You would foresee it years in advance, coming at its own slow pace like an ominous red signal prepping to stop everything fun in your life. Like a morbid, fear instigating animal sprawled on its limbs, slowly crawling and showing its claws and tentacles from a distance, you will never be more aware or petrified of something approaching. It should not be a big deal after all, it’s just another birthday. But then, it ends up being a big deal. In a way, it’s a milestone reached and crossed, a milestone after which you are no longer considered in the bracket of energetic, enthusiastic, eligible, and highly coveted age group that you call the twenties.
They say you do not hit thirty, thirty hits you. Whoever this “they” is, they could not be closer to the truth. Like a whack of reality on the head, it hits you hard. So what changes so drastically in that one day? Everything actually. You go to sleep being 29, and then you wake up the next morning not really knowing what hit your life and changed it forever. That is called turning 30.
I have been dreading this birthday even before I was 27. Call it social programming, cultural upbringing, whatever. It feels nothing close to the energetic Jitendra, white shirt, white pants, white shoes and all, gyrating his hips while playing badminton and popping those “30 plus” pills by the dozen. When I was a teenager, anyone 30 years old was just OLD. Plain and simple. When I was in my mid-twenties, I would not even look at anyone 30 years or older. Little did I know how I would feel while I approached that age.
The interesting irony is, I do not ever remember being so petrified of entering the twenties. Heck, I do not even remember my 20th birthday. Back calculating, I know I was in Kolkata, somewhere at the fag end of my undergraduate education. However, I do not specifically remember the 20th birthday as being a big deal or a milestone. If anything, I was happy to be done with my teens, and hoped I would be henceforth taken seriously and not be dismissed from adult conversations and asked to go entertain the kids of uncles and aunties who visited us.
So how would it feel like being 30? I thought I have two more months to find out, but I think I know the answer already. You have perhaps never been more aware of your bones creaking every time you try to shake your hips to the beats of Beedi Jalaile at a dance party. There are imminent health issues and you have suddenly entered the “more at risk” category. The acne and oily skin nightmares of the twenties are replaced now by the wrinkles and white hair nightmares of the thirties. In fact, you would be lucky to have whitening hair, which means you still have hair on your head to boast about. Some unfortunates with receding hairlines and balding issues will not even get a chance to color their hair.
99% of your friends are married by now, and you cannot relate to 99% of them. The career and job-hunting uncertainties of the twenties are now replaced by “mother-in-law is a pain in the ass” issues, “my husband never throws the trash” issues, or “the child needs to be reared well” issues. Your friends discuss alien topics animatedly, alien to you at least, which include, but are not restricted to paying off mortgages for that house, getting a citizenship, or investing in the college education of the child who is yet to be born in 3 months. Although you are in the age bracket eligible to be the president of the United States, you realize dishearteningly that you were never bright enough to be the President of any country, not in this lifetime anyway. It is a big accomplishment training the domestic partner to vacuum the house bi-monthly, let alone having big aspirations for changing the world. A moment of truth, faced with certain stark realities, you realize you have grown more respectful towards your parents, whose opinions never mattered to you before this.
Your worst nightmare is no longer related to maintaining a perfect figure, you are long past that age when you could even hope for a presentable figure. Now, you are worried about sagging bellies and mammary glands, dysfunctional hormones, plummeting
sex drives, approaching menopausal issues, and imminent health issues like cholesterol, blood pressure, and cancer. You hear horror stories about someone’s colleague’s relative who died of a heart attack on his 32nd birthday in the process of cutting the cake. Blowing 32 candles with gusto just proved to be fatal for him. Going to the gym is no longer optional, it is the only option you have if you do not want to die like that colleague’s relative. Every time you try to sit, stand, or start fantasizing about running that half-marathon, your knees make a funny sound, mocking you. Your biological clock is not longer just ticking tick tock, it has gone berserk like the shrieking alarm that wakes you from your sweet slumber every morning. You are no longer a badass hiking the rocks of Badlands in South Dakota on the weekend. You are a well-settled, domesticated member of the species with a family to shoulder the responsibility for. Accept it, you are no longer the lion or even the wolf of the jungle, hunting singularly and living singly with pride. You are now a cow, a big, fat cow that only mingles with other cows and chews cud with other cows in herds. Your belligerent personality is gone. The mountain bike has been replaced by a family size SUV, strollers and diaper bags and all. You are found spending the once adventurous weekends (when you hiked 20 miles or had 20 straight tequila shots in a row without falling sick) at the farmer’s market or at Chuck E. Cheese.
To avoid complications, repercussions, and outcries, I will keep this as gender neutral as I can, which will still not dissolve the bleak clouds of possibilities the gates of thirties open for you. You can hate me for this post, or make strong arguments, which will only establish your lack of humor, or lack of understanding of humor as you approach your thirties. And it’s not only the lack of humor. You are slowly approaching that age of hormonal lull, and these days you can fall asleep, snoring and drooling and all, even in the middle of watching porn. You are more philosophical, sedentary, hang out in packs or herds of other people similar to you, and while you spent the previous decade being a party animal dancing away to glory high on alcohol, you feel more at peace singing bhajans and devotional songs in “satsangs” and learning the art of living (pun unintended), breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, to keep expectations low, anger in control, and to adopt pain, suffering, and the lack of materialistic greed as a means to obtain nirvana in life.
I can imagine how many people I have pissed off with this post. You would argue saying, “Hey, they say 30s is the new 20s”. Whoever these “they” are, they are a bunch of morons who either failed their math class or made a life out of bullshitting. 30s can never be the new 20s, you learnt your math way back in elementary school. If anything, thirty would always be forty minus ten. So if you are an optimist like I am, your only consolation is you are not turning 40 right away, an impending doomsday that would be approaching in a decade anyway if the world doesn’t lose you to heart attacks or high cholesterol. Although I would rather be in my twenties than in my thirties, I would any day be in my thirties than be in my forties. So I’ll stop inviting the same feeling of helplessness that I get when a dentist comes near my mouth with an injection, his assistant strapping my limbs so that there is no escape and I bear my pain and torture in silence, and stop resisting something that is so inevitable. I will try to stop mentally resisting turning thirty. For I have a few more months left to cherish the last bits and pieces of my twenties, or whatever remains of it.