Last month I had a birthday. I tried not to let my natural inclination to expect something magical to happen nudge me beforehand or signal me with little whimsical Carol Burnett ear pulls. I really beat it down this year then realized I was a little sad I had.
The fact is, I’ve never played blasé convincingly in my entire life.
Unlike me, my mother really didn’t seem to expect anything to happen on her birthday then seemed genuinely tickled that a single person remembered. She wasn’t afflicted with performer level vanity like I am. I remember I used to stand in the bathroom with her as she was getting ready to go out and I’d ask her, “How old are you?” She would brush me off saying, “Oh, a woman doesn’t tell after a certain age my dear.”
“But what is the age, that age you stopped saying your birthday age, when was that?”
She’d smile and look at my face staring at her in the mirror and I’d know she was onto me.
I would try to sneak it in when she least suspected–even as we kneeled in church to pray–and see if she would break. “Shhhhhh,” she’d scold me and I would cross my arms, angry at her stubborn refusal to share this part of her self with me. Surely I was trustworthy? Surely I, above all people, was someone she could reveal herself to? I tried over and over only to be met with her philosophical refrain.
“A woman doesn’t…” she’d start.
“Forget it. I don’t even care!” I’d yell, storming upstairs, my heels hard on each step so she’d hear it in the kitchen below.
Here’s the thing: I found myself saying it on my birthday this year. Just exactly as my mother did. I don’t know why I decided it was the time I would turn the world away from my door, banish them forever from prying a number from me but I did.
“A woman doesn’t tell after a certain age.” My co-worker looked at me like I should be wearing a wig and holding a long cigarette. I realized my mom’s era had seeped into me and was now inhabiting my body like the ghost of Norma Desmond.
I don’t care. I’m going with it. I’ve no time for numbers. The point is living life, not the passing of it.