My birthday was last month, and it was wonderful. The week was filled with friends, family, brownies, Mexican food, hikes, gardening, and planning a trip to New Zealand! I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
It was also a pretty typical week. I’m amazingly lucky to enjoy all these things* year-round, not just in February.
So what’s the point of birthdays, and why can’t I get excited about mine anymore?
There were years when I couldn’t wait to get older:
Turning 10 in my family meant getting my ears pierced. I distinctly remember the dull ache that lasted for hours afterward but was dwarfed by the satisfaction of finally feeling like one of the big kids. I was the baby of my extended family, so I’d stood on the sidelines as my sister and cousins got their ears pierced. There were years of built-up anticipation.
This was unarguably the best day of my life to that point. Actually, my birthday was on a Sunday so I couldn’t get my driver’s license until the next day, but it was my ticket to freedom. It let me escape my house, spend time with friends, and keep my parents less informed about my whereabouts. Cell phones weren’t yet ubiquitous, so I was truly untethered and it was pure bliss.
You’d better believe this was a great day. I could finally (legally) make my own decisions. I lived on my own and could start calling myself in sick to school when I didn’t feel like going, and I could (and did) have ice cream for dinner whenever I felt like it.
Oh yeah, and I could vote too!
I’ve never been a big fan of alcohol, so turning 21 wasn’t exciting because I could drink. It was exciting because I could finally join my friends at concerts and shows where drinking was allowed. And I could go to Vegas! For the next decade I would be asked to show my ID every five minutes in these places because I still looked like I was 12.
Now the reasons start to get a little less thrilling, but it was nice to be able to rent a car.
This birthday was more about relief than freedom. Women who make it to age 30 without developing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or several other psychiatric diseases are unlikely to develop them later.
Here’s where I get stuck.
There’s a giant gap here with no major milestones. Some senior discounts start at age 50, more phase in at age 55, and they’re everywhere by age 65, though qualifying for Medicare easily trumps a 10% discount at IHOP.
A lifetime National Parks pass is only $10 after age 62, and Social security benefits can also be had that year, though they’ll be higher if I wait until 67 or 70.
What am I missing?
Where’s the party for 35, 40, and 45? And 36, for that matter.
There are black candles and ridicule, but where are the benefits? I have grey hair and wrinkles, but my patients still ask me to go get the doctor. I’ll always be child-sized, and the only dimension in which I can now grow is horizontal.
How about a 30% discount to the Home Depot and Amazon?
Wouldn’t you like a separate lane on the freeway? The 20-somethings drive too fast, and the 60-somethings drive too slow, so you get your own space.
What if all new electronics came with a free tech-support house call or three? It’s like a personal trainer for your gadget.
What do you think? What benefits did/do/will you want at these ages? Let me know in the comments below.
*We don’t visit New Zealand every year, but we usually have at least a few fun travel plans in the works.
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