As yet another birthday looms over the horizon, I find myself sounding like my parents, lamenting about the increasingly more rapid passage of time, and standing here wondering how my brain could still be 42, but my body is apparently my brain’s much-older sister.
I remember clearly turning 30. I loved turning 30. I felt, as Tammy would put it, “fully growed.” (For those of you who don’t understand the reference, go rent “Tammy and the Professor.” Now that‘s romance.) I wasn’t a “girl” anymore, but neither was I a “ma’am.” I looked 28, and had the confidence that youth provides simply by being young. And 40 was fabulous. 40 felt sophisticated, womanly, maybe even a little MILF-y. 50, however, was tough. 50 was so…FIFTY. (On my birthday, my dad stated, with just a hint of snark, that “You know you’re old when you hit 50.” I replied, “No, actually you know you’re old when your KIDS hit 50.” I know, we should be in therapy, but we blunder on…)
Flash forward, five years later. Seated at my favorite local Mexican restaurant with a group of girlfriends on my birthday, and I noticed the menu offered several specials to “seniors” (ouch!) at 55. Disregarding the unnecessary and vaguely insulting “senior” designation, I whispered to the waitress that it was my birthday and since today I turned 55, I would like to order from the “special menu.” Big mistake.
With the practiced speed that only 1000 repetitions could provide, she snapped her fingers and the ENTIRE staff instantly descended upon our table to sing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday to Youuuu!, applauding enthusiastically (with the rest of the patrons at the packed restaurant) at my initiation into the “Senior Senoras Club.” Please God, just open up the earth and suck me to hell. Never mind. I’m already there.
By now, my group was roaring with unrestrained merriment, wiping their eyes and trying, unsuccessfully, to regain control, but as one slightly younger friend put it, “Every time we looked at your face, we just cracked up all over again.” (Just wait, girl. YOUR birthday is coming soon, and I know exactly what table we’re sitting at.) Over the next 2 hours (and 3 pitchers of margaritas), I sat red-faced and smiling as virtually every single person in the restaurant stopped by on their way out to say happy birthday and “Congratulations!” (apparently being a Senior Senora is like winning some kind of geriatric trophy).
And now it’s almost two years later. My induction into the Senior Club of virtually any restaurant has come and gone. I can order off of any “Honor Menu,” without showing I.D. (sigh), and I’ve learned to ask for senior discounts almost everywhere I shop. (You’d be amazed at the stores that give them if you ask. I’m proud, but I’m also cheap. I ask everywhere.)
At almost-57, on most days I feel strong, vibrant, energetic, and (sometimes) even a little sexy. Some days, though, I feel more like the Velveteen Rabbit. A little worse for wear, fur a bit matted, a lost button or two, stuffing popping out here and there. But then I remember that little bunny was loved. And loved more because he was no longer perfect and new. So the next time Kenny tells me I’m more beautiful now than when we met, I’m choosing to believe him, even if only for that moment. What the hell. It worked for the rabbit.