invasion of the Baby Grownups

June 6, 2011

This weekend, DH and I went out to Rucola,   a super-swank new Italian bistro in Boerum Hill.  We were there for dinner with a couple of our oldest and dearest friends.

I mean “oldest” as in I’ve known Stephanie since we were nine.  Not as in she’s old, or we’re old.  No damn way.  And I mean “dearest,” as in, she was there with me and DH in the delivery room at 2:35 AM twelve years ago when our first was born.  And three months later that spring, I was there with her own DH when their first baby arrived.

Our bonds go deep and grip tight.

We four had hit the rare parenting trifecta that Saturday night — two sleepovers and one babysitter took care of our four kids.  That left us free to eat fancy.  We dressed up — just a little of course, but not too much (this is Brooklyn after all).  After ten minutes at the (gorgeous marble) bar, we were rewarded with a cozy round table, directly under a lightfixture made of repurposed glass milk bottles.  Surrounded by recycled wood paneling, we would eat rustic locavore Italian-inspired cuisine while sharing the joys and sorrows of the last few weeks’ worth of work, school, home-repair, and heavy duty parenting.

Which all seemed just great.  A boon from the stars.

Until I happened to glance over my shoulder, and was suddenly struck by a deeply eerie sensation.

There, at the tables surrounding us, were deeply attractive young people wearing slightly modified versions of the same two outfits.  The women were all dressed in halter dresses made out of silk scarves (each topped with a tight cropped jean jacket.)  The beautiful women had hair either very long or very short, and messy rather than done.  But undone just so.

Someone had issued a memo to the men telling them to buy the same hornrimmed glasses, supertight jeans, and tight fitting plaid shirts.  They all had very interesting facial hair.  Their skin was smooth.  Unlined. 


It dawned on me and chilled me to the bone:  some sinister somebody had replaced all the adults with baby grownups.  And, because this was Brooklyn, these were very, very cool baby grownups.

Where were all the real adults — by which I mean the ones my age?  (Not as in I’m old.  No damn way.)

Who filled all the restaurant tables with Brooklyn Hipster Pod People?

And who gave all these babies enough money to come to a swank place like this?

Dinner was terrific, and I took shelter from my unease around the BHPP’s in the warm company at our table.  But I felt the same odd sensation later that night, at the VanLeewen ice cream store.  More handkerchief dresses.  More hornrims.  More goatees and rough shaves.  Willie Nelson’s Stardust playing, ironically, from a vinyl disc on a real-live turntable.

I was having a mindblowing dessert (Earl Grey Ice cream with artisanal fudge sauce:  Holy, sanctified ice cream). But at the same time, I was made uneasy by the scary-beautiful faux-aged interior design. And again, the baby grownups.

Who gave all these young people such amazing, spot-on retro taste?

These BHPP’s have taken over the city that I remembered being mine.  At least a few years ago, before kids, it was mine.

After I was spooked, I was a little angry. Were these baby grownups there to steal what was left of my youth? To revoke my right to hang out in cool places?  Who came along and made my favorite black top look circa 2003?  (Which was, of course, when I bought it.)

I knew then and there:  these people were here to shove me, once and for all, off the cliff of Hip and into the yawning maw of Middle Age.  How Dare They?


OK, OK, now, in the warm light of day on Monday morning, I realize that I may have been  overreacting. If I had to reconstruct things a little more factually, here is what I think may have happened while I was not paying attention:

DH and I move to Brooklyn, fresh-faced and enthusiastic to learn the ropes of city life.  It’s the late 1990’s, and back then, we’re the sweet young things with unlined faces and rumpled clothes.  We’re haunting Patois, (now closed) shopping at The Refinery, (also fermé these days) and heading over the moon with enthusiasm every time Alan Harding opens a new place on Smith Street.

With baby number one (thanks again to Stephanie for the assist) things change very little.  We throw her in a  Baby Bjorn and forge ahead as though nothing has changed.  With work.  With Home.  With Life.

We move to a bigger place, one neighborhood over.  Then, a week before  baby number two, the towers fall.  The shit hits the fan in our house, in our city, and in the world, and we all head straight into Parenting Bunkers.

