So I just had my half birthday, which now makes me 49 and 1/2. It went by unnoticed by all, myself included, but suddenly I find myself pondering the fact that I will half a century-old which makes no sense.
As a child I expected to become an un-giggling adult, with adult responsibilities, adult reactions and adult tastes. As I examine my life, I’ve come to realize that I fell deeply short of my expectations. The adult responsibilities are definitely there’s mortgage a few bills and the most hated activity, shopping. Aside of that I’m still waiting for other adult things to happen. I remember a summer evening when we as preteens sat off in a corner of the balcony while our older cousins all in their late 20s early 30s conversed about important things of great consequence and readily dismissed us as children, we tried to join the ladies who interrupted their deep conversation simply to tell us to go play. Rejected, my same-aged cousin and I discussed our perceived joys of adulthood. How wonderful it would be to have these important things to discuss. Vividly I recall telling her when I’m an adult, I’ll finally stop staring at grasshoppers, I’ll curse without blushing, I won’t color again, I’ll be sophisticated and wear high heels, and have a fancy umbrella when I go to the beach.
Well, my 11-year-old self is greatly disappointed in the adult that I became. Recently, I began comparing myself to the adults in my life who were 50ish when I was a child, particularly the women; they were so sophisticatedly austere to me. Their hair was a mystery to behold, a helmet of sorts formed by their natural strands dyed in a multiple colors resembling nothing that occurs naturally, their stiff curls remained still when their synchronized heads shook in disbelief at the price of rice. God help anyone who touched it or stood in its vicinity with water. They laughed with composure; their topics of conversation are as foreign to me now as they were then. I remember aunts and older cousins speaking with such reverence about recipes, the lengths of new skirts for the upcoming season, and the multiple drastic ways their bodies were falling apart. They all seemed to have complicated lives fraught with the stress and things I was never privy to since they were spoken in hushed tones. I secretly longed for that time, when I’d become that adult woman. I envisioned myself being important and wise and saying such things as “when you’re my age. You’ll understand.” However, I silently dreaded having to learn about all those boring things they discussed because truthfully, I never cared about clothes or the price of food.
Time passes and in my early 20s I found myself doggedly attempting to fit in that role. I fiercely tried to develop an interest in embroidery, pastry making and controlled ladylike laughter; I attempted to tell my younger brother. “Wait until you’re my age. You’ll understand.” But every time I tried to say it sounded foreign to my own ears, and he dismissed me readily. Attempting to be a serious adult was not working out the way I anticipated. One day I met a group of people in the woods and they liked my ways, and we had fun together and laughed often. And somewhere along the way an attitude materialized, and suddenly, out it came “Fuck it, I’m just going to have fun.”
Now, it’s not always been easy, I experienced extreme loss, I saw death, I’ve been touched by despair and faced the opportunity to stop living, physical and spiritual hunger was a constant companion for a long while. I lost so much that at times there was nothing left to me but my name and my stubborn streak. Then there are my beloved dead, so many who shaped me and unceremoniously died, one after another they died, No doubt they had their reason to depart but it hurt. With each of their deaths came the thought “now I am the old person.” Yet this too isn’t making me the half-centuryan I expected.
Somehow I find it remarkably confusing, that my anticipated adulthood is quite different from my reality. Many of my contemporaries are beginning to resemble the half-centuryans of my youth, I’ve sat with friends who insist on talking about their bowels, and their bowls, their gout and their grout , but soon I find myself day dreaming about soap bubbles, and the beach, and books, and sand dollars, and loud music in the car, and grasshoppers. These lovely people are so cherished but somehow I just can’t get there. So now I’m left to ponder can I wing it? Will I ever become the 50 year old my 11 year old self thought I would be? Will I become angry with my silver strands and color them?
The days leading up to my 3rd birthday were full of anticipation. I had a friend who was about 10 and people were telling be, after your birthday you’ll be a big girl like your friend. One evening my mom put me to bed and said “tomorrow’s your birthday.” I could hardly wait for the morning, when I’d be a big girl. Morning came; my mother came to my bed telling me I was going to wear my special dress for my birthday and she pulled out a dress that was special but not new or bigger. Immediately, I thought, she’d forgotten that it was my birthday and that I was a big girl. I’d never be able to fit in my little girl clothes, but nope, I still fit in the dress, I was sadly disappointed with the whole thing. Now I wonder, will it happen in 6 months, will I wake up the day after my 50th birthday caring about the temperature in which sugar caramelizes, or which spray starch is best for my shirts.
I don’t want to be perceived as the 50 year old ditz who never matured and perpetually denies the reality of her age, but when I see a grasshopper and how their silly knees stick upwards so far away from the rest of everything, and they cast such great tangled shadows, I can’t help being much more interested in the grasshopper than in the latest way to cook rice or newest fashion. A grasshopper is just so cool.