I’ve got less than an hour left of my twenties. It’s almost time to farewell a decade of excess and excuses, because as of 10 January 2011, I will be 30. By all definitions, that means I will be an adult. It’s taken some time to grow comfortable with the idea of this new, forced identity. Indeed, I’ve rejected maturity as a semi-permanent state of mind up until now. Perhaps I’m predisposed to doing so because I’m the “baby” of the Mudditt family. I never wanted to depress anyone by not seeming young. I’m not saying that I’ll be any different when I wake up tomorrow, but I can’t deny that I would like to be. Turning 30 means that it’s time to sharpen up.
Though it might be foolish to draw such bold lines in the sand, I’ve decided that some aspects of my behaviour will no longer be tolerated, or will, at least, be judged in a different light. Others will be encouraged. Firstly, getting smashed (at first regularly, then at all) will become closer to sad than funny. I will not allow myself to be guided with the same spirit of forgiveness that has ruled my past. So that means yes, it was a laugh spending the morning after my 21st birthday party in a doctor’s surgery, but that’s the last thing I’d want for my 30th. It’s a long story, but basically, I don’t want to be so drunk tomorrow night that I can’t distinguish a rat from a baby possum until it’s too late and my hand is bleeding profusely. So I’ll aim to stay on the tipsy side of drunk during tomorrow’s celebration, which will be held at a North Korean karaoke restaurant in Dhaka.
I think I’ve always approached significant birthdays very seriously. I remember feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders as a nine-year-old about to turn 10. I was worried about whether life would be the same when I entered the realm of double-digits (for a very long time, it was). I sat for my driver’s licence as soon as I turned 18, and was crushed when I failed it, because I’d delayed my independence. And I recall announcing to friends that after turning 25, I’d never smoke again. But I don’t remember my resolve lasting more than a few days. But as I’ve approached 30, I realised that being even a sometimes-smoker was no longer rebellious; it was a sign of weakness and it wouldn’t do. I also wanted to avoid out-smoking my father, who quit when he was 30 (admirably, during his honeymoon, on Mum’s suggestion). As a kid, I remember being told that story and feeling horrified that my father smoked until what seemed such a grand old age. I cannot disappoint the child I used to be – so that’s that. I consider quitting a birthday present to myself – the last time I did something this positive on a birthday was way back on my first, when I took my first steps.
I will also begin to implement a gradual reversal of body policy. Instead of depleting my own natural resources, I am seriously considering a conscious effort to increase supply. I’ll begin by steadily consuming that jar of vitamins Mum sent me months ago. I might even use the pumice, and other hitherto neglected gifts. However I don’t want to travel too far in this opposite direction. To do so would be both unnecessary and unwise, as this Italian proverb warns:
“Why live like an invalid to die a healthy man?”
This conveniently raises the subject of death, which ought never be forgotten on the occasion of a birthday. I admit that the prospect of turning 30 frightened me for some time. Was I about to kiss goodbye my youth and hurtle towards eternity? And how is it fair that I have developed wrinkles without a final farewell to pimples? Whenever such dark clouds gather, I try to keep life expectancy in mind. Thirty is not old. It isn’t even middle-aged. And middle-aged is not old. Last week I discovered that the greatest tennis player in the world, Roger Federer, is the same age as me: so it’s truly impossible that I’ll be old tomorrow. I’m just getting older, like everyone else. And so even though I’m as terrified of dying as the next person, I’ve promised never to refer to myself as “old” until I’m about 10 years off 84. But even then, it could be premature to calculate it on the basis of life expectancy: my grandmother lived until she was 96. And if I manage to grow old, I must remember to celebrate making it there safely. But for now, it’s time to open that bottle of wine and allow my boyfriend to bestow his secret gifts. He’s younger than me, and as birthdays seem to be less of a big deal in Bangladesh, it will be the first time he’s ever watched someone turn 30.