My ex-husband recently asked me if I felt old. I had messaged him about how a family member, someone he would only remember as a little child, had just turned 30. He was setting me up, wanting me to tell him, “Yes, I feel soooooo old! You?” To this, he would respond with something crafted and esoteric about his eternal youth, because he likes to one-up anyone who might have something vaguely cliché to say about life. But I didn’t tell him yes or no. Because I really don’t know if I “feel” old. I have a tight ass and the physical stamina of a woman half my age. I don’t “feel” old, I suppose. You know what I do feel? Desperate.
Let me tell you about my impending forty-fifth birthday if you haven’t been there already in your own desperate world:
Forty-five times two makes ninety. How many of us are going to live to see ninety? For practical and also spiritual reasons I have a hunch I’m not. That means that, on my forty-fifth birthday, I will be well past the halfway point in my life. I got fewer than forty-five more years to make my life count, to feel like I shined that flashlight into every corner. Subtract twenty of those forty-some remaining years for failing health and dementia, and you know what? I have twenty-five more years to live. IF I’m lucky.
For anyone who’s lived to see her fortieth birthday, you know that ten years can fly by in an instant. I can’t believe, for instance, that it’s been ten years since I’ve enjoyed the effects of a good cocaine high. Ten years? Yup. And the kids—the kids spring up and grow into little adults in the course of ten years. They turn from gurgling, human larvae into thinking, feeling, creative beings who will remember how crazy you are for the rest of their lives. Ten years, to them, and to those of us in our thirties and our twenties and our teens, is an epic. After forty, ten years is a chapter in a mediocre novel. Do I “feel” old? Nope. Girl, I am fucking old.
And if my argument needs more proof, well, look in the mirror. Time leaves its marks on even the most fastidious and young-feeling graduates of four decades on earth. I can tighten my ass, but I can’t tighten those sags in my neck without surgery. Maybe surgery will enable the forties to be the new thirties. Or maybe the forties are just the forties, like I’ve been sayin’ all along.