Tomorrow is my 26th birthday. I am officially entering the early stages of my late 20s and I’m not having a panic attack about it … surprisingly. I remember when 26 seemed impossibly old, the way 35 seems to me right now I guess, but now I’ve really started getting comfortable in my quarter-life status.
The days of looking forward to age-specific birthdays as they relate to laws — driving, voting, gambling, drinking — are long gone as all of the milestones start to blend together. When people ask, “How old are you?” I often answer incorrectly, not because I’m embarrassed but because I really cannot remember — another sign of just how much I’ve settled into being a “20-something” rather than a specific number.
When I look in the mirror I don’t feel old and yet, when I revisit photo albums from a mere three or four years ago, I am flabbergasted at just how young I looked. Even if I could kid myself into thinking I was still a youthful 22-year-old, there’s always someone there to remind me that I most certainly am not.
Last weekend I was at a department store buying overpriced face wash (I grew out of my Neutrogena a long time ago) when the saleswoman at the cosmetic counter inquired about my anti-aging skin-care regime.
“Purely preventative, of course,” she said, eyeing my apparently not-so-smooth complexion. I spent that afternoon surveying the landscape of my face: A little sun damage but no discernable wrinkles to date — although maybe I should give up frowning just in case.
But it’s not just the physical changes that have me feeling like I’m getting on in years.
All of my peers in the 25-to-30 age bracket seem to make a habit of complaining about just how ancient we’ve gotten. We whine sardonically about being “too old” for stuff that we still do on a regular basis. We’re too old to host keg parties, too old to live in a basement apartment, too old to wear five-inch heels, too old to be waking up in a stranger’s bed, too old to go back to school and so on.
And herein lays the irony of mid-20s limbo: Old enough to know better but immature enough to do it anyway. We’re almost grownups, but we’re not quite there yet.