I’m still a little unclear about when it’s okay to start feeling my age. Because, invariably, there will be someone in your circle of friends who will pipe up about how young you are. So where do we draw the line? Can we all mutually agree on when it’s okay to begin feeling some sense of inevitable mortality? Can we decide on a number, just so we’re all clear and on the same page? Can we decide on 35, or 45, or 50, or 60?
Age is something that’s been on my mind for about the past 3 years. And I kind of feel like I need to apologize for that, due to the fact that I’m really not that old. Because if I express out loud that I’ve been reminiscing that I graduated from high school nearly 20 years ago, or that I was handed my college scroll in a ceremony that took place in 1998, I’m belittling someone that’s a few years , or a few decades older than me, so I just try to keep my mouth shut about the fact that sometimes, I stress about my retirement fund, or how I’m going to put my kid through college, or whether I’m going to have to keep working my job until I’m 70 so that I don’t have to eat catfood for breakfast during the sunset of my life. We live in such a weird, nebulous time in which everyone’s telling you that you need to get your affairs in order RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE TWO MONTHS AGO so that your lazy progeny will have a trust fund, but hey! Don’t bitch to me about how old you are, because I’m WAY older!
Where do I align myself? Do I join with the young, or do I relate to the old?
I can’t even shop for clothes that are age-appropriate. I walk into a department store, and I’m left with the choice of either the “Junior Section” or the “Missus Section”. Can I have something in between? Where’s the “I’m Still Somewhat Attractive and I Have Very Few Wrinkles and My Waist is Still Smaller Than My Hip-Line Even Though I’m Finished With Starving Myself To Fit Into Single Digits and I’ve Had a Baby” section of clothing? I’m talking to you, Marshall’s. I always thought you were on my side. I’m not dead, but I’m not a teenager. I have no desire to dress like a hootchie; however, I don’t need a baggy track/mall-walking sweat suit with various zippers and pleats and an over-abundance of cargo pockets.
Please, just tell me where I fit in, as a 35 year old. I feel like things are easier if you’re ten years on either side. Twenty-five is really young. Forty-five really isn’t, and that's very definitive. I can’t relate to kids who just graduated from college, but I can’t relate to their parents, either. I can’t comfortably talk about the fact that I hurt my back while stretching in the morning, right after I wake up, but sometimes, for some reason, I have unlimited, weird, adrenaline-driven strength after Madeline goes to bed at night. I have a boyfriend, which is such a juvenile term to describe my soul mate and the love of my life, but he’s the first person I’ve ever been with that made me feel like I was worth something, and that I was good and important and actually, truly, completely lovable. And I also know enough now to recognize that marriage doesn't guarantee happiness, and, frankly, I wouldn’t have known fifteen years ago, when I thought that marriage was The End and Final Destination of any serious relationship.
And yet, if I had met Michael when I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t have been remotely, sufficiently equipped or capable of having the type of relationship we have now. I wasn’t ready for it then. I am completely ready and mature enough now. So when Michael and I do get married, and we will, it will be an expression of how far we've come, a snapshot in a life that we've already established, not the end of a journey. The beginning of the next chapter. That is something I couldn't wrap my head around when I was much younger.
How do I reconcile my youthful and stupid mistakes with my ability to see that I’m not the same person now, even though I’m not that much older than I was when I made those youthful and stupid mistakes? They occurred just a few years ago, and yet, they happened so very long ago. Where do I go to meet it in the middle? Where does the wisdom I gained from those mistakes meet my desire to hit the shiny red candy-like rewind button of my life so I can take back those mistakes, knowing what I know now, being the Monday morning quarterback 35-year old I’ve become?
I just need some instruction on how to be closer to 40 than I am to 30, because everyone keeps telling me that the gulf is very wide. Please don’t tell me that you’re always going to be older than me, because that only makes me speculate on how I’ll feel when I’m your age. Please don’t remind me of how young I am, because, in the great, grand scheme of the human life line, I’m pretty ripe. Please don’t tell me that I’ve got lots of life ahead of me, because part of recognizing one’s mortality is realizing that death could come at any minute, either by bus accident or by rare disease. And, for God’s sake, please don’t tell me that whatever age I’m approaching is “the New Black.” Because I’m young and sharp enough to know that saying something is “The New Black” is rapidly becoming a cliché.
Just tell me how I’m supposed to dress for the next five years, and we’ll be good friends forever. Or, at least until I’m too old and senile to remember your name.