In the words of Mr. Mostafa, it’s my birthday eve. In less than 24 hours, I will be 32 years old. I just now had to blink and stare at that number to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Yes, it’s true. 32.
When I turned 30, I was much more depressed than I expected to be. I mean, most people eventually turn 30, and even though I wasn’t where I had wanted to be at age 30, things were pretty darn good. I was happily married, and I’d given birth to a beautiful little girl exactly three months earlier, and I didn’t have a crying jag the way I did when I turned 21. (I was tremendously depressed when I turned 21; I remember thinking–and saying, “Every other milestone birthday from here until I die is just marking how old I’m getting!”)
But on my 30th birthday, I was sitting on the couch, having just downloaded Snapchat, and not understanding the point of it at all. I kept squinting at my iPhone–not because I couldn’t see it clearly (although that would have been the cherry on the top of the cake of a depressing birthday), but because I just didn’t get it. What was the point of this dumb app? Like, it seemed pointless. Couldn’t I just send little videos to my friends on WhatsApp? Instagram had just launched video capability a few months prior; wasn’t that the perfect spot for posting little videos that followers could watch? And of course, there was always trusty ol’ Facebook. Snapchat just seemed superfluous. And then, there was the fact that once you watched the video–the snap–it self-destructed. No way to get it back or watch it again. The YOLO life philosophy crammed into a social media platform.
This thing was obviously tailor-made to exclude the old and uncool–and it seemed determined to classify anyone with a kid in that demographic. Because let’s face it–at some point, every parent is going to miss a snap because just as they start to watch it, they have to suddenly jump up and run to their kid, who is gleefully throwing her blocks in the toilet.
I felt…old. And slightly panicky. Already, the world was moving ahead without me, and I was being left behind. The Big Bang Theory was basically the only current show I could have a conversation about (although now I can talk to you about Better Call Saul and Downton Abbey, as well). I could name maybe one song in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 (and I was smacked with a flash of realization that anyone who references the Billboard Hot 100 is obviously already old).
But now, as I’m on the cusp of turning 32, I’ve settled happily into my 30s. I can’t name a single song in the Billboard Hot 100, the iTunes top 10, or anything else pertaining to current music (but I’m guessing Taylor Swift is there somewhere? Maybe One Direction, too? And to be fair, by the time I got to college, the odds of you getting into my car and hearing a song recorded within the previous 20 years were maybe 50/50, at best. I was already in the thick of the discovery that of all the music made so far, the vast majority of my favorite songs were born on vinyl). I’ve long since given up on trying to understand the appeal of Snapchat. I made the conscious choice to basically abandon Twitter after I realized that by obsessively keeping up with what was happening on it, I was becoming more and more depressed by the horrible state of the world. I’ve even withdrawn a bit from Facebook. I still use it a lot, but I’ve deleted the apps from my phone, and I only check it when I’m physically at my computer. The only social media apps I keep on my phone are Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, and Goodreads, and the first one is the only one I check frequently, especially since I stumbled upon the magical world of used books and vintage shops on Instagram. My newly blossoming Butterfly Gold collection is very thankful for this discovery.
Yes. I’m old. I mean, I’m certainly not old old. But I’m old. And I’m just a little bit thrilled about it.
I realize that embracing my advancing age means I’m probably going to be falling further and further behind. Even though I don’t intend to fall behind on current events, I will probably continue to care less and less about keeping up with the technological and pop culture tide. And I’ve become okay with that. I’ve realized that a positively glorious part of getting older is waking up one day and finding that you genuinely don’t care about being cool, or on trend, or whatever you want to call it. I mean, we all say that when we’re young, that we don’t care, even when it’s painfully obvious that we do and it hurts us when we’re not. But when you get older…you don’t. You really, really don’t. At least, if you’re lucky.
For me, this moment happened just a few weeks ago, when we were on vacation in Bahrain. I was bopping around happily in the pool, as Mr. Mostafa blissfully practiced his swimming with his noseplugs and goggles strapped to his face and I instructed Lavender, sitting in her toddler floatie, how to kick-kick-kick, and I suddenly became aware of the fact that I hadn’t once thought about what I looked like, or about what the young, annoyed, and impossibly cool poolgoers lounging at the side of the pool (people who wanted to tan and be seen but would rather die than take their sunglasses off or get their hair wet) thought of me. I mean, I knew I didn’t (and don’t) want to look like I had completely given up on personal grooming. I still care about those basic things. But as for looking like I care about what the cool kids think…nope. I felt nothing. (And thank God, because sunscreen is awesome and Chacos are straight-up ugly, kids.)
And I can’t express in words how tremendously liberating that is. Especially for us girls who spent our youths being weird and not really understanding why people saw us that way. It’s like losing 50 pounds and suddenly being able to run up stairs without feeling exhausted. For real.
I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day, and I was expressing how happy I was that overalls, one of my wardrobe staples in high school, were now back in style. I mentioned that even though it was kinda depressing that I was old enough for my high school wardrobe to have gone full circle in the cycle of cool and uncool, it’s liberating to be in that position because now, unlike in high school, I’m not willing to ever let those things work their way out of my wardrobe again purely for the sake of fashion (although, let’s be clear–I have never been anyone’s style icon. My wardrobe choices have always leaned toward minimal effort). I like them and I feel comfortable in them, so I will wear them, even when doing so will someday prompt my children to quip, “Hey Mom, 2015 called. They want their Birkenstocks back.”
“That’s right, sis,” my dad said. “I never get rid of any of my clothes. You wear whatever the hell you want.” It reminded me of that old Coco Chanel quote–“Fashion fades; only style remains the same.” My dad and Coco Chanel…two of my style icons.
Getting old rocks.
And someday, there will be a social media platform that I know I need to learn to use, and I will have to call Lavender at college and ask her how to do something on this newfangled Inster or Spielbox or Talkpop (note to developers: I now get royalties if you build a platform with one of these names, got it? I think Spielbox is particularly clever, although that may because I’m an old person, so it looks like a play on Steven Spielberg. Do young people today, except for film school students, even know who Steven Spielberg is? He hasn’t been nominated for any Oscars in awhile, has he? Do young people care about the Oscars anymore? Oh, who am I kidding…even I don’t much care about the Oscars anymore. But is that because I’m old and young people do still care about the Oscars?! Oh, dearie me, now I’ve got the vapors). She won’t understand how I could have possibly become so old as to not understand the technology, and even worse, not be too particularly concerned that it appears to be well over my head. She won’t understand how even though I kinda want to learn, I don’t seem to care nearly as much as she thinks I should.
And she will say, “But it’s so easy, Mom. Just tap the pink popbox and say your spiel. Blink twice to select a photo, and then hit the blue pop.”
“That all sounds really dirty, and I have no clue what you’re talking about, you little shit,” I’ll say.
“Mom, I don’t have time to help you with this. You can do it yourself, really. I promise you can!” she’ll say.
“I taught you how to wipe your ass!” I’ll yell as she hangs up on me.
Happy (almost) birthday to me. But more importantly, happy pushday to my mom. At this point in my life, I now possess sufficient age-induced self-awareness to understand that by God, you’ve more than earned the right to make me upload pictures to the Walgreens app and place an order for you to pick up instead of me forcing you to do it yourself because you can do it, Mom, really, you can. Seriously, how come you haven’t smacked me upside the head yet?