It’s a big birthday year for some people I love. My dear dad just turned sixty, and two of my friends are celebrating their 30 and 35th birthdays this month.
I’m not quite there yet – although 30 is just two years away. But I’m ready: popular culture has almost brainwashed me into believing the North American maturity myth, and I’m prepared for all sorts of crazy things to start happening to my anxiety levels and my ambitions, or lack of them.
I’m still firmly enjoying my late twenties, (or at least being able to smugly tell people that I’m still in them), but lately I’ve been noticing a marked change in the way I move about the world.
This growing list, (working, email forward, cheesy comedian title: you know you’re getting old when…) is more than a little disconcerting.
Take, for example, shopping. When did I stop buying clothes simply because they were cute, and start purchasing things because they were “good quality?” Time was, I’d snap up anything with style, fit or trendiness, especially if it was on sale – now I muse over whether something will wear well, has good fibres, can be tailored.
Or shoes. Despite my hard-to-fit feet, I’ve still managed to amass a decent footwear collection. But what I was willing to wander around this city in for hours is no longer coming out of its box – I am choosing comfortable shoes over those snazzy suede red heels that pinch my toes every time.
And noise. Don’t get me started on noise. Since when did my first instinct at sitting too close to a speaker propel me to a more sensible chair in the back of the room, instead of a sudden urge to jump up and dance, or start screaming along with the music? Since when do I surreptitiously wear earplugs to my buddies’ slammin’ indie concert at the local pub? Since when is my biggest concern in class that people are happily whispering to one another instead of paying attention to a lecture? I used to pass notes with the best of them – now I glower at the frat boys and first-year flirts with a cranky air and tapping fingers.
Never mind that all the kids I used to babysit are now in university, or that my urge to go to bed at a reasonable hour usually trumps an impromptu trip out into the nightlife with fun-loving friends.
I’ve even caught myself doing the whole “kids these days” schtick, rolling my eyes at the various fashion faux pas, lack of manners, and general apathy of the next generation. Not long ago, I was happy to be one of those kids, hanging around, blithely offending multiple sensibilities.
Worst of all, my joints ache when it’s going to rain. All I need is a seaman’s cap, an eye patch and a pipe in my mouth. Actually, that sounds like a great outfit for my own 30th birthday party, a mere two years away.
I should mention, despite all the trepidation, that I have seen some folk age gracefully, and I’m not really that scared.
My dad is mellowing into a fine vintage, a man who has held on to his tender heart, all the while gracefully letting go of a great many things as he gains wisdom and experience in all his dealings with people and the food he faithfully serves them. His birthday party alone proved that getting older is something to look forward to. All the folk who huddled under tents in my aunt’s backyard were there, despite the downpour, to celebrate a man who has continued to give of himself and his time to other people. I’m looking forward to the day that my two friends and I, all in our sixties, can look back and laugh at my little worried-about-getting-older list – just like my dad’s best friend, who has known him since they were twenty-something, travelled all the way to an island backyard, family in tow, to give my dad a big hug and a happy birthday. Besides, you need comfortable shoes and a good night’s sleep, as well as a quality rain jacket, for a trip like that.