Updated: Nov 15, 2019
(Published in the digital version of a leading Indian daily called The Hindu https://bit.ly/2qekLPG)
I think, whoever first said “age is just a number” was drinking a dodgy looking potion (probably made of kale) sourced from the fountain of youth all his life. The said person would have grown up thinking: fine lines are things that appear on notebooks to save oneself from the guilt of having a terrible handwriting, and loss of hearing is something you inflict upon yourself when you’re forced to sit next to a wailing infant on public transport. Crow’s feet would have been their version of big foot. Best suited for a pothead’s imagination. In this golden age of eternal youth, 50-year olds wouldn’t have wished each other ‘Happy Birthday’ and posted selfies of their cake-stuffed face with ironic captions like ‘18 till I die’ to make themselves feel better. Because what difference does it make if you’re 18 or 81. Age was well just a number.
In our world, however, growing old is the ultimate fact of life. It’s as real as John Snow making a pass at Khalisi. To think of it, ageing is like that controversial coitus scene from the last episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones- everyone knows it’s going to happen but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest.
Turns out the universe had been dropping me hints (faster than some of the ardent GOT fans on Reddit threads), about the inevitable process of ageing through lingering hangovers, recurring backaches and dark circles so big, if you meet me in person you’d mistake me for the Christian Bale’s character in The Machinist. But I turned a blind eye to do what I did best i.e., putting it off for another time. Except there is no another time. In less than a month, I will part ways with my eventful 20s and descend into a rather dull life of judging other people have fun, while eating my supper at 5pm. Only this time I wouldn’t hear my friends saying “you’re going senile” followed by the disclaimer “just kidding”.
Turning 30 is nature’s way of singing to you the popular Billy Joel song which goes like slow down, you crazy child..., while you’re texting your gang to know about their Friday night plans. Because your fridge won’t stock up itself and clean laundry wouldn’t just magically appear in your closet. You know those cute character flaws which people found endearing in you, will haunt you with the ferocity of Ganesh Gaitonde’s words. There’s no shying away from the fact that 30s comes bearing the baggage of 20s which you just can’t run away from. For instance, if you’re broke and a struggling artist at 26, you’re cool, but in your thirties you’ll be called a sad loser. The same friends who gave you a fist bump for dating a 19-year old will be quick to crack pedophile jokes at your expense. Your responsibilities will grow faster than the cellulite on your thighs. Between work politics, building stable relationships, raising kids or justifying the decision of not having kids, you will start to look like Gollum’s brother from another mother.
No age isn’t just a number. It’s a cruel reminder of my limited time on the planet. The prospect of turning 30 has brought upon this gnawing pain in my belly. I’m struggling to answer questions like have I done justice to my sleep-is- for-the-meek days? Have I gained anything apart from my fear and loathing of life in thirties. Will I get away with batting my eyelids like a pretty blonde every time someone talks about markets going bullish? Will I leave legacy more meaningful than a bagful of hand-me-downs from Forever 21?
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to anybody over the age of 29 is simply disrespectful. There’s little to be happy about a newly acquired receding hairline and a home loan bigger than the plot of Shoah. Can we just collectively alter our wishes to ‘glad you survived another year of your fading existence’ and raise a toast to that. By toast I mean a wheatgrass shot, duh!
Truth be told I never thought I’ll turn into this cynical person who makes a big fuss about turning 30. It’s not like one suddenly wakes up with nine fingers or a kidney less. I used to believe age-shaming was a carefully constructed ploy used by skin-care and hair-colour mafias of the world. Heck, I’ve sold anti- ageing creams in my career as a Copywriter. I know how this business works. There’s no such thing as a youth elixir. It was probably invented by the bloke who smoked a lot of pot while re-reading Harry Potter. 7 signs of ageing? More like 7 lies of marketing.
I thought I was familiar with all the vile ways in which the skin-care industry makes profits until the day I walked over skillfully laid booby traps set by master manipulators at Sephora. Little did I know, my innocent search for an anti-acne cream would spiral me into to a vortex of self-pity and paranoia from which there is no returning. Instead of handing me an over-priced acne cream, Miss Shea butter Skin aka Lady Apothecary handed me a lifetime of guilt for not looking after my skin. After having a field day while pointing at my dark spots and blemishes, she sent me home with brutal awareness of the fact that I no longer possess the baby-soft skin gifted to me by my amazing genepool, but the good news is, it can be fixed courtesy the 10k worth of age-reversal skincare products, I just bought.
While I became aware of the physical signs of ageing only recently, mentally I started to age a lot earlier. For starters, I know I’ve turned into this crazy label- reading lady who takes 20 minutes to buy a bottle of cooking oil. Me and my tribe are the reason why organic stores can get away with charging 1000 rupees for a measly jar of fresh and fragrant, locally sourced 100% natural tea. Did I emphasize enough on my relentless pursuit of all things natural? Let’s just say it’s been a long journey for someone who used to thrive on a pack of cup noodles 4 days a week.
My idea of a great party is when the host buys us a free foot massage instead of free shots, because hey how else am I going to keep up with all the moves like Jagger! The beers in my fridge have has been meticulously replaced by fruit-infused water and jars of kombucha. Don’t be judgmental, it helps me achieve the daily target of drinking 2 liters of water. I’m so obsessed with hydration that I installed an app to send me reminders to drink water. I’m starting to think, that’s how you find a person’s real age. You browse through their apps, if you chance upon a health/mindfulness app sitting coyly in the sea of other apps, you’ll know for a fact, your date is lying about their age on their Tinder bio. There’s no way this person is “single and living the life of 20s”. Don’t fall for their perfectly contoured selfie pout. It’s all a lie. That or he or she might be on a Kim Kardashian diet, eating Botox fillers for breakfast.
If 30s is all about repairing the damages done by your 20s, perhaps I’m on the right track by choosing baked almonds over potato chips, yoga pants over hot pants, health and hydration over having a life. Perhaps, it’s a sign that my mind has journeyed through the five stages of grief and is now aware and accepting of the impending countdown to a scalp full of greys and a mind full of wisdom. Maybe I’ll have the good sense to treat 30s as the last and final call to work on personal and professional goals, I’ve happily ignored while YOLOing all this while. You know write the book I’ve always wanted to write, get past the first episode of The Wire, cook a meal which requires more than 3 ingredients. Maybe I’ll even look forward to 30s, armed with the satisfaction of not having to keep up with changing fashion trends. Toss me those boot cut jeans, I like to call home. But here’s the ultimate upside, I don’t have to apologize ever again for bailing on plans which don’t feature a complimentary foot massage. Now, that makes for a pretty great trade off.