Unlike most women my age, I recently made the bold and controversial decision to turn 35–as in years old, not pounds (there’s nothing controversial about being thin!). While many women resist the urge to turn 35 and others leap clear over the age, getting plastic surgery that makes them look like their grandmothers, but hot, I decided to give into my biological craving and age, willpower be damned! Crazy? Definitely. Mature? Perhaps.
“Why didn’t you decide to stay 29 forever?” asked a friend shortly before the day that would mark my quick descent into female middle-age.
“Because I’m not 29. I’m 34, and soon I’ll be 35.”
“But you could totally pass for 29, and even like a really rough 26.”
“Yes, but inside I’m 34, soon 35.”
“God, I just feel so lucky I’m still only 23,” said my friend, who graduated from college the same year I did (a genius she was not–never skipped a single grade).
“But one day,” I told her, “you’ll be 75.”
“Duh, I know. But until I’m old, I’m going to stay young! The middle part just seems like, yikes.”
The middle, an abyss that opens in well, the middle of a woman’s life. After she’s enjoyed the perks of being young and fucking hot, before she’s able to savor the respect afforded the elderly. What could possibly exist in between? Into this abyss I recently dove, through it I swim. I will not drown, I will kick kick kick, stay afloat through 36, 37, even 41, the dreaded age when fertility goes poof!
“But I turned 35 last year and it wasn’t even a big deal,” says another friend of mine. “My kids threw me a party and when I asked Timmy how old he thought I was, he said 100. He also thought I weighed 100 pounds though, so I wasn’t even offended.”
I have not the heart to tell her the obvious: that she is no longer woman, but mother, and no one cares how old Timmy’s freaking mom is. Rather, mothers of young children are assumed to be between the ages of 30 and 50 and therefore all moms of young children are both 30 and 50 (unless they’re rich as hell and have 15 nannies like the Kardashians, exemplars of modern womanhood). Mothers must be everything to everyone, and all at once (is this not their constant complaint?). 30, now 50. For my friend, there is no in between.
Yet it is through the dark sea of in between that I now swim, kick kick kick back up for air. I saw something under there–integrity? Grace? I’ll plunge my (still taut!) body back under soon, I’ll find it, I will.
“Oh weird–so are you going to stay 39 for a couple of decades?” asked a friend who’s like totally freaking out about turning 30. “My aunt did that.”
“No, in five years, I’m going to turn 40.”
“Well, you can always change your mind. All the Kardashians are 39 now, including Kris, Kylie and–some people don’t know this–even Kendall, so it’s like the age, you know? And they all look super hot and…well…exactly…the same. So, that’s an option.”
Though I resist my friend’s suggestion, I’m now old enough (35 years) to recognize that I can’t predict the future. I can only dive into it, then tread tread tread through the open sea of the middle passage. Passage into what? The great beyond–75, which may as well be 80, which is basically 90, which is dead but she was like, really old so it’s not even that sad.
What will I find in these murky waters? Youth? No. Vitality? Certainly not. Respect? Lol. Wisdom? Perhaps. Experience? Certainly. Fish? Oh hell yeah. Oysters? Now you’re making me horny. Pearls? If so, I’ll wear them when I’m 60, defiantly infertile, traipsing around my clean white kitchen in Nancy Meyers linens, one Merrell-clad foot already in a shallow but tasteful grave.
A thought occurs: as I swim swim swim my way through these open seas, will I encounter others like me? I can only hope, and if that wish comes true and I spot another neither young nor old woman across the horizon, I’ll yell in my mightiest adult woman voice, “Hey! You look great, girl!”
Until then, kick kick kick, up I go to break through the surface and inhale the salty air. Perhaps my rapidly deteriorating eyes are playing tricks on me but it was confidence, I think, that I saw down there. Impossible, and yet I’m almost certain.
As I lie on my back and float across the deep, dark middle, I wonder: 35, how could it be? When I still feel 17.