It’s weird, you know? Because in a lot of ways I still feel like my younger self. An indeterminate age, but not my age, not 40. No, just my generically vague numbered younger self. Do you know what I mean when I say I feel “ageless”? All evidence points to the fact that I am, indeed, an adult. I have kids, a mortgage, I go to parent-teacher school conferences, I sign report cards, I pay my life insurance bills, I get my HVAC maintained twice a year. These are things adults do. And yet, in my mind, I’m not any different than I was 20 years ago – ok, scratch that, there are some differences, like I don’t think I can hitchhike my way through New England on 20 dollars anymore – but I basically feel like the same person. Tastes and trends and clothes may have shifted slightly over the years, but I still wear a lot of black and a lot of stripes, and I still can’t resist making a beeline towards anything shiny, beaded, studded, or sequined hanging on a rack (was I a drag queen in a former life? Step away from the sequins!). I don’t hold up an item of clothing and ask the saleswoman if this is age-appropriate. I have enough common sense judgment to know what I should and shouldn’t be wearing, but I don’t at all think about whether something is age appropriate.
So how does one wake up one day and find yourself old? I feel like most times we’re just too busy living life and trying to get through the day to really notice that time is passing. Days, months, years. It’s not until you look at the mirror one day that you start noticing stuff. Things like dark under eye circles. Or skin that’s not as clear looking as it once was. And gray hair. Oh my, the gray hair. It’s like I never knew how bad it was until I pulled my hair away from my face the other day and saw lots and lots and LOTS of gray hair that I never knew was there before. I’ve been dyeing my hair different colors since I was in my teens, so it’s a bit of a shock to see the roots come in so gray. It makes me wonder how much of my hair is gray if I let it go. It also reminds me to go to the drug store immediately to get that box of hair dye (and don’t even talk to me about letting my hair gray naturally – it’s not happening).
But aside from all that vanity stuff and how I feel inside, there is the body and this is where I can no longer deny that I’m fumbling towards middle age. It’s painful to stand on my feet all day. I feel it at night when I need to resort to laying on the couch to recover from back pain. Also walking? Yeah, I feel it in my lower back and the sciatic pain down my legs if I’ve walked too much. My mom always say that mentally she still feels really young, but it’s her body that’s getting old and is starting to fail her, that her mind doesn’t match her body. I know what she means. I have a few friends my age who are pregnant or who have just had babies and man! I know I’m done with kids, but seeing these tiny little baby faces and these tiny baby bodies (I’m looking at you, Annie from Seattle) just kills my heart. I love the whole baby phase so much. “So, why don’t you have another?”, they say. “Women have babies at 40 all the time now, it’s not too late”. Sure, that may be true, but I know that being pregnant and carrying another baby would be too hard on my back and my body. I knew this in my early 30s, which is why I wanted to be done having kids by my mid-30s. I know that I can’t survive pushing another stroller with a 25 pound baby all around the neighborhood – I have problems now if I carry anything more than 7 pounds. This is why Claudine walks her long walks to school everyday. I recognize that my body has limits now.
Ironically the thing that’s making me feel old these days is the fact that I have an almost 7 year old kid. It’s one thing to be a mom to a newborn or even a toddler, but when you sit there and watch your 1st grader doing her homework or accessorizing her outfit or talking about the things her friends gabbed about at recess, I don’t know. Something about that makes me snap back from my little bubble of “oh hey, I’m not old! I don’t have mom hair and I don’t wear mom jeans, and look! I’m listening to the Pixies and the Beastie Boys and they’re not old…oh wait.” The truth is, I don’t want to be that older person desperate to hang on to their youth trying to be relevant and hip either. That’s tragic. There’s a reason why I don’t really know or care about new bands that are popular today or why I get insanely and giddily nostalgic about old TV show sitcoms and music that is 20 or 30 years old. I don’t know at what point you stop caring about popular culture and you end up being that guy. You know, the one who still listens to music from their youth (for my generation, that would be that guy who gets all hazy eyed with a far away look, listening to the Eagles or Free Bird or something). I remember thinking at age 16 that I would never be that uncool when I got old. I have to laugh. I guess it just happens whether we know it or not.