|Forty Years Ago|
I am going to turn 42 years old tomorrow. Forty-freaking-two! For some reason, that age is throwing me for a loop. It's not that I am feeling particularly old physically or mentally. I am not worn out or run down. I'm actually better than I was a decade ago. I should be all smiles about this age, but at best I am ambivalent. At worst, a wee bit discomfited. I think its the sound of the number itself. It's a heavy, round number. It's dense. There is nothing light and airy about forty-two. It's exactly twice that of the long-awaited, much anticipated birthday of becoming 21 years old, the seminal milestone in every young person's life that marks the full entry into adulthood. No wonder it's a weighty number. I've been an adult for twenty-one years already and that's the thought that boggles my mind. When did all that time pass without me really noticing? When did I grow up? Have I really grown up at all?
I can remember both of my parents being forty-two, and they seemed so old to me then--so very grown up and responsible and solid. My kids probably view me in much the same way. But now, unlike when I was 11, I know their secret. I know that my parents probably felt a lot like I do now. Older, but not old. Responsible and solid in many ways, but still desiring fun and adventure and excitement. They probably wondered themselves where the time went. Wondered how we as human beings absorb all those years and change and bend, but don't really feel those changes until some distance has been achieved, and in a lot of meaningful ways we don't change at all. On the inside, we are still the same age. We are still young at heart.
I know I am old when I can remember the Virginia Slims ad campaign that sold cigarettes to women in the 1970s based on the misogynist, pseudo-feminist slogan, "You've come a long way, baby." I can't imagine that any company would be so blatantly patronizing to their customer base these days. That's something distinctly thirty years ago. Along with my memories of getting our first microwave, not having to wear a seatbelt, riding a bike without a helmet, renting a VCR and watching a movie at home for the first time, those old cigarette ads remind me that I have definitely gotten older. There's no denying it, I really am going to be forty-two tomorrow, even though I don't feel like it. I am going to be that dense, heavy number on the outside and still floating somewhere in my twenties on the inside. I am going to be solid, responsible and grown up and still feel as if I am not grown up at all.
I wonder if I will always feel that way--not quite there yet. I hope so. I don't ever want to feel completely grown, no matter how many years I rack up. Like the old campaign, I've come a long way baby.....but I still have a lot more to go yet.