I’m 30 and I know it

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The flipside of crossing the threshold into proper adulthood is that you are finally allowed to like things that old people like, and realise that youth, just like anything else, is a phase.

The first sign of having exited your blessed days of youth is the urge to have drinks that are green and pulpy.

I think whoever came up with the snappy saying, “Age is just a number”, had been drinking a dodgy-looking potion (probably made of kale) sourced from the fountain of youth all his life. This person would have grown up believing that fine lines were things that appear on notebooks to camouflage their terrible handwriting, that loss of hearing was something you inflicted upon yourself when you’re forced to sit next to a wailing infant on public transport, that crow’s feet were as ludicrous as Bigfoot. Best suited for a pothead’s imagination. In this golden age of eternal youth, 50-year-olds wouldn’t have wished each other “Happy Birthday” and posted selfies of their cake-stuffed faces with ironic captions like ‘18 till I die’. Because, what difference does it make if you’re 18 or 81 when age is, well, just a number?

In our world, however, growing old is the ultimate fact of life. It’s as real and raw as Jon Snow making a pass at Khalisi — ageing is like that controversial coitus scene from the last episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones; everyone knows it’s going to happen but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest.

Turns out, the universe had been dropping me hints (faster than some of the ardent GOT fans on Reddit threads) about the inevitable process of ageing through lingering hangovers, recurring backaches and dark circles so big if you met me in person you’d mistake me for the Christian Bale’s character in The Machinist. But I turned a blind eye in order to do what I did best i.e., putting it off for another time. Except, there is no another time. In less than a month, I will part ways with my eventful 20s and descend into a rather dull life of judging other people having fun while eating my supper at 5 p.m. Only, this time I wouldn’t hear my friends saying, “you’re going senile”, followed by the disclaimer, “just kidding”.

 

 

Turning 30 is Nature’s way of singing to you the popular Billy Joel song that goes “slow down, you crazy child…” while you’re texting your gang to know about their Friday night plans. Because your fridge doesn’t stock itself up and clean laundry doesn’t just magically appear in your closet. Those cute character flaws which people found endearing in you will haunt you with the ferocity of Ganesh Gaitonde’s words. There’s no shying away from the fact that your 30s come bearing baggage from your 20s you just can’t run away from. For instance, if you’re broke and a struggling artist at 26, you’re cool; but in your 30s you’ll be called a sad loser. The same friends who gave you a fist bump for dating a 19-year-old will be quick to crack pedophile jokes at your expense after you cross the thirty-shold. Your responsibilities will grow faster than the cellulite on your thighs. Between work politics, building stable relationships, raising kids and justifying the decision not to have kids, you will start to look like Gollum’s brother from another mother.

So, no. Age isn’t just a number. It’s a cruel reminder of my limited time on the planet. The prospect of turning 30 has brought upon this gnawing pain in my belly. I’m struggling to answer questions regarding whether I have done justice to my sleep-is-for-the-meek days? Have I gained anything apart from my fear and loathing of life? Will I get away with batting my eyelids like a pretty blonde every time someone talks about markets going bullish? Will my legacy be more meaningful than a bagful of hand-me-downs from Forever 21?

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to anybody over the age of 29 is simply disrespectful. There’s little happiness to draw from having newly acquired a receding hairline and a home loan bigger than the plot of Shoah. Can we just collectively agree to alter the standard birthday wish to something along the lines of “Glad you survived another year of your fading existence” and raise a toast to that? And by toast, I mean a wheatgrass shot, duh.

Truth be told, I never thought I’d turn into this cynical person who makes a big fuss about crossing a certain age. I used to believe age-shaming was a carefully constructed ploy used by the skin-care and hair-colour mafias. Heck, I’ve sold anti-ageing creams in my career as a copywriter. I know how this business works. There’s no such thing as a youth elixir. It was probably invented by the bloke who smoked a lot of pot while re-reading Harry Potter. 7 signs of ageing? More like 7 lies of marketing, thought I.

 

If your 30s is all about repairing the damage you caused yourself during your 20s, perhaps I’m on the right track when I choose baked almonds over potato chips, yoga pants over hot pants, health and hydration over having a life.

 

I thought I was familiar with all the vile ways in which the skin-care industry makes profits until the day I walked over skillfully laid booby traps set by master manipulators at Sephora. Little did I know that my innocent search for an anti-acne cream would spiral me down a vortex of self-pity and paranoia from which there is no coming back. Instead of handing me an over-priced acne cream, Miss Shea Butter Skin, aka Lady Apothecary, handed me a lifetime of guilt for not looking after my skin. After having a field day while pointing at my dark spots and blemishes, she sent me home with brutal awareness of the fact that I no longer possessed the baby-soft skin gifted to me by my amazing genepool (but, good news! It could be fixed courtesy the 10k worth of age-reversal skincare products I just had to buy).

While I became aware of the physical signs of ageing only recently, mentally I started to age a lot earlier. For starters, I know I’ve long been into this crazy label-reading lady who takes 20 minutes to buy a bottle of cooking oil. Me and my tribe are the reason why organic stores can get away with charging ₹1000 for a measly jar of fresh and fragrant locally sourced 100% natural tea. (Did I emphasise enough my relentless pursuit of all things natural?) Let’s just say it’s been a long journey for someone who used to thrive on a pack of cup noodles 4 days a week.

My idea of a great party is when the host buys us a free foot-massage instead of free shots (because hey, how else am I going to keep up with all the moves like Jagger?). The beers in my fridge have has been meticulously replaced by fruit-infused water and jars of kombucha. Don’t be judgmental, it helps me achieve my daily target of drinkikng 2 litres of water. I’m so obsessed with hydration that I installed myself an app to send me reminders to drink water. I’m starting to think that’s how you find out a person’s real age. You browse through their apps, and if you chance upon a health/mindfulness app sitting coyly in the sea of other apps, you’ll know for a fact  that your date is lying about their age on their Tinder bio. There’s no way this person is “single and living the 20s life”. Don’t fall for their perfectly contoured pouting selfie. It’s all a lie. (Either that, or he or she might be on a Kim Kardashian diet, eating Botox fillers for breakfast.)

If your 30s is all about repairing the damage you caused yourself during your 20s, perhaps I’m on the right track when I choose baked almonds over potato chips, yoga pants over hot pants, health and hydration over having a life. Perhaps it’s a sign that my mind has journeyed through the five stages of grief and is now aware and accepting of the impending countdown to a scalp full of wispy greys and a mind full of wisdom. Maybe I’ll have the good sense to treat my 30s as the last and final call to begin work on the personal and professional goals I’ve happily ignored while YOLOing all this while — you know, write that book, get past the first episode of The Wire, cook a meal that calls for more than three ingredients. Maybe I’ll even look forward to my 30s, armed with the satisfaction of not having to keep up with changing fashion trends. Toss me those boot-cut jeans I like to call home. But here’s the ultimate upside: I don’t have to apologise ever again for bailing on plans that don’t feature a complimentary foot massage. Now, that makes for a pretty great tradeoff.

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