My birthday is in December, and therefore I was almost always, if not the youngest in my class, very nearly so. When I was little, this was a source of annoyance, occasionally of anguish. There’s nothing a 7 1/2-year-old enjoys more than lording it over a mere 7-year-old (at least, among the 7-year-olds I knew–perhaps you knew a nicer breed of grade-schooler than I did). “You have to do what I say because I’m older.”
So for a long time I really really wanted to have a July birthday, if not a January one, if only because it would be one less remarkable thing (I had a long, comparatively weird name–this was the early 60s, when names like Tamika and Madison were undreamt of in the philosophies of baby books–and I so wanted a normal name like Susan or Anne). It never occurred to me, as one of my friends did, to declare that the celebration of my birthday was now to be in March or September–and anyway, the School Board and other officialdom didn’t care what I declared.
Somewhere in my teens–probably in my junior or senior year of High School, there was a slight shift. Yes, I got my drivers’ license later than everyone else, and had to cadge rides from my boyfriend who, to his infinite credit, didn’t seem to mind. But there was a slight glamor to the fact that I was going to graduate at 17 rather than 18–through no effort on my part, mind you, but just because of the accident of my birthdate. It made me sound cleverer than perhaps I was.
Then came college and grownup hood, where my age, relative to my peers, didn’t much matter to anyone. There’s a longish period where everyone seemed about the same age as I was, roughly from 25-55. I would realize, sometimes, that someone I was talking to was still-a-grownup but didn’t remember Woodstock or the Kennedy assassinations and have to adjust my expectations in the matter a bit, but really, what did it matter?
For that matter, what does it still matter?
Saturday I turned 60.
I believe in being upfront about my age–none of this “I’m turning 39 for the 30th time” stuff for me. Simple rationale: if I told people I was 50 they would likely look upon me with pity: poor thing, she’s falling apart! Life must have been very hard for her.” If I tell people I’m 60 the usual response is “No you’re not.” Which may be sheerest flattery, but there isn’t the tone of obligatory tact in their voices, which is really all I need.
And suddenly, I’m the youngest in the class again. I got a dozen or more birthday wishes on Facebook (that nexus of life) from former classmates who have all gone into the 60s before me. Once again I’m one of the youngest in the class. I am informed that the water is fine, and I’m inclined to believe it; as Maurice Chevalier said, considering the alternative, it ain’t so bad.
My brother sent me a painting he’d done (he’s an astonishing painter) with a lovely note about what we might accomplish in our separate realms now that maturity has struck. I hope he’s right. In the meantime I can categorically say that, so far, 60 has been delightful.