In Sex and The City season 4, episode 1, Carrie Bradshaw is celebrating her 35th birthday. She gets herself dolled up and runs in the rain to a fancy restaurant only to discover none of her friends are there to meet her. She’s alone. She finally gives up, birthday cake in hand and carries her sorry ass home, getting abused by NYC road workers on the way. Later she wails to Miranda, “I’m 35!” in the drawn out, melodramatic way that only SJP can. And I remember watching and thinking, “Yes, you really are old Carrie, you poor, poor, pathetic thing…”
Yet, here I am on the brink of my 35th birthday, and I feel like going back in time and slapping that self-assured little twenty-something (couch potato) version of myself and screaming, “She’s not fucking old! She’s in the priiiime of her liiifffee!” Hmm, perhaps SJP isn’t the only one capable of melodrama after all?
So am I old now? I know you’ve heard this drivel all before; it’s nothing new. We’ve been obsessing about age since cave women realised they could study their withered complexions in puddles. But I feel compelled to raise this topic again because this time it’s personal. For about a year now, strangers have been treating me differently.
On a recent lunch date with my friend, we decided to drop in to a coffee shop to grab ourselves a take away. The young barista, who we suspect was on drugs, (he deserves this allegation), felt it necessary to tell us that men in HIS generation cook too. “I made these brownies myself! I know it’s hard to believe. Things have changed – in MY generation men are the better chefs…” We almost choked on our completely unremarkable cappuccinos. WTF do you mean “your generation?!” Did we look SO OLD that you felt the need to categorise us a whole generation older? To think, men that cook?! My word!
I went back to my car feeling completely deflated (literally and figuratively); had I really changed so much? When was I suddenly on the outside looking in?
No one can deny that we live in a world that celebrates the young and tolerates the old. I remember doing it myself; smiling condescendingly as I watched the ‘oldies’ dance at weddings or night clubs. “Oh bless!” (Again, slap that girl).
So I can’t help but wonder… What do you do when you get to an age that you, not too long ago, considered utterly ‘past it’?
I know I’m not old, but I’m not young anymore and somewhere along the line I’ve started to think a little differently. For instance, I have felt compelled, on the odd occasion, to cover a scantily clad girl with a jacket to stop her from being unfairly perceived. And much to my utter disgust, I have recently gained an aversion to loud music in retail stores… “Is that really necessary?” So what now? Have I tipped into middle age and am only now realising it? A young shop assistant did call me ma’am the other day? That wasn’t nice. Was the world trying to tell me something?
Yes, the world was trying to tell me something; you don’t look YOUNG ANYMORE! Say what now?! At the risk of sounding completely superficial and vain… NOOOOO!
I don’t look young anymore. And really, what was I expecting? I’ve never been a health freak and I enjoy wine waaaay more than I should. Was I really expecting to be one of those lucky few that maintained a youthful glow well into their forties? I’m someone who has never moisturised, and when asked by a well-meaning Ella Bache assistant what my skin care routine was, I replied, “Oh you know, I’m so busy… just wash in the shower..” And prayed she wouldn’t notice my unwashed hair (because I kept forgetting to buy shampoo). I’m one of THOSE girls. I like to look nice but don’t care much for the upkeep. It’s too time-consuming, and I have THINGS to do (like watch Real Housewives). So I only really have myself to blame and that asshole called MR AGEING (the feminist in me has made him male). So what now? WHAT NOW?!
Get over it.
So I’m trying to make a mental adjustment. I’m trying to tell myself, and truly believe it, that there’s nothing wrong with looking your age. It’s okay to be in your 30s, 40s, 50s… and look like you are. I do know that you don’t need to be young to be beautiful – I only have to look as far as my friends and family to see that. We all hate the double standard (fuck you, George Clooney) but it’s high time I just learnt to get over it and accept it. This is the happy-zen-completely-comfortable-with-myself place I’m going to be in by my 35th birthday. I promise.
But I’m still 34, and this completely age neurotic, superficial, not-at-all-comfortable-looking-older dirt bag, plans on partaking in as much Botox as she can physically stand and afford as I get older. I want to be one of those women who can’t emote AT ALL, so next time a young barista insults me, he’ll be met with a face so expressionless, he’ll think I’m positively aloof (and cool!).
So my 35th birthday… I don’t have any solid plans yet. But one thing is for certain – I don’t plan on walking home, cake in hand, feeling utterly sorry for myself. I plan on eating that birthday cake (when let’s face it, Carrie never would) and dancing ALL night long! And this time, I won’t be giving anybody condescending looks!