I recently turned 34 years old. I’m struggling with my birthday more than usual this time. A combination of things have led me to feel my age more viscerally . . . from the back spasms brought on by simply sitting down, to touring my daughter’s potential elementary school, to seeing a 90’s “90210” star play a damn dad on the latest CW teen soap. I am feeling all 34 of those years these days and I blame Luke Perry. Getting older is rough.
I feel old, but not grown. I think back to my very first job, when I was a recent college graduate. My immediate supervisors ranged from late twenties to mid-thirties, and they seemed so together and mature. I couldn’t wait to be like them.
Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I wonder just how together they really were? Did they also feel old, but not grown? Where is the wisdom, the self-possession, the confidence that I thought came by now? Does anyone ever get to that mythological grown-up place? Maybe.
Some days, I still feel like that dumb 20-something, who on the occasion of a roommate’s birthday, locked herself out of her own apartment. In my drunken state, it seemed like a good idea to break in via second-story window. Surprisingly, this did not result in injuries or arrest. I still feel like the girl who went to Coachella (before it was the hipster celeb-magnet scene it is now), the girl who stood on top of a table in Vegas, or got into fights with “bros” in bars over my friend’s honor.
Other days, I feel decades removed from that idiot. When I think of all the things I’ve done that I will not allow my daughter to do, I absolutely know I’m getting older and slightly wiser.
There are some surprising markers of age, like having someone give you an explanation of what Bumble is or the irrational sexiness of your husband doing a load of laundry unprompted. Or finally understanding what a 401K is (not true, I still don’t understand what a 401K is).
Pop culture often serves to make me feel old and grown. I’m an admitted TV addict and while I still enjoy a good high school drama, I no longer relate to the teenage protagonists. As the mother of a four-year-old wild-child, I find myself more concerned with the parents on these shows.
I can handle coloring my hair or going uncarded, that’s fine. But when I have to face that AARP cover boy, Luke Perry, is playing the dad of a teenager, or recognize how much more I relate to Angela Chase’s parents, or empathize with Lorelai Gilmore versus Rory Gilmore (let’s be real, I relate more to Emily at this point) . . . that’s when I start to truly feel my years. Now I have a weekly reminder of my age in the form of Rory’s rebellious teen boyfriend, Jess Mariano. He is (dead) dad of the year, Jack Pearson, on sobfest This is Us.
The signs of aging in pop culture come from more than the actors, music, fashion or references. My personal perspective gained over time has turned everything upside down. I mean, seriously, Friends? You’re in New York City and there are no people of color? Felicity, why would you cheat on Noel with an MTV VJ? Jesse Spano, get some better friends worthy of your feminist monologues and Ivy League smarts (and lay off the caffeine pills).
Age will come for you in obvious and surprising ways. It’s probably time, with this latest birthday, that I embrace it. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that Angela Chase was often a self-involved brat, that Brandon was the boring twin, or that Ross and Rachel were actually on a damn break. Bring on the early bird special! At least then I can get home in time to live-tweet This Is Us.