this is thirty-five

My kids cannot conceive of how old I am. No matter how often I answer repeated questions about my age, my preschooler asks again, “You’re fifteen, right?” “No, I’m thirty-five,” I correct her. She stares at me, pausing a beat too long. She presumably wonders if I am about to keel over at any second. Perhaps she hopes to recognize the glint of a joke in my eyes, but eventually she realizes I am serious. She resumes playing, a little disappointed I am so clearly past my prime.

It’s the same look they give me when I’d rather do dishes than watch morning cartoons or when I yawn during the climax of Frozen. It’s the skeptical look I get from my crinkle-nosed first grader when she asks, “How do you know who the Beatles are?” I understand the fickle nature of coolness, but recently I’ve learned I don’t get to decide if I’m cool. I may believe I’m cool, but my opinion matters not. They are the deciders. Well, the verdict is in, folks, and the outlook is not good. I am not cool. I’m sorry to have to tell you that you aren’t cool either. But you knew that already.

Here’s a thing. I worked at summer camp this year. They do not use the word cool. Like hot and the cat’s pajamas and fly and phat and sweet, cool is dead. Oh, and it’s not pot any more, NEVER say pot unless you want to receive a guffaw; it’s weed. Now you wonder why I discussed marijuana at camp. But anyway. These kids (that I call a 20-year-old “kid” is a dead giveaway of my coolness) use words like swag and swerve and shade and coral, words I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO USE IN A SENTENCE. If you’re lucky, they’ll say sick or chill, words that existed in their current usage prior to 2010.

Eight extra years separate my second daughter and me than my mom and me, yet I remember thinking my mom was definitely old when I was a kid (sorry Mom). I can only guess at the horror of my children’s image of me. Speaking of my mom, she asked me twice if I am indeed turning thirty-five (?! and 0_o were implied). She wanted to know if this age means something to me.

Most times my age doesn’t mean much. I turned thirty without a bucket list in sight. I didn’t mind leaving behind my twenties because I felt stronger and more capable, surer of myself. But turning thirty-five does mean something to me. Some time ago, it was my age of no return, the point at which I decided (back when I knew everything) that I would absolutely be done having children. At twenty, thirty-five seemed a lifetime away. A distant line in the sand.

Now here I am, turning thirty-five this week. The line is up close and personal.

And what is thirty-five like? I’m content right here, third child or not. I happily pass the torch of drawing lines in the sand onto the next generation. Milestones pop up over the past few years comprising a different kind of list; it’s not a bucket list, but more of a Rainman-style tally sheet of the hallmarks of this age. Lindsey Mead’s post inspired me to write about this new age.

So, here goes. Thirty-five is…

  • Advanced maternal age. (…shudder…)
  • Knowing my periodontist didn’t mean anything when he said, “I’m surprised someone of your age hasn’t had this procedure yet,” but feeling miffed about the phrase anyway.
  • Realizing my first grader is closer in age to that 20-year-old counselor than I am (how adorable is that?).
  • Taking shorter showers with less water pressure because of the constant toilet flushing or the clothes or dishes washing, or most likely a combination of all three.
  • Looking in the mirror and realizing no matter how I style or cut it, my hair is never going to look like it did when I was twenty-five. But it is also no longer caring. Thirty-five is feeling gratitude for having hair at all.
  • Taking up Pilates and being pleasantly surprised that my body is stronger than I thought it could be.
  • Finally refusing the labels others hoist on me and accepting the ones I have been reluctant to give myself. I am a writer. I am not cool.
  • Loving the everydayness of my life: brushing cobwebs off the snow boots to see if they still fit, violin practice, feeding the fish, the perpetual shopping for undershirts, and do we know the Richardsons.
  • Listening with patience as older people who walk by tell me to appreciate my children, but secretly knowing I can’t appreciate them any more than I do. It is bittersweet to realize they will grow up, even as I wish I could stop time.
  • Drinking coffee and eating chocolate (dark + generous sprinkle of salt, almonds, or spice), but never after 5pm.
  • Feeling a state of inner calm resulting from letting go of old demons, struggles, mistakes, clothes, and tchotchkes.
  • Being a fluent, if not native, speaker of the inner language of my husband’s family.
  • Homemade granola and store-bought doughnuts.
  • Giving up old dreams to pursue new dreams.
  • Finally parting with the baby stuff.
  • No more wonderbras.

More than any age yet, thirty-five is fleeting. When I told Nate that I wrote about what it’s like to be thirty-five, he asked, “How would you know?” Because, I thought, next time I look up I’ll be thirty-six. You know?

this is 35 - heirloom mothering

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5 thoughts on “this is thirty-five

  1. I love this. Thirty five hit me hard. Jung calls it the beginning of middle age and I think he’s right. People flayed me when i said that, but i still think it’s the MIDDLE of life. That, to me, isn’t a bad thing. It’s a range, not a mid point. And your evocation of 35 is so beautiful. xoxo

    1. Well a Jung quote will always sell me on a concept. I don’t mind thinking of myself as middle-aged; there are few milestones after 25, so I’ll embrace the notion I’ve graduated into a new club.

  2. I just found your blog via “Nine Things I Wonder about Other Writers”. My name is Justine and I am a writer/storyteller too. 🙂 By chance, I clicked on this essay, and oh how I feel your pain, I turned 35 in October. Thirty-five is “extremely happy” when the check out lady at the supermarket tells me I look too young to have three kids. It used to take a lot more to make my day. 🙂 I look forward to exploring your blog.

    1. Hi Justine, there aren’t too many of us around! How nice to hear that about looking too young. Explore all you want! I look forward to checking out your writing as well.

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