Tuesday, March 01, 2011

just a number

But you know
The years make things different

When I turned 21, I actually did it at someone else's birthday party. It was close to midnight, and a friend asked who was of legal age. When I said I would be in 17 minutes, he insisted on driving me to the store...and then he insisted on waiting until 12:01...and then he insisted the clerk card me for my beer purchase.

After that, I don't really remember much about most of my birthdays. I understand why many people want to be sentimental about such things, and I kinda wanna be sentimental myself...but there is just very little of most of them that stick in my mind. There have been parties, there have been meetings at the bar, there have been times where I've just stayed at home and watched television. The one that sticks out most in my mind was when it was just me, my lovely spousal unit, and a vampire friend at Howard's Club H. I remember it because, after my spousal unit asked me three times if I wanted a delivery from The Cookie Jar, I finally asked her, "you want cookies, don't you?" She did that enormously cute pseudo-guilt look by way of reply. The cookies ended up being very tasty, though.

Moreover, my age itself hardly sticks with me. When I was 33, I remembered my age for two reasons: the play speed of an LP and the back of a Rolling Rock bottle. I remembered 34 because of a line from a Goober and the Peas song...of course, the song was about stalking, so I tried really hard not to think about it all that closely. I associated 35 with The Jayhawks song "Big Star" because of the line "a has-been at a mere 35"; that song ultimately is more optimistic than it sounds, but I still didn't think about it all that closely.

After that, though, whenever someone asked me my age, I would have to stop and think about it...and, embarrassing enough, do the math before I answered. While I realize some people might look at this as a sign of my encroaching senility, I've just never been that good at remembering some basic, simple facts. Hell, I still have to look at my hands most of the time to remember which side is my left and which side is my right.

The bigger issue is that I simply don't feel all that different. Back when I was still working in the pizza industry, I was sharing a cigarette with my supervisor, and we were talking about age. He took a drag off his smoke, looked into space, and said, "hell, Mike, I still have to stop and realize I'm not 22." When I was 25, this struck me as funny. Now, though, I can completely relate.

There was a time when I started to feel old. It was when I was working at another pizza place, and all the employees were teenies. No surprise there...the restaurant industry feeds on the young. However, I became acutely aware they were all younger than I only because they were all listening to more current music than I. I realized I was up against a decision. I could become a person whose references, experiences, and culture all came from his high school years (you know, the people who don't own an album that came out later than their 24th birthday). Or I could just dive into the world and experience it as I see fit...which might require me to reach a little bit outside my comfort zone. When I started to look outside of myself, age really quit being an issue.

Today, I turned 40. There's no tears, there's no freakout. There's really little significance at all for me. However, there's something better. When I woke up today, there was an awesome card and some organic dark chocolate from my beautiful preggie spousal unit waiting for me. There was about 40 e-mails and notifications wishing me a happy birthday, all of whom I appreciate more than I say. Tonight, there will be a good dinner and drinks with friends. If getting older brings all this, well, that is indeed alright.

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