I had seldom thought about my age until two summers ago, when a schoolgirl at a Vienna backpacker hostel demanded it. To my answer — “27” — she said “Fwüüüü!” which is German for “I am surprised your colostomy bag isn’t leaking.” Then a few weeks ago I was at a train station in Germany, and the Ticketfrau also asked my age to see if I qualified for a “youth” fare — apparently the Botox that Austrian schoolgirl made me get has paid for itself. To my answer, which was (unsurprisingly) “29,” she just kind of shook her head and glared at me, as if I were born in 1976 by devious personal choice, like a gay who hasn’t yet become an ex-gay in the glorious light of Christ (I can make such sophisticated comparisons because of the wisdom I have from being alive for so long).
It was a good thing I kept the entire truth from her, which is that I was 29 by a matter of a few insignificant weeks, soon to switch my Rascal scooter to “turbo” and zoom across that venerable decade border, leaving my twenties behind in a cloud of dust and Ben-Gay. In fact, by the time you have so little going on in your life that you decide to read this page, I will have “celebrated” my 30th birthday, or will perhaps be celebrating it right this second, drunk somewhere and picking up a 19 year old in celebration of our mutual sexual peaks (or so I’ve read). Perhaps you are that 19 year old, and still so psyched your fake ID got you into the Beer Garden that you haven’t yet noticed the aging pervert in your midst.
Either way, now that I’m back in America (sans deodorant and face powder, which were confiscated rather aggressively at the Düsseldorf airport as part of the liquid ban, despite one being a solid and the other, as you might guess, a powder), and busy following the example of our elected leaders and ignoring the carnage in the Middle East, I have nothing left to distract me from the ceaselessly pouring granules of the sands of time. My birthday has always depressed me, ever since I took my friends mini-golfing when I was 12 and had such a temper-tantrum at my lack of mini-golf skills that I made my dad weep with shame (which he is doing once again, after reading of my desire to pick up 19 year olds). That was topped, only barely so, by 23, the year my then-boyfriend decided to buy himself a new subwoofer for his computer speakers instead of splashing out for an $11 pierogi dinner at Odessa, and I spent the evening sandwiched between his friends, half-participating in an inane conversation about the genius of Steve Vai.
I don’t know what the rest of you do on your birthdays, but my birthday is a day for somber reflection — somber, drunken reflection, and a ruthless taking of my life’s stock. And despite the braying of Austrian schoolgirls and German Ticketfrauen, I don’t so much care about getting older as I care about... well, about Steve Vai, for one thing — that guy was a total fucking genius and I could listen to his 19-minute blues jams for hours! No, I don’t care about my birthday except that I’m supposed to care because it’s my birthday, and I don’t care about being 30 except that everyone seems to think that’s “old” (it’s when people have started telling me I’m only as old as I feel, which is something you only say to oldies), and I know that despite my dad’s mini-golf shame and a decade’s worth of bad relationship choices, I have had a mercifully easy life. To make this point, I would compare myself to some people in the Middle East, but that would involve watching the news, and since they confiscated my deodorant in Düsseldorf I don’t want to raise my arms to turn on the television. And besides, who has time for the news when there are 19 year olds to corrupt? NYU sophomores, o ye with your battered copies of L’Etranger and your “original” emo tortoiseshell glasses, I’m coming for you first. As fast as this Rascal scooter will go.