Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A State Of Mind

I've asked them to check again, it seems so unlikely, but the results are the same. They're expression of confusion seems to be more a reflexion of my own than their own personal feeling. If anything, they seem more likely to feel somewhat sorry for me, but that emotion is buried somewhere under this current facade, bamboozled as to how I couldn't have known when my birthday was.
    I'd always made an assumption, unknowingly so, never having had any need to fact-check what seemed like an inherently true story. Not even a story really, it's just an accepted part of you, something that you would only jokingly lie about as old age eeked its way ever closer. Who would make up a fake birthday for themselves beyond the elderly and optimistic youths queuing for a nightclub?
    But, there it is, plain as day, I am, in fact, two years older than I thought I was.
    Perhaps I should just shrug this off, what does it really matter? This morning I was 29, now I'm 31. My partner Joan suggests - when I call her later - that I should have two years worth of birthday parties at once to celebrate, and make up for missing the big three-oh. If anything the things my mind immediately leaps to as retroactive miscarriages of justice are all pretty trivial; I could have gone drinking earlier, seen 18 certificate films, etc. Ironically I had my first drink in a bar when I thought I was 16, if I'd have known the truth I wouldn't have been so nervous about the whole thing.
    Has my age ever been a reason or an excuse for any of my behaviors? Whilst I've been taught - practically had it drummed into me - to respect my elders, I remember feeling inferior to kids in the year above me at school, despite actually being a year older than them. It wasn't my age that made me smaller, it was the hierarchy that had been constructed around it.
    As I dialled Joan's number, I must admit, I was nervous about how she would respond. She's 23, and I've felt a little of-a-different-time to her anyway, and now the distance has been pushed that little bit wider. Indeed, for some, the third decade can feel, to some, like such a huge, imposing barrier of age that even into their late-twenties people are reluctant to cross that numerical threshold, especially with regards to dating.
    But the age difference never seemed to bother me with Joan, we just clicked and, oddly, for the longest time we didn't really know how old each other was. We knew when our birthdays were, but not the year. I thought we were about the same age, and so did she.
    I have dated people who I have considered to be a bit too old for me, and now, adjusting the differences to compensate for the change in my own vintage, I realise that it couldn't have possibly - at least, entirely - been our ages that were responsible for the chasm that opened between us.
    Ultimately, at this point in my life, this change is meaningless, but it has a resonance, a curious and unsettling one at that. My perception of myself has been defined outside of my own control, through comments for me to "act your age" or to not "dress like a teenager", perhaps even moreso in the decor and ambience of the shops designed for me, the perfumed smell of the women's toilets, the doll that was tucked in with me as I slept, the wallpaper that surrounded me as a child, the idea that you're a little girl, a stroppy teenager, a young woman, an old hag.
    Have I ever been myself? Or have I just been defined by arbitrary modes of behaving and systems of numbering that have, quietly, insidiously, dictated who I am supposed to be?