The first problem with my birthday is that it’s too close to Thanksgiving.
Sometimes, the worst happens and it’s actually on Thanksgiving. So I have to spend the day acting like a good sport and pretending I don’t mind sharing my special day with a big, greasy bird. (No wonder I eat so much on Thanksgiving. I am starved for the spotlight.)
By the time my birthday cake gets hauled out, everybody else is halfway drunk and staggering from carbohydrate overdose and watching some crummy football game out of the corner of their eyes. I mean, add this up with the fact I am one-quarter Indian and am still a little upset about having the country taken away from us and how nobody ever apologizes or pays reparations — and it’s really pretty amazing I can get it together to blow out the candles and gorge a little more.
But I digress. Hell, I always digress. Digression is my life. Apres moi, no more digression.
Anyway, the second problem with my birthday is that all these years are starting to add up and I’m not sure how to categorize myself. This year, I turned 63, which doesn’t sound much older than 62 and isn’t going to freeze my property taxes (that will happen when I turn 65 and believe me, I plan to celebrate).
But, still. Sixty-three! It has that distinct whiff of No Spring Chicken about it. I am either Young-Old or Old-Young, depending on whether you incline toward the alphabetical or prefer more spontaneity in your categories. Having grudgingly embraced being middleaged in my 40s, I am now desperately clinging to it, about to be hurled over the precipice in a couple of years.
Aging — it’s exhilarating, terrifying, oddly comforting for someone like me who thought she was going to die in her forties. I am fine with it, I am a nervous wreck about it (the future! the future!), I am — unexpectedly — happier than I’ve ever been. I loathe the chipper, lamebrained notion that 60 is the new 40, but I am, let’s face it, a little obsessed with the notion of aging well — whatever the hell that is.
I am so obsessed by it that I am even working on a book about it, which is tentatively titled Puckered! The Subversive Woman’s Guide to Aging With Wit, Wine, Drama, Good-Humored Bitchiness, Perspective and the Occasional Good Cry with my good friend, the artist and cartoonist Marian Henley. (If you have to ask why we’re calling it Puckered!, you have probably never checked out the skin tone of a woman older than 60, but never mind.)
I would tell you that it all gets better the older you get, but I’m only 63, so what do I know? Also, one thing about aging does impress me: I just don’t have the time to mouth that kind of moronic bullshit at my age. Some things are better, a few things are worse, and occasionally — when good friends sicken and die — it sucks.
But right now, I’m healthy, I have a wonderful family and friends, my birthday didn’t fall on Thanksgiving this year, and someday soon my property taxes will get frozen. Carpe the rest of it, however long.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)