It's a universal realization, I suppose: Oh god. I am not 16 anymore. Maybe it hits when we bend to lift our toddler from the tub and canít stand up again. Or when we awake on a post-book-club morning and realize that life hurts on post-Chardonnay nights. For me it came this Sunday, the morning after my 34th birthday.
I never gave much thought to aging and its unsavory effects. I never brooded about birthdays, or concealed my age, or hid my grays (OK, I pluck sometimes), or even owned a scale. But on Sunday, after a fabulous birthday dinner with friends in which much champagne and spicy food were consumedóand after which I got maybe six hours of sleep, an eternity in my twenties but downright sparse in my thirtiesóI awoke looking like Nick Nolteís mug shot. A deep crevice split my forehead, which the Internet informed me was a ďliver line.Ē My mouth felt like dry tissue paper. My gray hairs shot up at odd angles, I had purple circles under my eyes, and my skin felt like a clammy, overripe avocado. I gasped, then groped for my Advil and Tums.
Which, I realized then, I keep at my bedside all the time.
I guess, in actuality, Iíve been making little provisions for my age recentlyógradual enhancements, like keeping the Tums in easy reach. Here are a few things I canít do now that Iím older. What are yours?
1. I cannot scarf down Chipotle burritos, chili cheese dogs, lamb vindaloo, or leftover Chinese (hot or cold) without giving myself immediate heartburn. Honestly, who can eat this stuff? People with steel guts and tapeworm?
2. Also, I cannot eat whatever I want anymore without looking like a cinderblock. In actuality, I probably havenít been able to eat with abandon since about age 25. But for some reason, my brain continues to think Iím living on a post-college-the-rules-donít-apply-to-me diet, even though my Spanx sometimes need Spanx of their own.
3. I canít drink. Coffee keeps me up at night. So does tea. I need to stop eating and drinking by at least 8 p.m. unless I want to be up until 2 a.m. Googling ďurinary incontinence.Ē Oh, and drinking-drinking? My recovery time is about three times as long as it was a few years ago, and the wine bloat is pretty much instant.
4. Exercise is not a hobby: Itís a necessity. I have rendered myself a hunchback not once but twice hoisting Andrew from the bathtub. I need to bend at my knees. And, much to my dismay, wearing yoga pants all the time isnít the same thing as actually doing yoga.
5. Sleep. I need it. In the past, eight hours seemed like something sweet, a goal to aspire to but not exactly essential. Now, if I donít get eight hours, Iím surly and really need that coffee, which will in turn give me indigestion and keep me up until 2 a.m.
6. I canít go out two nights in a row. Just canít do it. In my twenties, down time was the enemy. I went somewhere every night of the week. Not only is this impractical with a small child (and expensive, too), but my soul whips into some kind of hermetic rebellion if Iím away from my comfort zone too much. I long for my books, my remote control, and easy couch-side banter with my husband. (OK, actually itís our back-to-back laptops making the conversation with one another, but still.) My frump-a-thon flannels call to me.
Iím not complainingóitís just the cold hard truth. I had an amazing birthday with great friends old and new, a fantastic husband, parents who actually still give their thirty-something daughter a birthday present, and a toddler who crafted an adorable card at his new coloring ďworkstation.Ē I ate and drank and hooted with abandon. Iím happy and relatively healthy. Iím just glad I have Advil and Tums next to my bed in the morning Ö and a date with my yoga teacher, followed by a date or three with my couch, this week.
Sunday was my coming-of-old-age moment. What was yours?
P.S. The other day I found myself crying, actually crying, at the lyrics to John Mellencamp's "Cherry Bomb." You know: "Seventeen has turned thirty-five..." I hope my musical taste doesn't decline with age, too.
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