Next Wednesday I will turn 36 years old. I’ve never been bothered by birthdays before, but I’ve also never been 36 before. As my very wise and adorable grandfather used to say (before his death at the age of almost-97), “Age is just a number! Don’t hang out with old people and you’ll always stay young!” Sound advice, but as I mentioned to a colleague today (whose birthday is a mere two days before mine (except he’s only turning 31– bastard)), you get to a point where you don’t even really feel like celebrating, because each year is really just bringing you closer to 40, and who wants to be reminded of that?
Certainly not me, but my Mom has a knack for not letting me avoid things I don’t want to think about. This morning when I left the gym, I had a text from my Mom letting me know that my older cousin turned 40 today (incidentally, I love/hate that my mom texts me; on the positive side, it is great to get information from her without getting roped into a thirty minute conversation, twenty-eight minutes of which would be her rehashing things she’s already told me; the annoying part is that she has morphed into a teenager and abbreviates things in a way I don’t understand. She is also not above starting fights with me via text message, which I find exhausting. I just can’t type that fast). This milestone birthday of someone who I considered as part of my age group happening so close to my own birthday is upsetting (not to make it about me, but I guess I just did). It was one of those moments that made me sit up and realize how much time has actually gone by in my life. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years. My parents just turned 60 this year. Next year, they’ll have been married for 40 years. My favorite uncle just turned 70. Generally, we are a young-looking family (our inbred Sicilian heritage at least yielded us that one positive), so it’s strange to look at these people and reconcile their age with what our society tells us that age should be, and what they actually look like. Which, I suppose, is good news. At almost-36, I still get carded at restaurants, even when I’m with people younger than me and they don’t get carded (perhaps that only happened once, when I was with my boyfriend, and he has a beard which may throw people off a bit, but I’m sticking with that one).
The passage of time is a strange thing. As you get older, with pretty much everything that happens, you think, “That can’t possibly have been that long ago!” I’ve been out of high school for almost (gasp) twenty years? And out of college for almost fifteen years? Impossible! Yet here I am. I’m not sure why this is so hard to believe. I already have one marriage and one stroke under my belt, so the proximity to 40 should not be all that shocking. Maybe it’s because we live in a youth-obsessed culture, and I am susceptible to being brainwashed by the media, because most of the time I still think I am in my twenties.
I think my impending birthday truly hit home for me today when I was driving myself to the lab for blood work for the fifth time this month and couldn’t find anything to listen to on the radio, and happily settled on the local Oldies station when they played a string of songs I enjoyed. I took this to mean that I should just start embracing my advancing age (I’m not sure exactly what this entails – maybe walking around outside in slippers and what my great-grandmother used to refer to as her “house coat” while yelling at kids to get off my lawn – when I don’t even have a lawn?) instead of desperately clinging to youth gone by (I’ve finally stopped shopping at Forever 21). There is a balance that can be struck between not looking or acting your age and pathetically trying to look and act younger than you are. I’ll let you know if I figure out what that is.