Oh, my ego had a workout last weekend. Just when I notice the effect of bliss from increased awareness of my ego at work, she pipes up with a “Hey, missy. You may be making progress toward your higher self and all, but I’m about to get up in your grill. Heh!”
For my best girl’s birthday dinner at Chicago fab-spot, Paris Club, I carefully selected my outfit and applied a whole bunch of eyeliner. Stepping out the door, I was pretty sure I owned the night. (who can stop me in a hot pink tank and heels?)
But it’s a treacherous kind of fun for me to make plans that involve crafting a certain look to fit a certain event. My otherwise subdued what-will-people-think-of-me? demons tend to surface and stealthily string me up in the familiar balance between triumph and devastation and, depending on how I *think* everyone in my periphery perceives me through the course of the event, I soar or I crash. I’ve come a long way, broken free of a lot of those old chains, but my tricky ego gets hungry and needs to feed every now and then, so I have to be on high alert.
The plan was to dine in the restaurant, then head up to the club. Simple enough mission, so I left my inner observer at home.
With the words of the ultra delicious shop boy ringing in my head (“You have to wear a dress to Paris Club,” he admonished. “When I went there after it first opened, the girls were in lace maxi dresses. I would definitely not wear black jeans.”), I pep-talked myself all the way to Hubbard Street: “You look great, Emily. You don’t have to wear full-length lace to look like you’re somebody. You’ll totally get in. It’ll be so awesome. Just have fun.”
Fast-forward through a scrumptious dinner, good giggles and a bottle of gifted champagne, we were ready to get our club on. We just weren’t ready to order a bottle of anything, which was what the twisty-faced doorman told us we’d need to do to get in.
Wait? Since when do I not merit a parting of the velvet rope? Ten years ago, if I went to a club, my recollection is that it took a little half smile and maybe a smoldering glance, at most, for my girls and I to skip the line and be on our way to drunken dancing.
This time, I was waiting in the cold, and I wasn’t drunk or wearing the dress I was instructed to wear. Maybe they really didn’t have room up there? After all, it was 10:30 on a Friday night in the big city. But when two gorgeous brunettes in their early 20s tiptoed toward the rope and wordlessly gained entry, my stomach turned. They didn’t even look at us. Kiss of death in the world of women: if a chick doesn’t look at you, you’re not much to look at. Oooh, wait, have I been here before? I flashed back to my younger days and realized that, yes, I had. So I etherically nudged my 24-year-old self, “Don’t be such a snit. You’ll be my age someday, too, so give those cute moms in the line a break.”
My friends grumbled. My fears of a Knocked Up-style encounter were coming true. The doorman didn’t say it, but he may as well have spelled it out for me: “I can’t let you in ‘cause you’re old as fuck. For this club, you know, not for the earth.” (Knocked Up, 2007)
Taxi! Valet! We bolted. I wanted to laugh it off like my friends did and be totally ok with being a decade past automatic VIP entry, but I admit I shed a tear or two on the phone with my sister on the way home. “I tried so hard to look cute and now I just feel so dumb. I mean, do I look like an old chick trying to wear going-out clothes? I guess I am just too old for ‘scenes’ these days. I’m 32—I know I’m not old-old, but I’m apparently just not young and cute enough anymore…” Momentously, this was my first official brush with looking “too old” for something I actually desired and, for about 30 minutes, I felt myself teetering before the crash.
The difference between 10 years ago and last Saturday night is that now I am in control of the ropes, even when the ego furtively laces them up, and I can pull myself back from the devastating ledge of perceived inadequacy before it gets ugly. I am more loving, more tuned in, more powerful and even more beautiful than I was when I was 22. Thankfully, my expansion has been vast in the last decade and now, when my inner observer is on post, the risk of self-definition through others’ perceptions is diminished. The doorman was just doing his job.
As one of my most refreshing friends put it to me, we’re a decade too late for Paris Club. And, really, so what?