The idea seemed cute at first. For Keren's birthday, a group of us conspired to take her out for a good, old-fashioned Girls' Night. Limo. Swanky L.A. club. Bottle service. Dancing.
It would be fun! It would be crazy! It would be a diversion from our humdrum lives of baby-raising! It would, I quickly surmised, be a nightmare.
Debbie gave me the instructions: "Be there by 9, and dress to kill." Dress to kill? I'm a flabby Jewish mother. Dress to kill what? A chicken? Still, I squeezed myself into a little black dress that didn't used to feel so little, strapped on my sexiest shoes and headed out the door.
"You excited?" Hubby asked.
"No," I said. "I'm 150 years old. I'm fat. I'm tired, and I'm about to get eaten alive by high school kids with fake IDs."
"Have fun!" he chirped.
The DJ was terrible, the two-bottle minimum proved more than we could take and the kids across the aisle from us somehow decided we would want to watch them spill Red Bull on each other and simulate sex.
A pretty young thing wearing a shirt – and just a shirt – bopped from knee to knee, giving lap dances without the benefit of underwear and posing for photos we all agreed she'd regret horribly some day.
Watching her, I was suddenly seized with shame. Not for her, but for me. "Wow, was I an idiot when I was 20," I thought. I remembered my own club-scene stunts and shivered. "At least this girl isn't being carried off the dance floor topless."
I looked back at Keren, who was dancing and clearly having a wonderful time. A guy started trying to dance with her, and without missing a beat, she shooed him away with her hand, as if brushing off a fly. He looked shocked.
"Go," she said. And he did.
She kept dancing as if nothing had happened. She is now my hero.
Women don't typically want to meet guys at clubs. Girls' Night is almost always about drinking and dancing with friends. But when you're an idiot 20-year-old, you don't realize that wiggling about without underwear will get you unwanted attention. And once you get this attention, you're too young to understand that it's OK to be rudely direct. Instead, you make up excuses not to dance. You give out wrong phone numbers. You feign illness. Anything to get out of having to talk to whatever worm inched his way toward you.
If you never learn how to tell a guy, simply, "Go," then by the time you're 30, you figure club life is for kids and hang up your stilettos.
The realization was liberating. I started to see the club less as an ordeal to endure than as a big inside joke that only we were in on. I batted away pickup lines like a heckled comic.
"Where do I know you from?" was met with "I think I used to baby-sit you."
I stopped a guy who was trying to drag Aliza and me off to the dance floor by telling him, "Collectively, we're 70."
With my new curmudgeonly old lady outlook, I was able to dance and drink and enjoy myself. At least for a while. By about 2 a.m. the alcohol, the lateness and my advanced age caught up with me. I was starting to nod off in the booth when an eager-faced young man plopped himself down with a bounce.
"You're beautiful," he said.
Ugh. Here we go.
"Thank you," I sighed. "My husband thinks so, too."
"Your husband?" he said, as if the word was foreign.
"Yes," I said. "And so does my son."
The kid wasn't budging. Clearly he'd heard lines like these before; he had no idea I was telling the truth.
He kept trying to chat me up, dodging his way around my roadblocks like a pro. I gave up trying to be polite. Imitating Keren's brush-wave, I said, simply, "Bye."
"Bye?" he said.
This line was clearly as new to him as it was to me.
"Yep," I said, loving the way the brush-wave felt in my wrist. Reveling in how the word rolled off my tongue. Like a mantra. Like something precious I had earned: