Thursday, January 7, 2010

Self-Portrait at 27

When I look at my face in the mirror this evening, after dinner, I see "tired." I look at the girl-woman looking back at me, her mascara flaking off under her lower lashes, her chronically-chapped lips, and think, She looks tired.
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.

Me: Huh.

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"

Twenty.
Early-early twenties (21).
Mid-early twenties (22).
Late-early twenties (23).
Early-mid-twenties (24).
Mid-mid-twenties (25).
Late-mid-twenties (26).
Early-late twenties (27).
Mid-late twenties (28).
Late-late twenties (29).
Thirty.

(Rinse...repeat...)
* * *

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.

.....................................

4 comments:

Allison the Meep said...

Instead of saying how great you look in that photo, I think it's much funnier to say, "You got a purty mouth."

Also, is that your wrist? And is that a real tattoo on it? Badassery! I love it.

My late-late twenties are creeping up at the end of February, 2 days after my baby is due. She very well could come on my birthday, which is weird. I used to think I'd have kind of a freak out over getting closer to 30. When I turned 26, I had a freaking meltdown complete with depression and panic attacks that made me think I was dying and needed to go to the E.R. Just craziness. But now, as I get closer to 30, I find myself feeling younger somehow. Like 30 isn't such a big deal at all. I don't know what caused the shift in perception, but I'm thankful for it, that it's a feeling of ease instead of doom.

Cindy said...

A "new almost-job"? Did you tell about that? Happy Birthday and I'm glad that it really was happy!

candace said...

You are a very pretty 27, Happy Birthday. I think that the mid-late twenties were way harder than the early thirties. I think being 31 is grand.

Congrats on the new house and the new almost job. Now all you need is a new baby - ha ha ha ha!

Jessica said...

(I'm catching up on lots of reading, so sorry this is late, but) Happy birthday! 27 really is early late-twenties. It'll be a good year, I'm sure.