I’m 35. Maybe it’s the humidity, or the grandmultiparidity, but boy, do I feel old.
When I was younger, I used to be able to lose weight by cutting out condiments. No kidding: skip butter or mayo for a week, and that was enough to dramatically improve my bathing suit shopping experience. Now it takes the organization, effort, and emotional upheaval usually associated with a military operation in Bosnia just to achieve stasis on the scale. How to actually lose weight (besides giving birth), I do not know.
When I was younger, two Tylenol and a quick stop in the confessional could easily neutralize whatever stupidity I’d indulged in the day before.* But today, I’m finding that I pay more and more dearly even for morally neutral activities. I get murderous sciatic pain if I commit the indiscretion of (irony alert!) crossing my legs. Two cookies or a handful of M&M’s will give me a blinding sugar hangover in the morning. And if I stay up too late, I will get caught up on sleep the next day, whether I’m behind the wheel or not.
On the other hand, most of getting older is a relief. This is probably a function of how unnecessarily miserable I made myself as a child and young adult, but the fact is that life is just so much easier now.
The other night, for example, my husband was out, so I figured I’d watch something that he would never choose on Netflix. I went for the opposite of Bruce Willis: some arty-looking animated short for adults. It opened with some droning, atonal music, and then the lighting started to flicker and twitch. A hunched woman in mismatched clothing slouched over to a toilet, where she proceeded to–well, it involved a snake, and although you couldn’t see her face, she seemed really, really sad. So I says to myself, I says, “I don’t have time for this bullshit,” and I turned it off.
Seems obvious, right? But fifteen years ago, I would have struggled against the good sense God gave me, and given this piece of junk the benefit of the doubt. I would have striven to grasp what the artist was trying to convey, to rise above the conventions of my bourgeois upbringing** and pierce through to the tortured heart of this achingly arcane artistic experience. And then I’d feel smug about it, too. Sheesh.
More improvements that came with age: In the last ten years or so, I’ve picked up a few social skills. And I do mean “a few” — but even these are better than the none I used to possess. I smile at people, for instance, rather than glowering. They seem to like that! When they ask how I am, I tell them (i.e., “Oh, I’m fine.”), and then–listen to this!–I ask them how they are (e.g., “How about you?”)! Good, eh? I also say things like, “That necklace is so pretty,” and “How is your mother?” I have also found that that sophisticated maneuver that some people do of bringing food or wine to a party can be replicated in my own life; so, now, like, I bring food or wine to parties.
I have also gained the skill of asking stupid questions. When I was younger, if I was uncertain about whether a steamroller were headed my way, I would sit there and be crushed to a pulp, rather than risk looking silly by asking someone. Today, however, I am more or less impervious to feeling stupid. I think I’ve just felt so stupid for so long that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. If I’m not sure, I will ask the person at Home Depot, “Is this wire cutter for cutting wire?” If I’m at the bank and have temporarily lost the ability to add two numbers together, I will just dump my papers and my little wadded up dollar bills on the counter and say, “Can you do this for me?” And they will, because it’s their job. I will call 911 because there is a big fat Canada goose in the road outside my house, and you know what? I’ll tell the dispatcher my real name, because that thing was going to cause an accident. Or maybe it wasn’t. Who cares?
Other benefits of making it this far:
If something (say, Christmas) goes wrong one year, I have noticed that there’s always next year.
I can now stop biting my nails whenever I want.
I mostly know what to do in bed. (This one is somewhat related to the one about not being afraid to ask stupid questions.)
On the other hand, I have learned not to ask questions if I really don’t want to know the answer.
I have learned –well, I’m still learning– that it’s okay to be misunderstood sometimes. (Thank you, mother internet, for teaching me this difficult lesson.) There are times when people are going to think what they want to think, and you can kill yourself trying to show them your point of view . . . or you can just skip it. The latter is much easier on you and on your family. And on your nails.
These are the kinds of things that more than make up for realizing that I’m well on my way down that road to The End, and that the days when I feel droopy, achy, and encumbered are probably not going to go away. I know, I know, I’m only 35. You’re probably laughing at me for acting like I’m ancient. But seriously. I can’t even cross my legs anymore? That is old.
Still waiting for that precipitous drop-off in fertility, though. In my family, 48 is the new 35–so maybe I still have more to learn.
But how about you? Whatever age you’re at, what’s your favorite part about getting older?
*Dear protestants: this is a joke. I don’t know any Catholics who actually believe that it’s fine to sin, because you can just go to confession and X it out. Also, if you have any questions about why we confess to a priest instead of straight to God, I can answer them, I guess; but I warn you, we Catholics read the Bible, too, and can play Gospel Quote Gotcha® with the best of you.
**which I didn’t actually experience.