Tonight it’s John Mayer that I’m listening to. Tonight it’s five after midnight, rather than five minutes till, as I sit down to write. Tonight I continue to make good on a promise to return here each day. I love that I promised to write every day for a year. I also love that I said I would not promise to write for 365 days. Most of all, I love that my math - my rules - make sense to no one but me. Like John Mayer, I’m waiting on the world to change.
There was a time when I measured my life by the landmark of numbers. That’s the way the world does it. The year I started college. The year I met my then boyfriend before we did the legal knot tying. Years married. Years divorced. The year I finished grad school. The year the grandmother for whom I am named died in my arms. Without (happily without) children to measure the passage of years, I marked time with what I had, my own age at each turning point. I always loved being my age, whatever that age was. I loved my birthdays. I loved mapping time by them. But then I got divorced and suddenly there was only one number that mattered: age. Right up there with “What do you do?” is “How old are you?” Were there ever two more boring questions in the English language?
So scared of getting olderIt was summer when Z and I met at an art exhibit on the third floor of the downtown library. We were the only two there, and we were struck by each other. I was still wearing my wedding ring. He politely inquired. I was charmed by his good manners, he was charmed by my height and my smile, and for half an hour we starred in a Doris Day, Rock Hudson picture show. When he left, he didn’t ask for my number but rather offered his email. I remember telling friends he was 30... ish. He thought the same. On our first date my second thought was holy crap. Neither one of us was near thirty.
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun.
I had always gone with older men. At twenty, I went from my high school boyfriend to a man a dozen years older, 32; from boys to men in a single bound. In college, I went with a man just out of the Marines. Twice married. Two kids. I'd never been with a man in his twenties. Ever.
“Does it bother you?” he said. “Your friends? Your family?” His question took me by surprise. I’d been so consumed with all the rules this broke that I hadn’t stopped to see how I felt. So I stopped. I considered. I imagined. I was surprised! “No, it doesn’t.” In retrospect, how could I have felt anything else? Yes, Z was beautiful. Yes, we were crazy about each other. And yes, it had its challenges, what relationship doesn’t? But here’s the thing. I have always enjoyed saying fuck you to ridiculous rules. My life long, I have been on a one-woman mission to do whatever is required to avoid being stuffed into a pigeonhole. In college, for example, I made it a habit to refer to my “partner” and not my “boyfriend” because I believed it was good for people to wonder: straight or lesbian?
It didn't work out with Z and me, but it took several years for it to not work out, and what's more important is what happened to me during those years. I went from being a woman who quite accidentally attracted a much younger man to one who no longer felt at ease in the company of men her own age. They had all gotten so old. Our years matched, but nothing else did. Nothing. Then (and I have yet to live this part down) I was at a college friend's combination house warming / college graduation party. My friend had just gotten remarried and finished his dream house, and his son had just finished college. You've already guessed the rest. None of the men my age were remotely as interested in me as they were in their drinks, while every man under 23 vied for my attention. So I let one of them take me home.
After this man (imagine me looking smugly happy here), I redoubled my efforts to date in my “age range” as they call it (imagine me groaning here). Now I just leave well enough alone, declining to date and declining to name my age except to say I’m old enough to drink. I have a zero birthday coming up. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate it unnamed, and it certainly doesn’t feel right to join the “I’m-getting-too-old” chorus. I’m not. At least not in my life.
So I rebel in my own little ways, like writing at midnight so I can claim credit for the day before that one-second click of the clock or the day after. My call. Always.