Ladies’ Night: Judy McGuire
Who: Judy McGuire
Age: Older than Shakira but younger than Madonna.
Location: Jackson Heights, Queens
Where you might know her from: She’s the author of “How Not to Date,” “The Official Book of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Lists” and has written countless features on sex, culture, music, and dating.
Where I know her from: We both transformed from Brooklyn renters into Jackson Heights owners around the same time and were introduced virtually by a mutual Facebook friend in Chicago who I’ve never met in person. We are also founding members of the Jackson Heights Ladies Cotillion (JHLC), an informal neighborhood group of four fellow transplanted women and one man.
We met at Kitchen 79, a neighborhood Thai restaurant, for a few beers because there are nearly no bars in Jackson Heights where women are exactly welcome. You have quite a selection if you’re into Latino sports bars, Latino gay bars, or Latino bars where men pay women to be nice to them.
Krista: When I asked you originally if you wanted to do this, you were really reluctant to say your age publicly. And I got that because I was scared to even start doing this series because I didn’t want people to know that I was over 40. Obviously, people know. It’s not a secret. Where does that come from? Nobody thinks that you are 25 but you don’t really want people to know your exact age.
Judy: There are a couple reasons. I’m not going to lie if someone asks, but I’ve finally reached the same age my mom was when she died. Also, there’s so much age discrimination and what I write about—what I used to write about more—was sex and relationships. And if you’re even over 40 and you write about sex and relationships, you’re suddenly considered this quirky old crone. You go from that girl who’s doing “Slutever” at Vice to Dr. Ruth or E. Jean Carroll, who I think is really cool, but she is a nutty old broad who lives in the woods. Not to mention that Dr. Ruth and E. Jean both have far more cred than I do. But as you get older, people discount you and you become invisible, which is fine on the subway, but horrible when you’re looking for work. I have an elderly friend who I’ve been friends with for like 30 years, and we would go out to dinner and waitresses would go, “Oh, she’s so cute” about my friend who is an intellectual, an adult.
I haven’t had plastic surgery or anything like that and my skincare routine is minimal. I’m not vain looks-wise. I just don’t want to advertise my age.
Krista: I get it. I was always super opposed to any sort of “work” and then last year I said “You know, I’m just going to get these stupid under-eye injections.” That’s so crazy to me because I would never do something like that.
Judy: And you converted everyone. I showed so many friends your picture and they were like “Whoa, I would totally do that.”
Krista: My circles are coming back now. It only lasts around eight months. A few months ago, you were saying that you shaved experience off your resume. And then you started getting calls?
Krista: So, that’s kind of scary. It’s ridiculous. I put the year of my graduate degree but I don’t list my bachelor’s date. Those were 10 years apart so it implies that I’m 10 years younger on paper.
Judy: Don’t you have a bachelor’s degree in something really weird too?
Krista: I have a B.F.A. in printmaking. I think it’s very strange that in America–or any place–that at 18 you’re supposed to know what you are going to do.
Judy: When I was 18, I wanted to be a DJ, so my dad was really a dick about it and would only let me go to schools with good communications programs. I ended up going to a school I couldn’t afford, American University, and I had to drop out.
Krista: The only reason I went to art school was because I couldn’t move away for college and it was the least evil place in the city that I lived in. I didn’t want to go to community college. It made sense at the time.
Judy: Did you watch “Ladybird?” I just saw it last night and I was thinking about the going away to college. I am not a “Ladybird” fan.
Krista: I am not either. Why is everyone obsessed with this movie? I didn’t dislike it. I’m not crazy about Greta Gerwig, though obviously, she was not in the movie.
Judy: But she was. That’s her story.
Krista: I was annoyed because I sort of identified with that family but my parents could never afford to send me to NYU from the West Coast. How would I pay for the dorm? The plane ticket?
Judy: She got a full ride to NYU being an unexceptional student.
Krista: I think it would be a more realistic movie if she had to stay in-state. But everyone loved that movie and said, “Oh no, you just have to see it. It just reminds me so much of me and my mother’s relationship.” It doesn’t remind me of mine at all.
Judy: We had all of the fighting but none of the “I love you.” I like Laurie Metcalf. I think she’s underrated.
Krista: Laurie Metcalf is in her 60s. Why does she have a child that’s like 16? I don’t think it was addressed in the movie.
Judy: It was. She did say she got pregnant late.
Krista: So, that would mean she had her in her early 40s, and that’s not unusual anymore, I guess.
Judy: When my mom wasn’t married at 24 everyone thought she was an old maid. My mom was told she couldn’t have kids and did all the paperwork for adoption and ended up pregnant with a miracle baby, me, the first of five. She wanted to keep going, but the doctor said, “You can’t. You’re going to die.” She was really conflicted about birth control because my parents were extremely Catholic. When I five or six, I found her diaphragm, and I thought it was a yarmulke. I marched out into the living room wearing my little “Jewish hat” and she lost her mind, thinking god was punishing her for using birth control.
Krista: Do women even use diaphragms anymore? I feel like it’s very old fashioned. I know IUDs came back, and they’re so popular. It’s very millennial.
Judy: All the kids are on the IUD.
Krista: I don’t want one. I know this is a point we differ on. But I’m 45. I’m not going to get pregnant.
Judy: You’re probably not. Unless you end up with your own little Ladybird.
