It's not an unwelcome thought. I used to look at my face and immediately see "fat," or "ugly," or "unlovable," or "unhappy." I don't do that any more (except on the occasional day when I do). "Tired," though not entirely positive, is refreshing in a way. And yet, I immediately flash to that line from The Birdcage, exquisitely delivered by Nathan Lane: "'You look tired' means 'you look old,' and 'you look rested' means 'you've had collagen'."
To give myself the benefit of the doubt, I have good reason to look tired. My sleeps-like-a-log son has suddenly decided to start sleeping like a baby: that is to say, waking up every few hours, crying. I'm still not entirely recovered from my pregnancy (vitamin deficiencies can take a long time to be resolved, it turns out). The move, the holidays, and a new almost-job have all taken their toll...
Or, I could just be getting old.
I'm 27, which, as Rob likes to point out, is 90% of 30.
* * *
Me: Why does 27 seem so much older than 26? The jump from 25 to 26 was a lot smaller.
Rob: [says nothing, busy pretending to be Batman in Arkham Asylum]
Me: Do you have this at all?
Rob: Well, it's your late twenties. It's your early-late twenties. Twenty-six is your late-mid-twenties.
Me: [making the putting-on-mascara face as I do mental math, trying to remember how this works] Wait, so what's twenty, then?
Rob: Twenty. We can only cover nine.
Rob: Don't you remember this? We worked out this whole system based on Hedwig.
[Rob is referring to a moment in Hedwig and the Angry Inch where Hedwig begins a story by recalling, "One day in the late mid-eighties, I was in my early late-twenties."]
Me: Oh, I remember it. I'm just trying to remember how it works.
Rob: You're going from your late mid-twenties, to your early-late twenties. Much older.
* * *
"The Scoring Twenties"
Early-early twenties (21).
Mid-early twenties (22).
Late-early twenties (23).
Early-late twenties (27).
Mid-late twenties (28).
Late-late twenties (29).
* * *
I find it much too easy to fantasize about what I would be doing if I were far away from here (maybe because I find it much too easy to fantasize, period). Where would I be if I didn't have a child? Weren't married? Had actually gone on to study video art or film theory or any of the esoterica that consumed me during my mid-late teens through mid-early twenties?
I have no fucking idea. And while I like to explore the fantasy, lately I have trouble convincing myself that another reality would be better than this one.
Last year on my birthday, I was terribly depressed and fighting hard against continuing to feel depressed. Nothing good happened today, I wrote, hurting so much at having to force smiles and laughs for the sake of my little boy.
Today was a little short on good, too. Westley acted out a lot, experimenting with aggression, trying on "naughty" for size, getting scolded several times and earning himself a good, old-fashioned time-out. It was a "no nap" day. Westley fell in the backyard while I was selfishly staring into space. Rob was sick. And I had to go to the dentist.
And somehow, it was still a truly happy birthday. Because this year, the smiles aren't forced.
The birthday card I received from my mother was one of the nicest, simplest ones I've seen. The inside reads, "You already have the birthday--this wishes you the happy."
I'm finding my happy again. I'm not even having to look very far for it. And I can't imagine a better birthday present than that.