I’m not hitting thirty. It’s hitting me.
It’s one of those things that happen to you, that you can’t quite believe. You look back over your shoulder and 16 seems just a short while ago. 25? That was yesterday, man! Yet here it is: the facts are inescapable as one
look at your passport or driver’s license will confirm: you are turning
thirty. You scrunch your face at the mirror in the hall, looking for those
telltale frown lines. You turn side-on, puffing out your stomach, poking at
your (broadened?) waist. You fluff your hair, trying to gauge if yes,
yes...it has indeed receded a centimeter or two. You huff, and splutter and
generally protest at this relentless march of time. Then you get to
thinking - hey, thirty is not so old, not really. Look at Brad Pitt. He’s
super good-looking and popular and he kissed thirty goodbye a while ago.
Yes, your mind butts in, but he’s a multi-million dollar movie star and
you’re a marketing manager in Tucson. Then you creak up the stairs and
make another note in your diary to join the gym, and to sort out that
Oh, and it’s time to get some new ties, you think. Oh Lord, your mature inner voice yells, I’m turning into my Dad. How can this be happening to me?
I started preparing for thirty long ago. When I work up on my twenty-ninth birthday, I decided to spend the next year freaking out about turning thirty. That way, I figured, when I got there, it wouldn’t be too unbearable. I have six more months of panicking to do before the birthday I don¹t want. My favorite moments are when people say to me, “Gee, you’re 29? I would have said maybe 26!” My worst moments are when I end up at a barbeque or party with my younger brothers and their buddies some of whom are (!) engaged Seven property owners, for Betsy’s sake! What’s more, they look like
grown-ups, which must make me, no doubt about it, a real, grown-up grown-up.
Then I feel old.
Anyway, you know, turning thirty just surprises all of us. See, growing up, I always had this vague idea that I’d die horribly but beautifully, in a fiery car crash, leaving a distraught young beauty to weep over photos of
this rugged, handsome young stud. How romantic. There’d be thousands of
people at my funeral. “Taken so young,” they’d all say. A bit of a twisted
notion to fix upon, I realize. Many people do die young, and it is in truth,
a terrible tragedy. However, dying young would have negated the need for me
to deal with turning thirty; this was my selfish reasoning. So I must
confess I find myself somewhat gob-smacked to actually be approaching that
fateful date. It’s happening, it¹s really happening and I am way more
surprised than if I had one day found myself, at 18, careening down a cliff
in a red sports car (that’s how I always saw it happening).
Soon (very soon) I will no longer be able to count myself part of the young generation. I feel betrayed, as if I should always be allowed to be part of the young generation. It¹s where I belong! Reality Bites, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. The Clinton years. The millennium celebrations. It’s mine, I tell you! It’s the only generation there¹s allowed to be!
I joined a gym last week, you know. Wandered in with a dazed look, and a face full of resignation. Gym was no longer a choice. I had to take it up. I could no longer fit into my favorite battered jeans, the ones I’ve
worn for years. The other day, a button on my shirt literally popped off. I
was horrified. That was it, I ran for the gym, new trainers and tog bag
clutched in one arm. So there I was under the neon lights, lying on my back
on the machine that¹s actually for jogging on. All that hi-tech stuff, all
those (young!) toned bodies where had I been all this time? Just how many
years had I spent watching Friends on the sofa? Maybe there was a whole generation like me; people who had watched the final episode and then
tottered back out into the world, into the daylight,
to see, like, what else there was to do. Trust me, thirty really creeps up
on you while you’re watching every episode of Friends, which I always loved simply because no one in it ever seems to age. While they didn’t. I did.
I am now on a neck-to-neck race with my stomach. I am determined to make it disappear before I hit thirty. I don¹t sleep much at night, because I am constantly composing lists of “Things I Must Do in the Last Year of My
Twenties.” Some key actions:
Get fit, very fit.
Buy a flat, even a tiny one. Own something.
Get a girlfriend who I will one day marry (without letting her know that I am of the marrying sort even though she will know that, if she isn¹t a dunce).
Write and publish my first novel. (The pressure!).
Do something really adventurous. This means not buying a shirt in pink pastels again, but, like, diving with sharks or sailing off a skyscraper.
Have a plan in place for the next five years.
Give up smoking. Also, beer. I will not, I say, be Homer Simpson part two.
The property thing is especially key. I get a heart attack every time another friend tells me that they’ve bought. I am constantly comparing
myself to other people.
Gauging their age, and how much they own, have achieved etc., I mean, at age 15, I figured I’d be a world famous rock star by now, instead of pushing a pen on a pastel blue desk. Again, I find myself horribly surprised. Like, how come I am not a rock star?? What went wrong?
The love life is another cause for sweaty fear at 3am. I mean, they say that guys who are 30 and single have it twice as tough. They get that sort of desperate look in their eyes. An instant alarm bell to the type of woman who could have any guy in the room.
Whenever I hear of another friend getting married, I despair and rail against the fates.
All of this fretting, you realize, will be conquered by the time I am no longer in my twenties. Even if I almost own a flat, and have a non-sexual
relationship with a nice girl; even if I have only written a quarter of the
novel, and my six-pack has not yet returned, I will have taken steps to
overcome my refusal to grow up. I am determined to have a damn good party on
the 20th December. Of course, the music won’t be too loud, because you know,
I hate when I have to shout over some banging tune that gives me a
headache between the eyes. Oh heck. I am turning into my dad.
Still, at last count, I had all (or nearly all) of my hairs, 98% a color not of the gray persuasion. So that’s not too bad is it? Score one point on the 30 Points Meter. At least once a week, someone tells me I look 26 (or
lately, 27). I’m not rich, but I’m not a bum on the street either. So, you
know, hey, thirty. Bring it on. Bring it on. I’m ready, world!
At this point, though, I must confess that I still reserve the right to run screaming into the sunset like a fireworks-crazed rooster sometime between now and waking up on my thirtieth birthday.