A mighty realization struck me again today — the kind that, were it human, I’d punch it right in the face.
The truth is, this initial spark of comprehension happened quite some time go but the knowledge of it flashed before me again as I was driving to work this morning. While the morning radio announcer was stating notable events of the day, she made mention that one of my favorite actors was having a birthday — and he’s actually older than I am.
I was thrilled. I can’t remember the last time some celebrity I admired was longer in the tooth than I; I mean, the very fact I just used the phrase “longer in the tooth” speaks volumes of my age.
And the thing is, I am not old, not by modern standards. Sure, were this the 1500s, I’d labeled a crone — and not just in a nasty way. I’d be a literal old-lady crone, probably some cloak-wearing, toothless thing who frightens children. (Thank GAWD for modern dentistry.) Were it the early 1900s, I’d likely be considered on the far-edge of motherhood, a step or two away from crone, one whose mole hair existed but hadn’t yet gotten out of control. (Thank GAWD for aestheticians.) By today’s standards, however, I appear slightly older than most of the people on the ball field, on stage and on screen. (Thank GAWD for Botox.)
It’s a wondrous thing to discover that you have come of age. And it’s a wondrous and alternately horrifying thing to discover that you have passed your coming of age. By DECADES.
I’ve now reached the stage of life where I can say stupefying things starting with the phrase, “When I was your age,” and reference something that happened 30 years ago — all while the person I’m speaking to has the cognitive ability to judge me as unfashionably dressed. That’s saying a lot. It’s truly frightening to watch a baseball game, admiring the skill and form of a player, and then realize my thoughts could be construed as leering — ever so slightly —at someone literally half my age.
Do you know how disquieting it is to recognize you no longer find firefighters attractive? They’re BABIES, for crying out loud. Very muscular and hairy babies who throw themselves into danger, sure, but babies nonetheless. It’s almost as disarming as realizing all the actors playing parents on TV are playing parents that are younger than you — an actual, bona fide parent.
And how do you know when you’ve slipped past your prime? When you are no longer officially labeled as “youthful”? It’s pretty simple. Sit down and watch an episode of the most popular sitcom on TV. If the television advertising is focused almost solely on people younger than you, you’re officially out of the club. Unless it’s a Life Alert or adult diaper commercial — in which case, you’re clearly not watching the most popular sitcom on TV.
And you know who’s on that sitcom? That actor the radio announcer wished a happy birthday — the one older than me. (Bet he’s grateful for Botox, too.)