thirty one

smirky birthday to me

Well here it is, time once again for the annual introspective birthday post. I’m not sure how it got here already; didn’t I just have one of these birthday things a couple of months ago or something? It feels like it, but here I am, no longer 30 but instead 31. I am — oh dear — A Woman In Her Thirties. How did that happen? Shouldn’t I still be 12? They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but I think it doesn’t necessarily matter much if you’re having fun or not: time flies when you’re alive. It may also fly when you’re dead, but I haven’t any firsthand knowledge of that at present, so I can’t say.

Anyway, here I am, 31. I don’t really mind getting older; I don’t really feel much about it one way or the other at all. Though I have been told a few times recently that I don’t look so old (with italics on that word and everything) and I really had no idea that at my age I was already supposed to appear as a hunchbacked crone with leathery skin. But apparently I am. Last week I was asked by a 19-year-old what my secret to looking so good for my age was (ha, really) and I told her that a good moisturizing daily sunscreen really is an invaluable resource, and also it’s a good idea to drink a lot of water. “How much water do you drink a day?” she asked. “About four liters,” I told her. What I didn’t add is that yes, I do have to pee a lot. I’m great fun on roadtrips, really. The truth is that even though I am good at masking my wizened, hunchbacked crone status, I see my age on my face. I notice that I don’t have 20-year-old skin anymore. There are the tiniest beginnings of smile lines around my mouth (what an idiot, pointing out wrinkles); I like them though. I like faces that look lived in, and I like that as my face changes, as it ages, the first signs of age to show up prove a frequent smile. (Ask me again in a couple of years if I still have the same attitude or if I’ve started buying anti-wrinkle cream.)

(Actually, no. Don’t ask me.)

I’ve had many reasons to smile this year. Last year when I was writing my annual birthday retrospective blabbity blah, I had been unemployed for more than 12 months. Now I am gainfully employed and that is something. I don’t have much to say about my job, which is really a blatant lie: I have all kinds of things to say about my job oh my god you guys you have no idea, but I will keep those to myself and say that every day it is surprising and for that reason alone, if my job were a person, I would say “Well played, sir,” to it. But enough about that.

The main reason why I have been smiling a lot this year is because there’s this boy, see. Okay, “boy” is the wrong word, especially considering that just a couple of paragraphs ago I was mentioning the fact that I apparently am old enough to start giving advice on anti-aging skincare and I am not in training to be a cougar or anything. So, yes. Him. I’m not entirely sure what to write because it seems that just now I have encountered a hang-up about being gross and gushy. I’d rather not be gross and gushy, you guys. So, okay. It’s a long story that spans years, and most of it doesn’t matter anymore, because where it really begins is in the early spring with a proposal to talk to each other like reasonable adults, and wow, we can be reasonable adults. I mean, when we’re not dorky idiots, that is. He is English, and therefore insists that I should be adding extraneous letters to words, but I fail to see how adding a U to “color” does anything necessary at all, aside from making the word take longer to type. In general, I’m a big fan of the merely decorative, but explain to me why spelling it “programme” is a good idea. Do the extra letters keep it warm? (Hahahaaaaaa. But seriously.) I don’t know. What I do know is that he makes me laugh every day, often until I can’t breathe. We like the same books, we like the same bands (I try not to talk too much about my love for Justin Timberlake). He has these blue eyes that kill me, plus, you know, the accent. And really good hair. (I wish I could explain why I just cracked myself up.) So there’s that. And it’s… lovely, really.

There have been some things about this year that have been difficult as well. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this summer, and while the diagnosis wasn’t exactly a surprise, it’s still hard watching someone who I love so much, someone who has always been lethally sharp, disappear right before my eyes. I had surgery, which I think I mentioned, but what I didn’t mention is how amazingly awesome it is to get the bills in the mail (I don’t have health insurance). Let’s just say that when I did the math in my head, I felt like I’d been kicked in the chest and then I laughed and said “Dammit, I am in the wrong line of work.” But it’s okay. Maybe I’ll have a bake sale. I make a hell of a peach pie. If I could sell a few of those for, like, $1,000 each, I would be ALL SET.

I’m still working on the novel, which I managed to rescue from my computer which went through a self-immolation phase over the summer (I don’t blame it — it was really hot this year). Writing a novel has been probably the single most frustrating experience of my life, and if I’d known what I was getting into when I started, I’m not sure I ever would’ve attempted it. So I guess I’m glad that I jumped in, blind and hopeful. The story has a hold on me, one that I can’t deny, even when I look at the manuscript and say “I fucking hate you,” and go do something else. (I do not care to admit how much this happens.) I’ll get it written, because at this point, I just have to, but sometimes I just want to print it all out and set it on fire. FYI, I guess.

Last year when I turned 30, I wrote that I didn’t know what would come of the year that just ended. Turns out I was right. Predicting the unpredictability of life: that makes me, like, psychic or something, right? Yeah. Difficult and confusing and tiring and occasionally emotionally overwhelming, but overall, 30 was good to me. I wore some fantastic shoes. I made some stuff. Painted the living room. Created memories I will hold onto for as long as I am able. I laughed more than I cried, was happy more than I wasn’t. It turns out I have no complaints.

A little while ago, I sat outside and just as I tore my gaze from the star-laden sky, I saw a solitary leaf falling to the street, illuminated by a streetlamp. Time is moving on. It is another new year for me, ready to fill with things I can’t yet imagine, and the truth is that I can’t wait.


10 thoughts on “thirty one

  1. Wow, I forgot how well you write. You are a very talented young lady, which I have never forgotten.
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it. I will have to get with you in person for more advice on anti-aging secrets.


  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!! Oh, to be 31 again (well maybe not quite that young. . . ). Hope you celebrated in style. Have a super 31st year of life!


  3. happy 31 to you. Lots of good stuff cookin – and you’re still so young! don’t even think anti- anything. Do it all and with your inimitable jamness.



  4. Just about everything in this piece made me smile. But what makes me smile most is that you sound, well – happy. I am happy too, as it happens. For what sound like similar reasons (which just goes to show 31 is nothing to be afraid of, cos’ hell, I’m almost old enough to be your father, technically, which is something I’d never thought of before and which in olden times would have freaked me out, but now, for reasons I’m not going to go into here, doesn’t anymore).

    But back to matters in hand : right now, I’m especially happy for you. Happy that you’re happy. Cos’ you really deserve to be happy. And though I’ve never met you, you’re one of my favoUrite people in the whole world. (And yes, I’ll admit, just ever so slightly proud that one of our boys seems to be contributing in such a nice way to your happiness.)

    On which note I shall wish you, for the third time today, the happiest of birthdays.


  5. Happy birthday Jamelah! I agree with Tom, you do sound really happy and content with life. And that’s the best birthday present, to yourself at least, right? 🙂 Glad it’s been such a good and interesting year for you. May 31 hold even more adventures!


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