“Happy Bir– Oh, Hell, Whatever”
I’m turning forty on Sunday. My dad would have been seventy-two that same day, had he not passed away four years ago. Suddenly, four years ago, I stopped enjoying a shared birthday and now face a lifetime of solo celebration. Since 2003, even as I greet a new year for myself, I have mostly been thinking, “Dad would have been 68, 69, 70, 71, 7- today.”
In ten years, I’ll turn fifty, thinking, “Dad would have turned 82 today.”
But as much as I miss him, I’m also okay with the fact that he died. His body was exhausted, and it was time. I’ll not take on the circle of life. Loss is going to happen.
And as much as I feel like I should have a freak-out about reaching such a seminal age, the “Big 4-0,” I’m pretty much okay with that too. Thank The Goddess of Wishes Fulfilled, but I don’t feel any internal panic about my life; I’m immensely content.
Certainly, if I’d never met Groom, had his kids, moved to a city I love, found a career that allows me flexiblity and autonomy, well then I’d be a gooey, blubbering heap on the sidewalk right now. If I’d ever felt babe-alicious, I’m sure I’d be feeling some loss of my powers right about now, too, yearning for those days when I could put on stilettos and my tightest jeans and head out to pull at the bar. However, once I hit eleven years old, I pretty much had the body of a mother of three, so now, if I would just give birth to one more kid, my figure would actually make sense. In short, I’ve never experienced the heady thrill of being “hot,” so continuing my lifelong simmer seems doable.
All of this said, I do have to admit that I’m feeling this ageing thing. I still run everyday, but now my hamstrings ache around the clock. I just don’t recover like I used to. As well, I sit here, typing at my keyboard, and when I look down, I see my mother’s hands at work. When did that happen? Even more, I just don’t crave Mad Dog 20/20, Jagermeister, and Thunderbird like I used to. It’s all “Where’s my Riesling?” nowadays.
I know I’m growing older because I’m sore, wrinkled, and finicky.
If there were one thing I could change, it’d be the wrinkles. They’re just so present, everywhere, creating runways down my neck for French Onion soup to course to my chest; providing crevices for dirt to take up residence; causing all my tighter t-shirts to bunch up most unattractively. Wrinkles make me a mess.
But. Then. If I start to stare at them, at the cross-linked mountain of lines on each knuckle of my hand, I find myself fascinated. There’s a certain beauty to this emerging topography. I realize, as I continue to stare, that I would love looking at someone else who had my skin. I may dislike my own crow’s feet, as they signal a kind of breakdown or diminishment, but if I love them on others and note their
…well, you get the point. If I can love these crinkles on others–in fact, I don’t trust people over a certain age who are wrinkle-free (yes, I’m talking to you, Susan Lucci)–then maybe I can learn to love them on myself.
But maybe I can take a carefully-lit black-and-white photo of myself and learn to look at it objectively, as though I am not me but rather some complex, enigmatic slice of beauty that can be hung on the wall. In a wonderful moment of irony, I’ve realized perhaps the key to self-love is to objectify myself.
Most of all, what I know, as my brain creaks forward–lubricated by Omega-3 gel caps everyday–covered by my crow’s feet (FedEX me anything with the word “Retinoid” on the label, woncha?) is this:
I’d give away all the pills, ungents, and facial peels in the world just to watch my dad’s mottled, veiny, wrinkled hand stroking the hair of one of my children. Funny how I never questioned his beauty.