We rarely emerge — except for work, school, or groceries — for ten years.  Ten years of Goodnight Moon and making the lunches and standing on the sidelines at AYSO soccer.  Ten years in which we pour our youth into the children we come to love more than we can stand.

Ten years of thirtysomething, all in the past.

And now, we emerge from the Bunkers, solidly over the 40-year line.  Our kids aren’t fully grown, exactly, but nor do they need us every moment.  They are ready for Glee and also for preadolescent angst.  We grownups are ready again for couples’ night out.  For cool restaurants.  To be adults again, rather than “just” parents, attached at all our hips to some little someone.

So yeah, nobody stole my youth.  I spent it.  And yes, I realize:  these twentysomethings aren’t Pod People.  They are hipsters here — all retro design and ironically outfitted — but if we were in Cleveland or Mahwah or Phoenix, there would be young people too.  Just somewhat less fashionable ones, likely with a little more body fat and slightly more conventional tattoos.

The hipsters now crowding the cool restaurants have no interest in pushing me into middle age.  In fact, they probably have no interest in me or my ilk at all, unless we are the bankers giving them a start-up loan, or the landlords renting them a sweet garden floor apartment.  From their vantage point, we exist as cautionary tales.  That Bad Things Happen After 37.

There they are, living their little baby grownup lives, with very little information about mortgages or preschools or what it is to throw a birthday party for 34 eight year old monsters.  It’s not up to me to warn them, any more than it was up to the generation ten years older than we were to let us know what young fools we once were.

We wouldn’t have listened if they did.

Patti June 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Since I don’t have actual children, I cannot relate to that aspect of things, however, I too often wonder what ever happened to being the youngest one at work, at the party, at the gym? How and why did I suddenly become one of the oldest amongst my circle of friends?

Anyway – enjoyed the post. :)

Launa June 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I totally know that feeling! I’m always happy to blame things on my kids, but reality reminds me that this whole aging process unfolds separately from their growing up.

T. June 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Clicked over here from your very welcome and sane comment on Motherlode today and really enjoyed reading this delightful post. I, too, have noticed how young those other faces in the restaurant look but it was the youth of a physician that really brought me up short. I was really not prepared for a doctor to be quite so fresh faced and clearly so much younger than me!

T. June 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Goodness, must be my advanced age making my fingers clumsy. I mistyped my address before and have no idea whose blog I linked to. Some youngster, no doubt.

Sarah August 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

I am spending a bit of time checking on all the little design details. And then I land on this post. And I start reading and I cannot stop. I am firmly in those thirtysomething years. I am spending them, as you say, with little people attached to my hip. Well, both hips, really. And after reading this post from start to finish I can say I am equal parts happy and sad to know that my twentysomething years are over and I am pushing forward to those fortysomethings. Equal parts excited and depressed.

This was a fantastic piece. Thanks for reeling me in!

Lisa September 6, 2011 at 7:20 am

A great read!

At 44 (I can say it), and my son now just edging into adulthood, I feel recently hyper-aware of these baby grownups. They’re everywhere we love to go. And probably in even better places that we aren’t even aware that we’d love to go! And I know it’s not their fault, it’s just the nature of things, life moves on, etc. But, still.

Maybe it wouldn’t impress me if I didn’t still feel mentally younger. My mind thinks I should still look like that: young, thinner, more energetic, with tight unlined skin and naturally root-less hair color. And it makes me sometimes envious of the new hipsters. And when that happens, I start to think of the life I’ve had that they know nothing of yet. And then I start to almost pity them. For all their swagger and hipster cool, time and life are coming for them too. Should someone try to warn them? As you said, though, it wouldn’t matter if we tried. They will have to experience it, just as we did.

When I am able to realize this, I can look at them with amusement, and appreciate the fleeting swank of their aura. I can look at myself with appreciation for the endurance and spirit that brought me through the trials and tribulations of my 30’s, and has deposited me in my 40’s with enough enthusiasm for life to want to go and do and be all the cool things again. All things considered, I don’t look half bad at all for a grown up grownup!


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