Sunday, April 25, 2010
You are only as old as you feel. Be young at heart. Age is a state of mind, not a number. I really do believe all of these things, as a rule. On days when all attention is paid to you and an increase in your official number, however, it's somewhat difficult to not pay a little attention to it.
When you're really young, every increase in number means some new special privilege. Twelve was going to the mall with girlfriends alone, sixteen was driving, eighteen was voting (and for others I'm sure it also meant things like smoking and porn shops, but I was not that kind of girl), twenty-one's the most awesome, of course. Someone asked me the other day at which point new birthdays stopped being exciting because there was no new prize with the day, and I quickly responded "twenty-four." In my head, twenty-five equaled adulthood. At that point, things like unemployment or reckless behavior were not so adorable anymore. Expectations set in. Twenty-nine was okay; it was kind of a last number hurrah. My early thirties really didn't bother me, either. And with thirty-five, I just went for that, "Okay, now I can be President" attitude. But thirty-six... it's on the other side of the fulcrum. The teeter-totter's directed at forty now. Like Meg Ryan, "I'm going to be forty!," but "someday" isn't that nebulous. It's just lurking around the corner now.
People that are older than me all scoff. People that are younger indicate "pfft, who cares?" but I have noticed that this usually comes after, "Oh my God. You're going to be 36? I thought you were a lot younger. You don't look 36." Sigh. That really doesn't make anything better. Like it's some horrendous number, but at least you don't look that old; if you did, that would be worth fretting about.
Looking in the mirror over the last year, I see sun damage. I see faint lines around my eyes where the skin seems to be getting thinner. (The only part of me that seems to be getting thinner, despite attention to calories and giving in and actually using the home gym.) I have the beginnings of "parentheses" near my nose and mouth; the skin on my hands and feet seem crepey after sun exposure now; my knees sound like someone shaking a Yahtzee cup when I'm on the stairs. I deal with things like heartburn now. And the furrow line; a little vertical stitch dedicated to all the stresses accumulated over thirty-six years (though most likely attributed to the last five, spent in public education.) Ah, well. Like my age, these things are only going to increase in number. And they're really only noticed by myself. They are superficial bothersome things, and not really worth worry. After all, I've always loved how men's eyes get little lines around them as they age. Perhaps I should look to find some positives in myself, as well.
It's really the other things that accompany aging that are truly worrisome. I always assumed at this age I'd be totally settled, and contented in life. While I may know who it is with whom I'll spend the rest of my life, I am technically thirty-six and unmarried. Barren (yeah, I'll use the "old maid" words for dramatic effect here.) Tubby. Fairly unhealthy. Debt. Still driving what Niles Crane would refer to as "some sort of hunchback" that prominently displays a dashboard Donald Duck. I've got education that makes me pretty much overqualified, but under-experienced, for any career I'd dream of. I'm unemployed. I think that's the real kicker. I feel like I'm starting over; still forced to deal with the huge question of "what do you want to do when you grow up?" I don't feel like I'm anywhere near "grown-up," despite my age, and I'm no closer to knowing what it is I'm supposed to do with the rest of my life.
It's easy on days like this to ignore the accomplishments of my life. And I know that friends would be quick to point these out. There are certainly things I have to be proud of. They don't seem today like the ones I am supposed to have accomplished, though. I don't know. I feel like I'm too old to be a cool kid, and too young to want to acquiesce into bland and settled. I don't want to be Carrie Bradshaw in the ill-fated being forty and fabulous photo shoot, but I don't like this weird in-between, still-trying-to-figure-it-out stage, either.
Is there such a thing as 'tween years for those of us technically ready for a mid-life crisis?