I turned thirty almost a year-and-a-half ago. For the twelve months that followed that pre-middle age milestone birthday I felt great; proud almost that I had reached this new phase of my life, happy about my achievements and the personal growth that had taken place within myself. Not once did I feel that pang of upset that so many candles had illuminated my birthday cake.
It was only a few days ago actually, that I have begun to feel old.
It’s true, what they say…that ‘when it rains, it pours.’ Suddenly, within a matter of days, the showers came down on me. The first event was the birth of my beautiful new baby niece. Though I wasn’t present in person, Saturday morning had me on the phone with every member of my immediate family giving updates on what she looked like and the details of her first hours on earth. It was surreal, the idea that my sister was suddenly a mother and I in turn was officially an aunt—that this new arrival would grow up looking to me as an adult (though in my favorite weekend uniform of converse sneakers and jeans I still feel like a kid). Without a choice, I was suddenly a grown-up.
Then to make the whole baby phenomenon even more of a pressing issue on my brain, a dear friend, who I’ve known since the days of French braids and bike rides via three-way towing nearly burst at the seams with news that she is expecting. And I thought seeing her get married was hard to take!
The hilarity continued when I arrived at the surprise thirtieth birthday party of another old friend. As I do when attending any social event other than happy hour after a long Thursday in the office, I took my time in the mirror, primping as would any girl, doing my best to look my best. With the curling iron hot, I visualized Renée Zellweger à la Chicago and fixed my hair in a modern-day wavy, blonde ‘do. Once at the party, after a few hours and a few glasses of wine, I landed myself in a conversation with the guest of honor’s twenty-something male cousin. I should’ve smelled trouble when he asked how old I was, but, yes, the wine, I suppose, skewed my senses. ‘How old do you think I am?’ I asked, assuming his guess would place me in the 20-25 year-old range as I typically get (though as I inspect the fine lines around my eyes, I think again that maybe I’ve been fooled by flattery a little too much in the past). ‘Thirty-five,’ he answered. I almost fainted. In response to my hysteria, one of my male friends at the party informed me that he for one thought my hairdo made me look like the wife from The Truman Show. I couldn’t even recall who played the wife, not to mention what her hairdo was, but it didn’t sound like a compliment.
By the following afternoon I was over the ‘35’ comment, feeling fine in my thirty-one-year-old shoes…until that evening. Plans were to have dinner with a younger second cousin whom I’d never before met, but was in town from California. I arranged for us to meet at a local favorite midtown spot not sure what to expect, but with an open mind. Thanks to having grown into myself and reaching a point in my life in which I feel comfortable carrying a conversation, dinner went along quite smoothly. I was once again, however, reminded of my role as an adult as I sat at the table giving career advice to a nineteen-year-old and her friend. I barely remember myself at nineteen as it seems so far back. It’s hard for me to grasp the truth though, that it is already more than ten years ago that I lived that life. As much as I couldn’t believe it, I was a real adult in the eyes of my young cousin and her equally young friend. The best part was when they told me about their P-Diddy sighting earlier that day and they asked ‘Do you know who P-Diddy is?’ What? Of course I know who P-Diddy is. I don’t habitually peruse gossip websites, but I’m pretty up on pop culture. Do I really look so old that I wouldn’t know? Again, I almost fainted. Did she have any idea, I wondered, how cool my friends and I really are?
The dust has settled a bit since all of this transpired, and here I am thinking with a rational head once again. Yes, I’m thirty-one; I’m an aunt (yikes) and I’m a real adult in some kids’ eyes; but to myself I am as young as I want to be and will be for as long as I want to be. So what if my friend’s twenty-something punk of a cousin thought I looked old, and so what if my classic ‘do was misinterpreted as being that of a 1950’s housewife. I am a grown up and I’ve gotten to a point where I am able to appreciate being where I am and knowing what I know. Next time I am thrown such a shocking punch, I will think of my friends and remember how whether having babies or getting married or not, we are all in this thirty-something boat together and it’s a pretty good place to be. And while I wait for the punch, I’ll be sure to slather on an extra layer of my overpriced anti-wrinkle serum before I go to sleep every night!