A few days ago, I said to my husband, “So I’m about to turn 44. What the hell is that?”
Barely looking up from the curry he was stirring, he replied, “You’ll be divisible by 11. That’s what 44 is.”
Aside from smartass responses and the fact that my husband recently wore a pot of curry on his head, I’m left wondering why I’m giving weight and time to the arbitrary thing that is age. When I was 12, I felt 35. When I was 26, I freaked out about feeling old. When I was 30, I felt like my life was starting anew. When I was 40, I just wanted to thrash around the First Avenue floor one more time to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s version of “Higher Ground.”
So I don’t know how much I buy into this age business.
Then again, age defines us. When I was twelve, I was well beyond being the first of my friends to menstruate. When I was 26, I was a regular menstruator with no hope of pregnancy. At 30, I was feeling adamant about the need to get prenant but spied nary a seed. When I was 40, I was completely past pregnancy, still menstruating regularly, confederate to my husband becoming what he calls “a eunuch.” Now, at 44, I’ve got the eunuch, the regular periods, the results of the pregnancies, and no hint of menopause. Should I want to get pregnant, I probably could. More than likely, I’d miscarry 4 out of 5 pregnancies, and the one carried to fruition would pop out with an uncountable mass of toes.
Fertility-wise, I could, but I won’t.
Unless Henry Rollins suddenly announces he needs an incubator for his child. For that project, I could work up enthusiasm.
Beyond the whole uterus issue, there’s the other business of “What’s life about?” In general, this question chafes, too. I’m not a huge fan of Life with Purpose and Why Are We Here talk. Call it existentialism, call it small-mindedness, but I generally work best under a model of what is, is and here we are, so there you go.
But if I’m not looking for some larger meaning–if I’m guided by a feeling that we all should just be–then how come I’m puzzling over 44?
Maybe it’s because I’m neither clearly working towards nor pushing against anything. It’s all good. I’ve got my jigsaw puzzle and my Abigail Adams biography. I play a little backgammon and look at trees. I fold clothes. Then I crack some eggs. Hmmm. 44.
Wondering if anyone else besides me and Gail Sheehy gets all talky and bemused by the stages of life, I tossed out a quick update on Facebook the other night. I quite liked some of the responses (some of you will recognize yourselves, names changed):
Jocelyn…Needs a little help here. So my 20s were about college and getting a career going; my 30s were about marriage and kids; and my 40s, as I creep upwards, are about WHAT? I’m a bit confuddled today about this thing called The Middle Place.
I hang laundry:
I hand over money:
I open my maw and let sounds pour out:
Yes, nothing’s changed. Yet I find myself taken today, as I tick off another year, with Arthur Schopenauer’s notion that
The first forty years of life give us the text: the next thirty supply the commentary.
I like it.
Hmmm, but then you hit 70, and what’s that?
Not even divisible by 11.