This year I’ll turn 35. I can’t even type that without itching to click onto my open Facebook tab and pretending like I didn’t type it. I tried giving my brother-in-law shit because he’ll be 25 next year, but then I remembered that I’ll be 35 THIS YEAR which is way scarier and just means that I’ve known him for twenty years. I’m kind of freaked out that I’ve remained in constant contact with anyone for twenty consecutive years.
Once, when I was a kid, I asked my mom how old she was, and she told me, “I’m 35.” Ever since then, 35 has forever been my mom’s age in my head. Now, when my kids ask me how old I am, I tell them and they don’t believe me. It sounds too impossibly old to them, and I have to agree. 35 is, in my opinion, about five years away from not even remotely being considered young anymore. I mean, fuck, dude, I just turned thirty last year, right?
Nope. It wasn’t last year. It was about five years ago this May. Which, yes, I understand I still have four more months before my birthday happens, but I like to be proactive in my existential crises.
There’s a group of us in our extended circle of friends that all have birthdays in May. We started celebrating our birthdays together in one huge party back in high school, and have continued the tradition to this day. It’s changed over the years, for sure — people drift in and out as they move away and return home, new friends who were also born in the best month of the year have joined the group. There’s definitely more offspring attending our party nowadays than there were ten years ago (my bad, everyone).
But other than that, the party feels exactly the same to me every year. We always get an ice cream cake that says something absurd that has nothing to do with birthdays. We talk loudly and bring up old stories of funny things we did when we were younger. Rob and I get into ridiculous arguments that aren’t really arguments, but just our way of making our friends laugh. We talk about the parties from the past: the year everyone else got presents except for me; the year the cake said, “Get Well Soon, Chet”; the year our dog got skunked and we had to give him a peroxide and Dawn dishsoap bath in the middle of the party; the year Bella threw up on the dollhouse, then carried on as if nothing had happened; the first few years when there were five of us and we filled my mom’s house with kids that had just arrived home from college for the summer. Despite all the history we have together, every year feels the same. This year’s party, when most of us turn 35, will feel exactly like the party we had when we were in college and we all turned 22.
I suspect this will remain the case forever. One thing my mom said once, right after I made some smartass remark about her age back when I was a young childless asshole, was that no matter how old she was, she mentally felt exactly the same way she felt when she was sixteen. The older I get, the more I come back to this idea and see the truth in it. It’s so weird to be one person on the inside, but see a much older person looking back in the mirror.
I was commiserating with a friend (another fellow May birthday person HOLLA) about how old we would be this may. He’ll be 37, which is also approaching not-young. After we wallowed for a bit in our anxiety about our rapid approach to 40, he finally said, “You know? Fuck it. Look at me: I’m doing alright. I’ve got my shit together, and good people in my life. Who cares how old I am?”
That’s it, right? I mean, isn’t that the point of all this? Have your shit together and have good people in your life? I’ve got that. The best part is, you get to define what “having your shit together” means. His definition is different than mine. Yes, my house is a train wreck and I’m not 100% where I want to be with my career, but my bills are (mostly) paid, my kids are happy and healthy, and I have a kick-ass husband. I’m old enough to to realize I only want to surround myself with family and friends that contribute to my happiness, not take away from it. These are all things I didn’t have ten or twenty years ago.
So bring on the cake, because honestly at this point I can’t remember my goddamn age anyways.
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