Age Rage

Commentary: Alphabet Soup

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Well, it was supposed to happen, really — I never hoped to not make it to 35. But as far as the aging process involved with turning 35, which I did on July 25, that most assuredly wasn’t supposed to happen.

And I wasn’t supposed to ever leave the 18-34 demographic, definitely not. I was that demographic. That demographic was me. A truer fit was never known.

Achieving the age of 35 is a chronologically loaded experience, and not just because the marketing industry has declared it so. It’s a particularly harsh experience for the nulliparous woman — that means a lady who has never given birth, for those of you reaching for your dictionaries — who wants to someday have a child. According to medical professionals, 35 is the age at which a pregnancy automatically becomes “high risk,” regardless of the health of the woman or other circumstances of the pregnancy.

It’s a little daunting to one day wake up and know that if I became pregnant, as I hope to someday do, I will be high risk by virtue of my date of birth. It creates a somewhat artificial pressure (given the number of people I know who’ve had kids at 35 and beyond) to rush into parenthood when it’s clear I’m not ready. I can’t even keep my house clean; how am I supposed to give a kid a good home? Luckily the pets don’t invite their friends over for playdates.

At the other end of this spectrum is the fact that in my familial experience, 35 can carry bigger burdens. My mother turned 35 exactly 13 days after her first granddaughter was born. For someone who feels unprepared for parenthood, the notion of becoming a grandparent at this stage in life blows my mind completely away.

But there’s more. Last I checked, 35 was the midway point between 30 (which still felt young) and 40 (which seems indisputably grown-up). Worse, 35 is halfway to 70, which is a full 20 years after one qualifies for AARP membership. (Math is hard, as Talking Barbie so eloquently pointed out, but I know that means the aforementioned membership is only 15 years away.)

In other words, I’m getting old. I could run for president now, if I were so inclined; alas, I am not. I can’t even keep my house clean; how am I supposed to stand up to media scrutiny during the campaign?

As far as major milestone birthdays go, my 35th was pretty nice. I spent the day before my birthday at a baseball game with my best friend, and even though the game lasted for 14 innings and we lost, it was a great day. I spent my actual birthday working at home so I could hang out with our new kitten, who is a bundle of joy (and insanity, naturally). I spent the evening with people who care about me and through the course of the day received dozens of birthday greetings from friends and family near and far.

I certainly feel blessed.

But I also certainly feel old. My favorite birthday ever was a slightly less harrowing milestone; it was my 25th, which also happened on July 25. I remember being uncomfortable that I was midway between 20 (which still felt young) and 30 (which floated spookily in the distance). I had broken up with my first serious girlfriend at the end of the previous year (when I was still a tender 24 and a half) and confided to my best friend that one of the things that bothered me most about the break-up was the idea that I might not get any presents for my birthday.

Lyn assured me I would get presents. She took it a step further; she promised to give me 25 presents for my 25th birthday on July 25. A few months later, as we lesbians tend to do, I found myself in a new relationship — with the woman who’s still by my side 10 years later — and my birthday present fear was assuaged. But Lyn came through nonetheless, giving me 25 individually wrapped gifts and a memory to last a lifetime. I remember with special fondness the 25th gift, a home-baked cherry pie.

That was also the year that my friends and my girlfriend tried to throw a surprise party for me, which backfired intensely and involved all sorts of drama and heartache that, in retrospect, is just really hilarious to me and (with hindsight) another reason that year was my favorite birthday ever. I’m not sure it’s as funny to my friends as it is to me, but I hope so. For some reason, no one has tried surprising me with a party since, although perhaps they’re doing that delayed-surprise thing for my 35th.

I’ve finally reached the point where birthdays are a little bittersweet. There’s serious aging involved now, and that’s tough to wrap my head around. But I’ve always been a huge fan of my own birthday, having given it its own special name (“Krismas in July”) and promoting it relentlessly to anyone in earshot. I used to start the Krismas countdown pretty early in the year, but a few years ago my partner Kim laid down the law: no talk of Krismas until after May 31, which is her birthday. Somehow, that’s getting easier as I’m less excited about the ramifications of reaching the July 25 box on the calendar each year, although I still have my slips.

But ’tis the season. Although it’s late, here’s hoping everyone had a very merry Krismas in ’05. If you need to know where to send my 35 presents, just ask.

Kristina Campbell remembers life before cell phones, the Internet as we know it today, MTV and compact discs. She remembers the bicentennial, Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the eruption of Mount St. Helens and people wearing those ridiculous “I shot JR” pins. Those who qualify can reminisce with her at kcampbell@metroweekly.com. Those who don’t can keep it to themselves.

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