It’s my birthday. I’m not happy about it, but there it is. It’s my niece’s birthday too, but there’s about a dozen streamers’ and a fancy princess cake with loads of pink layers’ worth of difference between the way she feels about her “HAPPY Birthday!” and the way I feel about my “happy” birthday.
My niece turned 6 today. At 6, you’re pretty damn excited about your birthday. I remember. (My memory’s not completely shot.) At that age (and for at least the next couple of decades), when people asked how old I was, I unabashedly told them: “I’m six years old! Last year, I was five. This year, I’m SIX!” But somewhere between those tight-skinned birthdays and today’s slightly wrinkled one, the nature of that question—and certainly my response to it—changed. At this age, the question is flat out rude and kind of makes me want to answer with something witty like, oh I don’t know, but maybe, “Old enough to tell you to shut the *%#&* up!”
I can’t pinpoint the moment—maybe it was after the birth of the twins, when I realized that my boobs had evaporated like dried up breast milk; or maybe it was when I realized that my hair color would never again truly be my own (at least, not if had anything to do about it); or perhaps it was when the doctor told me that I hadn’t “injured” my knee, per se, it was just “worn out,” which is presumably medical jargon for “shot to hell”—but regardless of the specific year, one thing is certain: sometime after Jay’s birth and before now, I stopped being excited about birthdays and reached an age when it became tempting to lie about it.
And why not lie, especially right now? With this computer screen and 500 words between us, I can say I’m 29. Maybe I am—how would you know? I suppose what might give me away is the fact that “29” is the standard lie to the “How old are you” question. It’s a good age to lie with: At 29, I was kid free with a tight stomach, perky breasts and enough energy to work all day and fool around all night.
But I’m not 29 . . . unless I am. But really, I’m not. I’m 36 . . . unless of course I’m not. I mean, would I really feel that bad about fessing up to that pre-mid-life age? If I were 36, you’d feel sorry for me: assuming you could see me, you’d walk away thinking, “36?! Good lord! What has she been doing with herself over the years?! She looks ancient!”
I’d be better off exaggerating on the old side. Right then, I’m 56. Now if you could see me, you’d say, “Seriously?! You look amazing!” See that works! If I added years to the truth, then I’d fish out complements. But of course, I’m not 56. I’m 46 . . . just kidding. I’m not. I’m actually the flip side of that second number . . . ish. Maybe.
Whatever: Happy *&%*#ing Birthday to me.