When growing up, you go through a stretch where birthdays are more than mere parties featuring the eating of cake, slurping of punch, and opening of presents. Starting at about your tenth birthday, they take on greater significance; you look forward to them with greater eagerness than before, for they mark rites of passage into adulthood.
At ten, you’re finally in double digits. At thirteen, you’re finally a teenager. At fifteen, you can finally get your learner’s permit, and at sixteen your driver’s license. At seventeen you can get into R-rated movies alone, at eighteen you can vote, at twenty you’re no longer a teenager, and at twenty-one you can drink legally.
After that, the excitement and anticipation die down. Twenty-two and twenty-three are no big deal at all. At twenty-five, your auto insurance rates drop and you can run for the House of Representatives—but that isn’t exactly thrilling. At twenty-seven, you’re as old as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain when they died. Eventually, you stop looking for any significance in your age, and may even forget that your birthday is coming…
Until your thirtieth.
Granted, the anguish over turning thirty is partly arbitrary. It simply means that you have been out of the womb for thirty of Earth’s trips around the Sun. It’d be fewer trips if humans had fewer fingers, and more if we had more. In a sense, “thirty years old” is younger than ever before: it is a smaller and smaller fraction of an increasing average lifespan.
The night before turning “The Big Three-Oh,” you lie awake in the dark, trying to think about anything other than these irrational but very real mortal dreads:
…that your youth is gone and it is not coming back…
…that dreams and opportunities have irrevocably passed you by…
…that one day, however near, however distant, no matter what, you will simply end. It is utterly horrifying.
No more of those good milestone birthdays are coming.
Kids who you think don’t look too much younger than you call you “sir,” and you wonder whether you really look old enough for them to naturally address you with a term denoting respect—or, more precisely, a term denoting age.
It takes a little bit longer to stand up than it should. Maybe you just bumped your knee, or maybe you’re just a little tired. Your back has been sore for a while, but will surely get better soon—probably after you start exercising, like you’ve been planning for how long now?
You have more hair where you shouldn’t, and less hair where you should. Even worse, some of it’s turning gray. All those tiny little birthmarks of yours are changing size and color, and you consider going to the doctor to have them looked at, like old people do.
The stars of your favorite sports teams are younger than you. The hottest actresses are younger than you. You don’t get today’s music. Bouncers and bartenders don’t card you anymore. Strangers ask you if you have children. Children?
You’re a parent and turning into your own parents, or you’re disappointed in not being one by now.
You’re married and settling into a rut, or you’re worried that your marital prospects are dwindling with age.
You don’t have the job you knew you’d have, the car you knew you’d have, the house you knew you’d have, the money you knew you’d have by this time.
You are nowhere near living the life you thought you’d be living by now, and it is killing you…
…well, what can I say? You’re thirty. Go ahead and die, you sniveling, geriatric whiner.
What, you thought I was talking about myself? In the second person? Wrong. I’m only twenty-nine. Thus, I don’t have to worry about aging, hopelessness, my own mortality or any of that crap that’s got your thirty-year-old knees a-wobbling.
I can skip and frolic and dance and sing tra-la-la… because I’m still in my twenties!
I can eat fast food, play soccer without stretching and let my cholesterol get so high it’ll have flashbacks for decades… because I’m still in my twenties!
I can go to the seediest bars, get impossibly wasted and schlep home at any hour of the night with some depraved, green-haired, tattooed strumpet and her shy, bespectacled twin sister who’s on leave from the convent… because I’m still in my twenties!
I can dodge the draft, I can drown my pregnant mistress near Chappaquiddick, I can go AWOL from the military, I can throw my Purple Hearts over the gates of the White House, I can drink, smoke, shoot and snort whatever I want and a year from now I’ll be able to wistfully say, “Ah, yes, I was young and foolish—I was still in my twenties!”
Now, am I actually going to do all those crazy, irresponsible things? Probably not. But the point I’m trying to emphasize in your moment of crisis is that you are a useless, washed-up mastodon, whereas I am not.
All those years growing up, I was always the youngest in the group. The youngest in my high school class. The youngest on my club soccer teams. I couldn’t drive when I graduated high school, couldn’t drink when I graduated college… Well, my thirty-year old friend, you may have gotten your license first, you may have voted first, you may have drank legally first, but guess what? I’ll turn thirty last, you ancient bastard. I win.
So happy 29th to me and gimme my cake and punch.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005 at 2:10 AM.
7 Responses to “On turning 30.”
bologna of mal intent Says:
November 23rd, 2005 at 12:05 PM
Rather depressing start, but thank g-d i have the whole picture of dorian gray thing going on with me cept its more like a school ID and no connotative sodomy involeved. But taking into consideration the latter half of ur entry i think i shall choose to not waste my younger years i will spend this extended weekend going out and partaking in all kinds of debauchery drinking smoking and [redacted] till i become skitzofrenic, but in my case since i will lack the ability of blaming it on my age for another 13 years ill just blame it on my cousin.
So happy birthday Mr. V go out and tp egg and trench those acient bastards homes, have fun and blame it on your twenties (that probably wont stand up in court thou)
PS just kidding about the [redacted] and smoking
[Moderator comments: Do you know what a “mandatory reporter” is? And please spell better next time.]
November 23rd, 2005 at 6:06 PM
ahhh.. Mr.V!!!! you are still such a kid at heart!!! you sure do know how to make history fun (even though history in itself is one big, interesting novel,—the 1700s in particular— some teachers aren’t as good as you)!!!! [Moderator comments: Be nice to them anyways.] Happy 29th birthday, and HAPPY Thanksgiving~~ we miss u…. PAXON misses u!!!!! enjoy ur birthday. may all ur wishes come true!
November 23rd, 2005 at 8:19 PM
I’m saving this and sending it to every last one of my peers on October 21, 2017 and it will feel great. Thank you Mr. V for having been even more pathetically young when you graduated than I will be.
By the way, we murdered Forrest 8-0, were now 2-3. Everyone scored except for leading score from last year… But I’m not bitter.
November 24th, 2005 at 7:22 PM
[Moderator comments: Link to PaxonGator’s silly alteration of the “cake and punch” photo has itself been altered.]
Sorry couldn’t resist. Happy Birthday Mr.V
Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
November 29th, 2005 at 7:31 PM
Mrs. Hmnahmna and I copyrighted all our wedding photos. You now owe me, thanks to all the traffic your site generates and considering the going rate per hit . . . . $0.0015 in royalties.
Pay up. Now.
Vincent Viscariello Says:
November 30th, 2005 at 5:42 AM
I have some other photos that Mrs. Hmnahmna might be interested to see, Doc.
Pay up. Now.
February 14th, 2006 at 8:52 PM
And Van Goughish interpretation by Jason Nipper