That’s a lot of candles.
I celebrated my 23rd birthday a few weeks ago. My friends were great, showering me with affection and attention and presents galore. But for some reason they all kept echoing the same reproachful sentiment:
“What’s wrong with you, you retard? We all know you’re 25.”
Damn. Can’t pull anything past those wily bastards.
There’s an undeniable stigma associated with turning 25. Twenty-seven even sounds young by comparison. Twenty feels like it was light-years away. And now that you’ve amassed a quarter-century under your belt, you long for the positively juvenile days of yore: 24.
While you hung upside down from the jungle gym during recess, you dreamed about turning 13. When you finally made it there, in all your frizzy-hair-and-braces glory, you were ready for a blowout Sweet 16 and a driver’s license. And as soon as you concluded that having a magazine named for your age wasn’t a big deal anymore, you wanted to be an adult – even though you had no desire to act like one. Then, from the first week of college, you counted down the days till 21.
But by the time you hit 24, birthdays had already begun to lose their luster. You discovered that telling aunties you had a master’s degree was less a distinction to be proud of and more an expiration stamp… You couldn’t figure out exactly when the months stopped being measured by weekends and parties and started being marked by rent checks and subway passes… You found new hobbies in job-hopping and interview-juggling, but that career you were destined for somehow continued to elude you… You probably heard enough “It’s not you, it’s me” to do the math and deduce that the common denominator always was, in fact, you… You started taking elaborate cooking lessons but discovered that you were content with a bowl of Cookie Crisp and skim milk… You could finally afford a designer wardrobe, but after endless days confined in fitted blazers and pinching heels all you longed for was a pair of flannel PJ’s… You found yourself applying for a graduate program at Columbia on a whim just so you could get that Ivy League degree you always secretly wanted, but only when you got in did you realize that you were too damn old for homework… You apparently weren’t too damn old for zits, though – because just when you thought you were fortunate enough to make it through the awkward years with enviable skin, you started breaking out with acne that rivaled the puckered cheeks of a seventh-grader… But through it all you sought out the silver lining: Maybe the blemishes on your face were a good thing, you decided. Perhaps they could take off some of the years added to your visage by the occasional grey hair sprouting up amid your glossy black curls.
So it’s no surprise that, by the end of 24 – as much as you hated the idea – you were ready for 25. After all, you figured, how could it get any worse? Clearasil still works as well now as it did a decade ago. So relax, quarter-centurian. It ain’t so bad. You have a whole lot to look forward to during the big two-five.
…And why am I using the second person, you ask? Because this is all about you, silly. Me? I just turned 23.