This past Saturday, I looked down at my feet and contemplated how dirty they were. Mud was caked in perfect stripes where the straps of my flip flops had been, and the spaces between my toes were black. I looked over at my girlfriends’ feet and theirs were the same, the dirt echoing the formations of their shoes.
The night before, we’d made the trip to Atlanta to attend the Shaky Knees music festival. It was my friend Candice’s idea, since she still knows all the cool bands, and Sarah and I met her at our hotel nearly jittery from the excitement of a girls’ weekend.
I hadn’t had a music festival getaway like this since 2001. That year, I’d gone to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, held at a big park outside of the city. It was a weekend-long affair of listening to fantastic music by day and staying in a tent all night. In the distance, the beats of an all-nighter drum circle lulled us into a semi-consciousness that wasn’t restful but wasn’t objectionable either.
I thought of that as I stared at my dirty feet on Saturday. This was an essential byproduct of music festival attendance, yes. But had they always gotten this dirty? I didn’t remember that part.
And then I realized it: I’d never noticed before because I’d been 24.
But at age 38, I sure did. In fact, it wasn’t so much the feet, it was the body as a whole. I was sweaty and stinky, partly from dancing, but partly from just being around such a mass of people. I was also keenly aware of my hands and how badly I wanted to wash them.
I know I wasn’t alone because at one point, Sarah tried to use the portable sinks set up near the PortaJohns.
“They ran out of water,” she said, slightly panicky. “So now I just have soap all over them.”
The very fact that she’d, a), tried to wash her hands, and, b), attempted to lather up was another testament to the fact that we weren’t young anymore. Would this even have been a consideration back then? Didn’t my hands just get clean from the condensation beading on my cold beer?
But beer also wasn’t at the forefront this past Saturday. Instead we kept sucking back on the Smart waters Sarah had bought us at the Dollar General a few days before because she’d read on the festival rules webpage (!) that we were only allowed to bring in containers that were still sealed. She’d painstakingly chosen bottles with flip tops so we could refill for free and not have to buy $3 Dasanis.
Both Candice and I were extremely thrilled with our Smart Water bottles and repeatedly told Sarah that throughout the day. The reason why our bottles were constantly a subject for conversation is because we were constantly refilling them. Why were we doing that?
Dehydration fears, of course, which is another sign of being 38.
Thinking back on it, I’m not sure I ever drank a glass of water throughout the summer of 2001. Someone might have offered me one once, but I’m sure I scoffed at the idea. Being thirsty or feeling dry, getting a headache or stomachache due to desiccation, never even crossed my mind. I’d just sat there listening to music, letting the sun blast out every ounce of moisture from my body.
Of course, the sun was doing more than that. But did I even have a dime-sized dab of sunblock anywhere on me? No. No because I was trying to get a tan. Did I burn? I don’t know. If I did, I didn’t feel it.
But now? Sarah, Candice and I put on sunscreen before we even got to the festival, forming a factory line in the hotel room so we could apply it to each other’s shoulders. What number was that sunscreen? Thirty for our body and 60 for our face. When had those numbers been shared? Before we left the house in Kentucky.
And now what did I want to do? Well, a), wash my feet, but, b), get that sticky layer of sunblock off me. Where did I want to do that? Dreamy images surfaced of our luxe hotel shower and then the cozy beds that were waiting for us.
The girls must have been feeling the same. Around 10:30, we made the executive decision to leave early so we could avoid the rush of the masses all looking for Ubers and taxis at the same time.
I’m making it sound like we didn’t have an amazing time and, actually, nothing could be further from the truth. We had a blast. We heard incredible music and danced like we were 24. We had lots of laughs, met up with fun friends, ate fish tacos with avocado-lime cream, talked and talked and talked. Overall, apart from the dirt, we were heaps more comfortable than we ever were when we were young.
But as we drove back to the hotel, still floating from the music but looking forward to the shower, it occurred to me: Isn’t it amazing how you become responsible without even realizing it? And how you never know the freedom of your immaturity until it’s over?