I have no patience with people who lie about their age, those vain hopers who shave a couple of years off in pursuit of an edge over suitors, employers, peers. They are fools of the highest order.
Because they’re doing it wrong. If you’re going to lie about your age, lie big. Round up!
I, for example, am incredibly well-preserved. Fine pale Irish skin, with the merest hint of laugh lines. Only a pebble or so heavier than my university weight. Gravity-defying bosom largely unravaged by years of patient service to my dairy-fed children. Slender dancer’s ankles and shapely calves the envy of the non-bicycling classes.
You’d never guess I’m well into my fifties.
I’m not. But admit it, I look amazing for 53. You cannot deny it.
OK, maybe there is such a thing as too big a lie. I confess, I’m actually 30.
Cough in base thirteen cough.
For another month. All right, week. Oh, if you insist, for another three days, and yes two if you’re reading this in New Zealand. (Thank goodness for the international dateline -- for once, time is, as the increasingly venerable poets wrote, on my side. Yes it is.)
Hence this little moment in the public confessional. Forgive me, but I believe it is de rigeur, and perhaps even a bit therapeutic, to have a wee hysterical-numerical breakdown at this point in one’s life. One never thinks it will happen to one, and then one day, one is suddenly staring one’s onrushing fifth decade in the face. Or is ostentatiously ignoring it while it tugs at one’s sleeve murmuring gravely “Don’t I know you?”
Or worse, Terry Pratchett style: “DON’T I KNOW YOU?” Et in Arcadia ego, memento mori, etc.
That is what’s so challenging about this one, isn't it? Turning thirty was a blessed relief, a liberation from the weight of having to be a child prodigy, to have done it all while unlined and unburdened. Mozart, Sylvia Plath, Jesus Christ – nice to see ya, now I don’t have to be ya. Phew.
But this birthday arrives as a kick in the pants. I say, what’s that irritable honking noise? Oh god, it’s time’s wingèd chariot parked out the front and leaning on the horn. Go away! Meanwhile, the cuckoo clock has started chirping midnight. Make it stop! Chop chop, tick tock, get a wriggle on.
All you can do is joke about it. (Knock knock. Who's there? Interrupting 40th birthday. Interrupting 40th b- oh.)
Trust me, I know this is an entirely artificial, trumped-up, 21st century, first-world, base-ten “trauma.” It’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a pair of sexy leather boots, some caramel cupcakes, a great deal of champagne, and the good wishes of sweet friends and dear family. All birthdays are lovely, and I’m unspeakably lucky to be experiencing this one at all, let alone in such propitious circumstances.
This is the truth: the only thing worse than getting older is the alternative. After recent sobering news in my own family, I’m happily reconciled to my new round number. Welcoming it, even. I just think if it’s all right with you, I’ll do it in French, because everything sounds so much hotter in French.
Femme d’un certain âge: c’est moi.