Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thirtynine: Feb. 13, 2011

As I close in on thirtyten, this column about turning 39 rings particularly true.

Happy 15th anniversary of my 24th birthday to me
    I will be 39 years old in one week, and I am here to tell you that I do not see how that is even remotely possible.
    It sounds, in fact, completely preposterous to me. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be turning 24 again. That was the last age that I turned that felt about right. The rest have seemed progressively more unlikely and disconnected from who I think I am.
    But, OK, I do have a 10-year-old son and a 6-year-old son and marriage that will soon turn 12 and a cat who’s 13. So probably I really am about to be 39. Another sure sign that I’m about to be 39 is that I step into a classroom full of college students twice a week to teach them about media writing, and most of them are about half my age.
    When I tell them stories about my years as a reporter, and I make references to things that JUST HAPPENED (very recently, like in 1999 or 2002) their faces reflect confusion and maybe a little pity for that old teacher lady. Then they have to listen to my geriatric rambling about how this JUST HAPPENED (in 1999 or 2002) and they’re doing the math in their heads and thinking ‘I was 6 when that happened. Why would I remember that?’
    My husband has slightly more practice than I do at getting older, so I asked him when I’m going to feel like the age I’m supposed to feel. (Shouldn’t 39 feel like something other than 24 with a 15-year snooze button? Shouldn’t I understand annuities and have some kind of basic knowledge of how to make a martini? What’s even in those things, anyway?)
    He thought that was a funny question. He assures me that those age numbers stopped making sense to him a long time ago, and that they will never again make sense to me.
    I think part of the power of enduring relationships is that you’re kind of frozen in time for the other person. I was 24 when my husband and I started dating. He’s been looking at this face for 15 years. And I look to him about the same as I did then. In fact, maybe I look a little better because he loves me even more now. (He knows what to say. He is not dumb.)
    And, in all seriousness, he doesn’t look any different to me now than he did on our first date in May 1996. His hair is a lot shorter. He often wears glasses these days. Other than that, his face is the same dear face it’s always been.
    Of course, another part of the power of enduring relationships is their ability to support mutual delusions, and the strength of the tacit understanding that no one engaged in said delusions is allowed to make any references to reality.
    “You look exactly the same as you did when we met,” Jim says.
    “I DO look exactly the same as I did when we met, don’t I?” Mary replies. “And you actually look a little younger than you did back then because your hair is shorter.”
    And everyone has a happy birthday.

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