SieffstarOver drinks with a friend a few weeks back, we tip-toed around the subject of age. Both in the last year of our 20s, we agreed that the issue of turning 30 had taken us by surprise. I'd become increasingly neurotic and nervous about the future and she had found herself one night breathing through tears into a paper bag.

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Jessica Sieff: Getting older, wasting time, looking back, moving on

Published 10:10am Thursday, September 24, 2009

It was with the same friend that I had once shared cheaper and less tasteful drinks in the second year of our twenties in my first ever crapartment. She reminded me of my 20-something philosophy that all the mistakes we make in these sort of adult years would eventually have an undeniable impact on the rest of our lives.

“I don’t even think about that mess anymore,” I said, half lying through sips of gin.
But I totally do. I wonder about what it means to see year after year pass by and almost always feel as though I’m missing something. Missing some sort of sense of experience. My life palate not quiet experienced enough yet.

And that’s just the philosophical side. As we compared notes on our neurosis, my friend and I marked off worries that were not yet financially stable enough for our ages, feeling a little shaky footed in the matters of our careers and our relationships. She owns her own home and I rent and yet we still were unsure if that’s what either of us should have been doing.

Age is everywhere. On television, it’s no longer ‘friends in their twenties in an apartment.’  It’s ‘friends in their forties completely unsure of what they’re doing.’ It used to be that age had gender connotations. Men may have worried about it, but that wasn’t exploited as much as it was for women. Women were supposedly the ones to usher us into the plastic surgery age fighting against age and beauty, youth and wrinkles. Now, the plague of age on the psyche for both men and women is what is showing up in our entertainment hours on the TV.

There’s ‘Cougartown’ about a 40 something divorcee. And while the show focuses on how she is on the prowl for younger men, there’s an underlying issue there as well, as she feels she has entered into a stage of age that she is not ready for. A conflict between her 40 something best friend and 20 something new friend. That idea of relating to one another despite the fact that as younger people we are not always on the level of older people and as older people we get annoyed with the younger people. There is a moment of realization that sometimes, in some ways, age sort of defines you. The question is how? It doesn’t last, those moments, but they are still cognizant.

In ‘Men of a Certain Age,’ the issue is as blatant as the title. But it also transcends the issue of relationships because these male characters aren’t just dealing with how they appear on the singles scene but how their work, their overall fulfillment figures into their lives.
I’m sure it’s all really poignant and understood by people who have experienced far more than I – but to me it’s just scary. Scary to think that eventually we’ll all be asking the same questions then as we do now.

When it comes to age, we watch our children break into a sprint to act older than they are – throwing their childhood away for pre-teen speak and questionable clothing. We deal with decisions regarding our elderly parents, wondering what form of care for them is best when the time comes to question whether they should have to continue caring for themselves.
And we watch as one of the world’s most relentless and hateful diseases, Alzheimers, rips everything that we have gained throughout our ages away.

We begin to think in terms of should. Should we have gotten married. Should we have gotten divorced. Should we get married, if we haven’t?

So it is, that I am often arrested by time, wondering just how to ensure it is well spent. Wondering what it means to gain another year, to move into another age box on the standard doctor’s office or general information form. Are we supposed to get smarter? Learn how to care for ourselves better? Drop the dead weight that takes the form of toxic relationships or unfulfilled jobs or that fear that can keep us from moving? Take a plunge?
Sitting there, my lime sweetening up my drink, I had a thought. That if these are the questions of the 20s, then I’m hoping for new questions in the 30s. Maybe the 20s are all about looking back at who we always were and the 30s open the door to who we will be. We don’t have to keep craning our necks into the past. We can focus solely on who we are, who we’ll be and now who we aren’t.

But I didn’t say anything about that thought. I didn’t want to jinx it.

Still, if in 10 years I’m sitting up at a quiet bar somewhere with that same friend and maybe a couple of others who remember the 20 something me, while hanging around with the 30 something me? Well, I can say I would consider that some time well spent.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for the Niles Daily Star. Reach her at jessica.sieff@leaderpub.com.

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