A Very Happy Unbirthday To You

August 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Me!

It’s my birthday today, and I’m one of the rare people I know who actually likes birthdays.  So yay!  Happy day to me!  It’s funny to me that at some unspecified point – after you can get your drivers license and before you are old enough to run for congress – people stop asking you how old you are.  Or they may ask in a hushed and somber tone, “May I ask …?”  At least I have seen this habit with the women in my life.  It seems to be somewhat less true for men.

People, I am 35 years old today.  I earned every darn year and age spot that I have thus far, and hope to get many more behind me before I’m done. (Well, more years.  And I can accept that age spots are part of the package.)  I appreciate why folks aren’t always comfortable sharing their age, especially if they happen to be an actress in Hollywood over the age of twelve trying to get a job.  For some reason I’ve never felt the need to be demure about it.  Perhaps it’s because I was always somewhat of a pipsqueak growing up and I couldn’t wait to tell someone proudly that I was in fact 13, not 12.  Over the years it just became reflexive to say my age.  Just as it seems reflexive to so many people I know to keep quiet about it.  So please understand that I am not saying I am better than anyone for being so open about my age.  It’s just a quirk about me, one of the zillion things that makes me who I am.  And with this quirk I have a heightened awareness about this funny cultural practice of hiding our age like that family secret about the dog going to live on the farm.

Over the years, when I would respond to the question about my age I would add, “Oh, I don’t mind telling you.”  And oh the responses I have gotten…

“Well that’s because you are still young.  You’ll change.”

“If I were old enough I would also say it, too. I’m so embarrassed being so young at this job.”

“Well, good for you.  That’s brave, I guess.”

Consider the Alternative

People, any chance we can stop acting like it’s cute to not say our age?  It has become an unexamined habit that sends unintended messages.

By not sharing our age, are we implying to those coming up behind us that there is something wrong with our continued existence?  Are we embarrassed that we dare to still draw breath after our first gray hair?  Or that there is more value in one age than another?   You couldn’t convince me to be 23 again for all the free shoes in the world.  I’m glad to have done it, but what a confusing time!

Age is what it is.  As we get older, our stories grow more complicated, filled with joys, and fill with regrets.  There is no way around it.  But here we all are.  We are all on this journey together.  And as trite as the next thing may be, I always get tickled by remembering that each and every one of us has never been this old before.  Everyone is new to the age they are now.  With each age and stage, things shift.  Some things get easier.  Some things get harder.  But that’s the deal.  Almost everyone who has ever had the chance to live is no longer here.  And here we all are, a beautiful mix of ages and faces and bodies and dreams and hopes and challenges and even the occasional moment of joy.  Life is complicated.  That is the nature of the journey.  And even if the journey feels just too much at times take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass.  For now, perhaps try to enjoy knowing that today is one more day that you can take a slow deep breath, hear the birds singing outside, and try again.

So happy birthday to me.  And a very happy unbirthday to you, unless you happen to be Richard Gere, Debbie Gibson, or my mom (Happy Birthday, mom).

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