Growing Pangs

One chilly Pittsburgh evening while sitting in a crowded restaurant I found myself withdrawn into a blanket of thoughts. My friends had long since dispersed and I was all alone at the table. Well, mostly alone. I was holding half of a dirty martini and the check. Tonight was on me.

It was reminiscent of the scene in the “Sex and the City” movie where a more mature, wiser and richer Carrie Bradshaw tells a young love-struck Jennifer Hudson that “your 20s are for having fun, your 30s are to learn the lessons, and your 40s are to pay for the drinks,” as she reaches for the bill.

It was almost exactly like that except I’ve yet to write three books, marry the love of my life, hire an assistant, or have enough credit to actually pay for ALL of the drinks. Yet there I was, in my 40s, with a bunch of new expectations and a few more laugh lines on my face. And Donald Trump was President.


But in true Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I couldn’t help but wonder where the time had gone. It felt like just yesterday I was 22 years old and my biggest concern was if my mom would still feed me and do my laundry once I told her I was gay. I spent a lot of money on therapy that year only to discover my mom has always been two shakes of a softball bat away from having her own coming-out party.

And just like that it’s almost 20 years later. I’ll be honest, as a “veteran” gay, I’ve never felt so out of touch with the changing of the times. I was at a lecture last year, and upon entering we were asked to write our preferred pronoun and our name, respectively, on a name tag. I had never been asked my pronoun before so I assumed they meant prefix, and I wrote “Ms. Chrissy Costa.” After getting a disapproving glare from one of the volunteers I got nervous and rewrote my name, and this time I made it even more awkward by still using a prefix but adding my occupation. I was now, “Ms. Writer Chrissy Costa.” When I finally remembered what a pronoun was by looking at everyone else’s name tag I became embarrassed as both an English major as well as a member of the LGBT community. So then I grabbed a new name tag and wrote, “Martha’ on it. Just Martha. I didn’t want anyone to know my real name at that point and I didn’t even care if they thought Martha was a HE. And just when I thought the afternoon couldn’t get worse, it did.

Everyone was sharing stories and discussing ideas and after each person spoke everyone clapped. Except they weren’t clapping the way I clapped. I was emphatically clapping the way Kanye West claps for Kanye West when Kanye West wins an award, or just wakes up. They were quietly snapping their fingers, barely making a sound. I didn’t understand what was happening. I’m Italian. I’m not used to quiet gestures. I need loud clapping, please. If you’re not yelling at me how will I know you approve? When did everyone decide to clap this way, and why wasn’t I aware?


I was confused and wanted to go back to just boycotting Chickfil-A. That was really hard. But this was harder. What I realized that dreadful day was that I was no longer the youngest one in the room. My pronoun was now, “She old.”

So many questions filled my mind as I reflected on all of this while waiting to pay my bill: When will I fit in? Wasn’t I supposed to have it all by now? What is ‘all’? Where’s my SHE and why are all of my exes married? Perhaps I was the problem because it seems I’m the common denominator. Where did this hair come from?

The waiter came to take the check, and as I went to put on my glasses so that I could hear what he was saying, I reached into my bag and a tampon fell out of the inside pouch and onto the floor. Normally I would have been mortified at the thought of someone seeing my Kotex, but something happened in that moment and I’ll never forget it. In that precise moment I laughed and no longer cared what anyone else thought. I’ve had dozens of tampons fall out of pockets and purses and I’ve always been embarrassed and acted like they weren’t mine. Not that day. When that tampon hit the floor and landed next to the waiter’s shoe I didn’t pretend anything. In fact, I said to him, “I’m gonna need that back son.” That’s when I realized that your 40s aren’t just about paying for the drinks. They’re the start of finding confidence in every aspect of yourself. They’re about whatever you want them to be. Just as your 20s, and 30s, and 50’s, etc…

We are in an ever-changing universe and in competition with no one other than who we were yesterday. We can choose to learn and evolve at our own pace. Some of us are slower and that’s OK. Some of us have Peter Pan Syndrome — and by us, I mean me — and that’s also OK.

As I looked around at the others in the restaurant that night I became aware that I wasn’t alone at all. Nobody has it all figured out. Maybe everything is exactly as it’s meant to be, and we are all exactly where we are meant to be in this very moment.

And perhaps laughing at our own imperfections is the healthiest way to grow.

Chrissy Costa is a local comedian known for her dry wit, satirical style of comedy, and big earrings. Before doing stand-up she studied sketch comedy at Chicago’s famed Second City. You can follow her on Instragram and Facebook. (She / Her / Hers)