Because I am sixteen months older than Rick, he likes to joke about my advancing age, and now that my birthday is here and his is still four months away, it’s that segment of the year when my age is actually two digits higher than his rather than the usual one digit. But by now he must know that if he really wants to provoke me, that’s not going to do it. Not to fall back on the clichéd “age is a number,” but getting older doesn’t bother me any. Getting fatter, that bothers me. Running slower, yes. Seeing more poorly, absolutely. Going gray, for sure. But turning a year older? No big deal.I just can’t help feeling that reaching any birthday is a lucky break. Forty-six is solidly and unquestionably middle-aged, but there was a time not too many centuries ago when forty-six would be more like old age. In another era, I’d be losing teeth rather than finding the occasional gray hair.
I don’t mean to bog down in morbidity on my birthday, my point being in fact quite the opposite. Forty-six is fine with me. I lost a friend at fifty earlier this year; by the time she turned forty-six, she already knew she didn’t have many birthdays left. When people joke about getting older, I always think of the essayist and journalist Caroline Knapp, who wrote in the late 1990s that she first felt old when she turned 38, because it was when she finally had to concede that she was closer to 40 than 35. Though she was in fine health at the time she said this, she died four years later of lung cancer, making her perspective on 38 particularly poignant.
So yes, it’s my birthday and I’m 46. Laugh away, Rick. I’m grateful to be turning any age at all – and, truth be told, I’m relieved that 50 is still comfortably far off in the distance. At least I think that’s 50 in the distance; I’ve grown a little bit more near-sighted lately, and I must admit, I occasionally sneak a covetous glance at the rack of reading glasses in the drugstore as I walk by, wondering when I’ll be ready to let down my vanity guard enough for this seemingly unapproachable step.
All right then, I admit it. My eyesight isn’t quite as good as it once was and I run a slower mile – or five-miler – these days than I did in my thirties. But I can still see, and I can still run, and I’m still here to write about it. So you won’t hear any birthday angst from me at all. Not until 50 draws just a little bit closer, anyway.