Krista: I don’t like the idea of some copper thing in my body. But hormonal birth control probably isn’t any better, and I did that for decades.
Judy: Me too. For a while—in my 20s—nobody would give IUDs to women who hadn’t had kids or an abortion.
Krista: Switching from kids to marriage—I have weird hang ups about being an “old” bride if I ever get married, but you just finally did it last year. I’m assuming age didn’t matter so much for you?
Judy: It didn’t matter at all. I never wanted a big wedding, I hate white dresses, and I think people who get married in their 20s are asking for divorces in their 30s. Wanting a small wedding had nothing to do with age either. I’m cheap and it seemed like a waste of money, and while it was a nice night, I would’ve preferred a super amazing trip somewhere.
Krista: Yeah, I’m always suspicious of woman getting married in their 20s, especially in New York.
Judy: Spyro’s [the husband] family refused to RSVP because I used evites instead of wasting more money on paper. I wanted to just go to City Hall and have a fancy lunch somewhere, but, on the upside, I now have a Le Creuset Dutch oven I wouldn’t have otherwise. And no, I don’t feel one bit different, but if either of us dies it’ll be easier to liquidate the other person’s bank accounts. So many people bug you about your wedding in so many weird ways, but a lot of people were truly kind to us too. I just wouldn’t do it again.
Krista: Hopefully, it will be your last.
Judy: Regardless of how things go with this one, it’s my last! I don’t understand how people can go through all that crap multiple times. I guess some people really like weddings. But I wouldn’t worry about being an old bride at all. That’ll be the least of your problems—your family will make sure of that.
Krista: How long have you lived in Jackson Heights? I feel like you are similar to a lot of my friends where they have lived in Williamsburg for eternity, almost the entire time they’ve lived in New York.
Judy: I’ve been here a little over three years. I lived in Manhattan for a long time, for six or seven years. I was living on the Upper West Side with a boyfriend who dumped me for his coworker. I was in school fulltime and had no money, so a friend found me a house share in Williamsburg, on North 7th between Bedford and Berry. The entire house was $900—with a yard. Moving to Brooklyn definitely felt like a demotion. I grew up in New Jersey and Upstate, so to me, New York City was Manhattan. I felt like I had failed when I had to leave it.
Krista: It feels weird to be the old-timer in a neighborhood. When I moved here in the late ’90s I would see crazy old people in their rent stabilized apartments, and then 20 years later, somehow you’ve turned into that person.
Judy: Oh yeah, there was a coke bar across the street and I would call the cops on them all the time. The owner threatened to sue me because I called it a coke bar on my blog. I was the crazy old lady in the window. “God damn you kids!” But now I’m the new young person even though I’m old.
Krista: Yeah, I was old for Williamsburg and now I’m young for Jackson Heights. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.
Judy: I like being not as old, not as fat, not as unattractive.
Krista: When I bought my place in Jackson Heights, my friend said, “Oh, it’s good your apartment is on the first floor because when you get old you’re not going to want to walk up all the stairs.” Are you crazy? I’m not going to live here till I die. That’s someone who lives in a rent stabilized apartment. I thought I might live here 5-10 years.
Judy: Now that rents are so crazy and apartment prices are so high, I wonder what my long-term plan is. I don’t know. I don’t really have one.
Krista: So, you don’t think you’ll live in Jackson Heights forever?
Judy: No, I don’t think so. Every day I get email alerts for apartments in Chicago, LA, New Orleans, and Kingston.
Krista: Do you consider yourself middle-aged?
Judy: Yes. Or more.
Krista: Really?! At what point did you think that you were middle-aged?
Judy: Because my mom died in her early 50s, I’ve always thought middle-age was probably like 30. Once you hit 40 you are definitely middle-aged. Once you hit 50 you are kind of kidding yourself that you are middle-aged.
Krista: No!!! For me, it’s 40-60 because you’re not elderly yet.
Judy: You’re never going to be 120.
Krista: It’s more colloquial than literal.
Judy: I told Spyro that I was doing this and he asked what you were interviewing me for. I said “Some middle-aged lady blog.” He said, “You’re not middle-aged!”
Krista: So, he was implying that you are older?
Judy: No, that I’m younger. Because he likes to think of me as cool.
Krista: I decided arbitrarily that 45 is middle-aged, and now I am.
Judy: It’s really arbitrary, but there are certain things you can’t kid yourself about anymore. Sometimes I still forget how old I am, and there will be a cute guy walking down the street smiling, and I’ll think “yeah.” He’s not looking at me. Or he’s looking at me because my fly is open or I have lipstick smeared all over my face or something.
Krista: I said that I was 45 at a bar last night and people were freaked out. I mean, if you’re in your 20s, 45 sounds really old.
Judy: That’s why I don’t get women in their 20s dating men in their 40s. I thought those guys were so old and gross when I was that age.
Krista: When I was using dating apps, I matched mostly with guys in their early 30s. In my mind, I think I’m late 30s, but I’m not. Is there a big difference between late 30s and mid-40s? I guess there is.
Judy: My friend told me the best story about getting old. One of her friends was turning 40, and so a group of her friends all went out to dinner. They were drinking and egging each other on about how great they looked, as women do, and then one of them pushed it too far. When the waiter came over, they told him it was their friend’s birthday and asked, “Guess how old we are?” He shrugged and said, “I don’t know, 40?” Derp.
Krista: You don’t want to solicit that because you’re just going to be disappointed.