That woman there in the photo on the right, that’s me at the start of my 38th birthday celebration. Doesn’t she look happy? I was! In spite of the snow fall that January night, quite a few of my friends had managed to make it to my party and I had my special birthday martini glass. What you don’t, and won’t, see in the photos are the many empty shot glasses and the drunk and sobbing mess of a Libby at the end of the night. All of the alcohol had freed all of the fear and uncertainty that I’d been feeling since turning 37.
See, when turning 37 the year before, I had managed to talk myself into believing that 37 was still mid-30s, but I saw the end. I knew that I’d be entering new territory on my next birthday and spent much of the next year trying to figure out what the 38 was supposed to look like. I’d watch beauty and fitness infomercials where they’d interview women and list their age on the screen, and I’d wonder to myself, “Is that what 38 looks like? Is that what I’m supposed to look like? Is that how old I look????” I didn’t feel almost 38, but I also didn’t know what, if anything, it was supposed to feel like, so the fact that I had a mini-breakdown on my birthday wasn’t at all surprising.
That day, over four years ago, seems like a lifetime ago. I stopped the big celebrations after 38, and this year, my 42nd, was brought in with a quiet dinner and drink (yes, that’s singular drink). The questions I had at 37, “what does (insert age here) look like?” remain unanswered.
I’d like to say that it’s a question that only pops in my head on rare occasions, but that’s not true. There’s a disparity between what I see in the mirror and what my mind thinks when I see the number 42, for example, today…
I was invited to sit on a panel about Hispanics and mobile use. As it’s a consumer panel, gender, age, and marital status are important factors in choosing the panelists. When the organizers asked my age and status, I didn’t hesitate sharing. It didn’t dawn on me for a second, that the information would be shared, though it makes sense. I received the panelists’ guide via email today, and there I was:
“Libby (42 / Single/ No kids)”
Daggers disguised as parentheses!
My eyes focused on the 42 and my mind asked, “Who are you? How did you get here? Are you even real???”
I felt that if I stared at it long enough, it would speak and explain itself to me, and tell me that I’m wrong in what I imagine it should mean. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I don’t acknowledge my age. If asked, I don’t hide or lie about it—what would be the point?— but that doesn’t mean that I want to shout it from the rooftops either. I try not to discuss it if it can be helped, because, though my fears may be unfounded, I think people make assumptions about the number itself. I know that I do to an extent, so I can’t be the only one.
But no matter how long I stared, it didn’t reveal a thing, so I click back to Facebook for a distraction, and saw a link to 40 Effed Up things About Being 40 and you know, I thought, “Ohhhh yay” as I sighed and read down the list.
Reading glasses √
Days of the week vitamin holder √
Back problems √ (though in my defense those started in my 20s, yeah…that didn’t help my case, did it?)
And then I said fuck it and stop. I didn’t want to play this game anymore because it’s not one I would win.
Instead, I decided to look at some recent pictures of myself, and compare 42 to 38 and while I still have no clue what it’s all supposed to mean, that number thing, from 38 to 42 was not so bad, Libby (42 / Single / No Kids), not so bad at all.