Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On turning 27

I think blogging is probably the best way to talk about turning 27. That way, no one has to hear my long, drawn out thoughts on it without the ability to turn off. :)

My birthday is on Saturday. I'm turning 27. To be honest, up until about two weeks ago, I haven't really felt like turning 27 was going to be a really big deal. After all, it's sort of a boring age. Late twenties, not yet thirty, nothing exciting here, move along folks. That's sort of how I've been thinking about it.

Except, that's apparently NOT how everyone else thinks about it.

I had a friend ask me the other day how I felt about my upcoming birthday. I said I didn't think it was that big of a deal. "Oh come on," she said, "you and I talk all the time about how getting older sucks and how hard it is to deal aging and not having anything really settled down. You're saying that it isn't hard for you at all?"

I think that's where this whole navel-gazing began. Because my thought on that comment was simply, "do I really spend time talking about how getting older sucks?"

Since that little exchange, three other people in my life have commented on their own advancing age status (turning 30 for two of them, turning 50 for another) and how getting older is hard, especially turning 30. And when I mentioned that it was my birthday to a couple of friends from school, both of them seemed surprised (and happy?) to learn that I was older than they were. It seems like everywhere I turn these days, people are talking about how getting older is difficult and scary and signifies the end of....something.

And you know what? It totally does. When barraged by reminders of my ticking clock, I can look around and see how completely frightening it is to get older. Frightening because it is indicative of a loss of power, especially for someone like me who hasn't utilized the power of youth to steamroll herself into the social normative roles (married, kids, etc) expected in this culture. My god! If I don't have my looks, how will I ever attract a HUSBAND!!! And with no husband in sight, it's just a matter of time until my uterus gives up and shuts down the factory and then *GASP!* no babies!!!! Which means, of course, that I am going to die old and alone. Did you hear me? That's right. OLD AND ALONE.

On top of that, getting older means that at some point, I'm going to be ugly. Not saying that I've ever been Cleopatra or anything, but advancing age means that I'm stepping closer to that time when popular society will deem me useless, as they do with all women who get past a certain point. I'm not close to that point yet, but all the indicators out there are constantly screaming warnings about that dreaded date with destiny. BOTOX!! NO ONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU'RE FORTY!! Olay Night moisturizer! TAKE AWAY THOSE AGE SPOTS! Acai Berry Diet! Revamp your metabolism to that of a 21-year old!

So to sum: ugly, powerless, useless, alone. Definitely scary things to face. No wonder getting older can be terrifying.

I love Mad Men. I get together with friends and watch it and we revel in the drama and the despair and the beautiful retro clothes and the hotness that is Jon Hamm. The third season just came out and we've been like a bunch of addicts, cloistered for hours in a tiny dark room, watching episode after episode, impatiently pausing for bathroom breaks and food. So far, it's been a great season. One of the things that's really struck me though, is the concept of "having it all." There's a scene where Peggy and Don are talking about how Don's not going to give Peggy a raise and Peggy tells Don that she doesn't understand. He has EVERYTHING, she says. And no matter how she tries, she can't figure out how to be like him. Don just looks at her. The audience knows his repressed misery, the bad childhood, the empty marriage, the endless affairs, the distracted quality that rules his world. But from the outside, she's right. He has it all.

And maybe that's the thing about getting older. Maybe the really frightening thing is the clarity with which we learn to see our sacrifice at the alter of time. No one can have it all. Even if you have everything society deems useful (husband, family, career, wealth, beauty, brains, travel, success), somewhere along the line there's something you've compromised to get there. It's simply not possible to do it any other way. So perhaps that's why it hasn't bothered me so much. Although I do have days (and weeks, and months) where I question my life choices and ask myself whether or not this particular path I'm on will ultimately get me where I want to go (which is another topic entirely), this year has been a year of happiness, direction, and excitement. Many of the things that I have wanted for myself in my life are in the works. I feel more grounded now than perhaps at any other point in my life.

My favorite quote from Mad Men this season has come from Don.

"Our worst fears lie in anticipation."

It seems like that's the whole hype of aging. Society tells us that if we don't do xyz, at some point in the future we will be miserable. Reality, however, is this minute. I can't tell you if I'll ever get married or have children or die alone or grow haggardly. Statistically, the odds are pretty good that all of those things will happen. All I can really know is what is here, and right now I'm pretty happy with that.

1 comment:

thepworth said...

i got botox :( getting older sucks. i used to be the youngest person at work and/or in my social circle, but no longer. i went to bar named sue the other day and i HATED it b/c i felt like the oldest person there.