Friday, April 19, 2013

on turning thirty

In a few months, I will leave my twenties. That sounds so dramatic; I will be living in the same place I was when I was twenty-nine, be staying at my parents' house where we moved when I was eight, and still have most of the charming faults, and clothes, I have today. I probably won't be very different from how I am today at all.

But it is dramatic. I won't be in my twenties anymore. The first decade of actual self-awareness, which has consequently felt longer and more significant than any other, will be over.

I thought I was prepared for it. Even before my last birthday, I felt ready to move in with the wine-at-homers. I told people I was ready to be forty, and I really meant it. I like being in bed before 8pm on a Friday (granted, I liked it better when it happened once every six weeks, and the alternative was the pub). I like ranting about bad manners. I like leaving gigs/movies/anything early if I'm not enjoying them, because my time is worth more than the gamble that they might improve, or the money I've already spent on them. I like it all.

What I hadn't counted on, until very recently, is that turning thirty is about more than just how I feel about what's around me. It's also about how the things around me feel about me, being thirty. I woke up the other morning and remembered realising, when I was about to finish school, that it wasn't going to be okay for me to check out boys in school uniform anymore; even if they might only be a year younger than me, that wasn't the point - they were schoolboys, and I wasn't a schoolgirl anymore. I don't remember thinking or caring that they, and everybody else, would be seeing me any differently; maybe because being the older woman to a sixteen-year-old really just means you're older than sixteen, and because I was completely self-absorbed.

I've realised that turning thirty is going to separate me, involuntarily, from people in their twenties. I've been going on about how great that is, and how most kids in their early twenties are imbeciles, but I think on some level, I still thought we were peers, and just that I was at the other end of that tunnel. And without realising it, I liked that. I've looked at them and made a million judgements, and in my self-absorption, failed to notice that they've been doing the same to me, and in a way I don't welcome. I don't want to be the old girl. I don't want to not know what they're talking about when they use acronyms, even though I make fun of those acronyms as well as their users. I don't want to be the wow, I didn't think she was that much older than us, friend. I want to be the same. As soon as I tell someone I'm almost thirty, something changes; they make the same assumptions about me based on my time on the planet that I've been  making about everyone else, which is fair and just etc etc but I'm not ready.

Being married already makes me feel older; say what you will about a piece of paper and the rest, but marriage means something when you don't have kids - it's a tangible thing (okay, a piece of paper) that says Pikachu, I choose you. And then, under the law, you're married, and you realise you hadn't ever thought of your status as being anything to do with the law, except when you were breaking it. You've crossed over. You've chosen to take legal (and symbolic) responsibility for your feelings. And, mostly, you just sound old. "I'm married" implies you have a spare room, and enough cutlery and plates and cooking ability to have four people over for dinner. And, since we moved here, we do. It looks to everybody like I've grown up. That might make it seem like the age doesn't matter; perhaps that's precisely why it does. My age is my last connection to the good bits of youth (as well as the bad). If I get too drunk and throw up on the floor, it's not so bad, because I'm in my twenties. Fast-forward a few months, and I won't be able to say that anymore. If I get too drunk and throw up on the floor, it'll be like hmm, Peter Pan, and hmm that's embarrassing; isn't she a bit old for that?

Maybe all of this is my fault for being, unwittingly, a little ageist. I've made assumptions, I've stereotyped, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. But it still hurts. Life-expectancy is increasing! Doesn't that leave room to defer calling yourself an age that has so many implications? Why do we even bother with the number anyway?

Stand-by for the pathetic woman who starts lying about her age at thirty, or saying she's twenty-ten.

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