I won’t say how much.  It doesn’t matter, since really, I could be thirty and feel seriously old (if only).  It’s all about perspective.  I have no interest in being thirty again—it was a particularly restive period in my life.  And without maturity or life-experience, that younger me was not so much pretty, no.  If only you could be thirty and have the wisdom of someone—ahem—at my age.  It would be the perfect combination.

I don’t care for birthdays, never have.  There are a lot of reasons.  I suppose some self-analysis is in order or possibly it’s an avenue to pursue in therapy.  There have been times over the last week that I just wished I could have avoided the day and come out all fresh the following morning.  But the day is here and that is not happening.  I am stuck being another year older.  I didn’t even get to celebrate the final moments of the previous year.  Rather than revel in the last bit of youth, I was fast asleep way too early because I am seriously old.

So what can one do to address the ravages of time?  How do I begin to handle the fact that I am no longer young or even youngish?  There’s plastic surgery, but really, that doesn’t take years off, it just makes being old a little tighter.  Some of the work I have seen just draws attention to the fact that people age and then try to cover it up.  Besides, I am deathly afraid of knives.  For a few grand less, I could throw on a pair of tight, low-rider jeans and a muscle shirt and squeeze my way into looking like some thirty-something, but that would make me just a Saturday night cliché at a gay bar.

So I could just start acting younger—mid-life crisis sort of thing.  But that’s the kind of messiness that I don’t miss from my younger days.  I don’t want to run off wildly, and up-end my beautiful life.  Besides that’s not what it’s all about.  Mid-life crises are just that, crises that happen when people aren’t happy in life and getting older.  I’m just getting older.  For the most part, my life could not be better.  Besides, I like me now.  I like that I am not battered about by my restless youth.  There is more that is settled in me, there is more peace around me.  So why then, if I am so damn peaceful, is there any issue about turning another year older.  I’ll get to that in minute.

I could resort to the material.  I am a car fanatic.  I should just go out and buy whatever car I want—definitely something sporty and brightly colored, but not a convertible.  That’s too much of a mid-life crisis cliché.  But we just bought “me” a new car and it’s perfect.  It’s not flashy or eye-catching, but it is practical and I love driving it.  It feels new and adult and that’s really what I needed.

I could dress better, more expensive, more youthful.  There is nothing wrong with taking care of oneself.  My sense is that as I have gotten older, I have paid less attention to my appearance and that’s a bad thing.  It has nothing to do with being comfortable in my own skin, with graying hair and such.  It has to do with throwing up my hands and wondering oh what’s the use.  It is a symptom of a bigger issue: that I don’t like to look in the mirror because I don’t like what I see.  And so why bother doing anything about what I see there, in that reflection of that seriously old person.  What’s the point?  Okay, so this may be a little too revealing for a blog post, but I am getting to a point here.

There is something to be said about grooming and caring for oneself and definitely dressing.  Frumpy, ill-fitting clothes only make matters worse.  I have been trying to work on that.  I get a little nudge now and then from my beloved who has on occasion helped me with my wardrobe.  Such as the time that he kindly but forcefully made it clear that a certain weathered and worn-out old shirt did nothing for me and that it was going into the garbage that very moment.  His point was a good one.  He sees me differently than I do, and thank god for that.  Hiding behind old clothes is just another symptom.

So where does that leave me.  Well I agreed to a party—small, but there was real chocolate cake and some of our closest friends.  That was a big step in the right direction.  My dearest handled the birthday event.  He has done so even though I have been non-committal and just plain difficult about it.  I think he was willing to let me not let anyone do anything for my birthday, but not particularly happy about it.  All I could think about was having an event that marks the fact that I am another year older.  But I am okay with that–yes, I am able to handle the happy birthday party.  I am even fine with some ugly over-the-hill cards.  Laughing at my age, at my age, is good for the soul.

The thing that makes it hard is that I don’t feel my age.  I don’t remember what being thirty was like exactly, but for the most part, I feel the same kind of energy that I did back then.  In many ways I feel better about myself and where I am with life.  It’s the age thing and the physical changes that catch me off guard.  Since there is nothing that can be done about the age, I decided a few months ago, October to be exact, that I was going to do something about the physical.

Because a certain member of our house, the one who cooks all the meals, has gotten all diet happy on us, I have by osmosis, been on his same healthy-eating kick.  And I am very excited not only for him, because I know how much this makes him feel better, but also for me.  I don’t need to lose weight, no.  I am one of those people you might hate, who never gains a pound and weighs the same as they did in high school in the 80s (please don’t do the math).  In addition, I’m already mostly vegetarian, seriously hate fast-food, and my only weakness is an occasional bout of chocolate consumption.  What’s different though is that things have shifted and there is this lack of muscle tone that is a bit disturbing.

So I made myself a promise—that I would go to the gym at least twice a week.  I think I have been averaging more than that.  I’ve always been a gym go-er but in the last several years have had a difficult time fitting it into my already packed daily life.  I also determined that during those few precious moments of exercise, I would not lament the fact that I don’t look like the beefy twenty-something guy benching two-hundred pounds next to me.  Absolutely not.  I am in boot-camp: my own self-imposed method for dealing with the physical downer of getting older.  When I’m in the gym, there is no rest, there is no day-dreaming, there is no wondering if this will ever amount to anything.  There is only lifting and exercise.  I move from one machine to the next, from one bar bell to the next and don’t allow myself to take even a moment to breathe.  By the end of each session, I am exhausted—a good exhausted.  I have already begun to see improvements.  There is less gut around the waist; there is less flabbiness; there is more definition; and there is more attitude.  It’s all about perspective—and mine is improving.  Getting old can be a real deterrent or a great motivator.  I have chosen the latter.

So happy fiftieth to me!  I will never be happy with that number, but at least I am getting happier with me.