“Please don’t let anyone ask how old I am,” I think to myself while trying to get out of the classroom before someone does. See, all the parents in my daughter’s class are younger than me. I’d never lie about my age to them, but I certainly don’t need to bring it up.
But my kid takes cares of that, saying, “My Mommy’s 45 today!” I hear an audible gasp permeate the room, which I later realize came from me. And while the parents in the room are polite, I know they are taken aback. I can’t believe it either. Forty-five isn’t middle-aged, it’s half the age when someone writes about you in the newspaper and says, “She lived a really long life.” And here I am, 45 and still just getting started.
See I’ve never really minded my age before. I’m the youngest kid in my family, so everyone around me was always older. And despite having my first child when I was 37, I lucked into a group of Mom friends who were all older than I. I could still be the baby of the group, even though I was approaching middle age. Plus, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for longer than I care to admit. When every other woman in town stopped aging at 29, I kept going. I knew I was getting smarter and wiser with age, and so I proudly announced my age to anyone who would ask. They’d always respond with something like, “You’re a baby!” Or, “You are so young!”
But now people respond to my age with comments like, “Forty-five? Wow, you look great for your age.” Then they spend the next 10 minutes pretending not to scan my skin looking for signs of my many years. That’s because I’m no longer in the category of aging where I just look good or bad. At 45, everything about me is categorized by time. Now I only look good compared to someone auditioning for the next Cocoon film. It’s like I’m in a competition with time that I never asked to enter.
And when I’m not being told I look great compared to someone Willard Scott wishes a happy 100th birthday to on the Today show, I’m being told that I should celebrate my age because, “45 is the new 30.” Forty-five isn’t the new 30 unless 30-year-olds have hot flashes and skin so loose it could double as a wind chime. Plus 30 wasn’t such a great year for me. I don’t know why I’d want to go back.
See, the thing about getting older is everybody younger wants you to enjoy getting older. I’ve never felt more together, knowledgeable or wise, but I’ve also got a 4-year-old at home, and I don’t want to miss one single second of her life. I don’t care about looking old, I just don’t want to be old. I don’t want to miss out.
So the next time some taut-skinned young mom tells me I should be thrilled with my age because 45 is actually the new 30, I’ll correct her. “Actually,” I’ll say, “forty-five is the new 46.” Then I’ll ask her where she takes spinning or hot yoga, knowing full well I’m actually never going to go. Because the only thing that doesn’t suck about aging is not feeling like you have to be someone you’re not. If only I’d figured that out when I was 30, which I hear is the new 29.