It is with good reason we are afraid that this will mark the year we are officially too old to wear our Pearl Jam T-shirt, will be added to the AARP mailing list (it is easier to quit the mob than to have your name removed from its roster), and will be expected to host Thanksgiving in perpetuity because we are the only ones old enough to remember how to properly stuff a turkey. We fear that our cheeky lack of concern for what others think (the great, glorious benefit of not being 24!) will tip over into deranged exhibitionism, and we will boogie down so shamelessly at our daughter’s sweet-16 party that we will wind up on YouTube. While we are asking our higher power to put the kibosh on such worries, we will also ask Him/Her to remind us that as taxing as birthdays are, they’re better than the alternative.
6. Beginning on our half-birthday, and throughout the rest of year, we age ourselves up.
This way, we acclimate slowly to the older age and avoid plummeting into a full-blown depression on our actual birthday. There will be no sobbing in the bathroom for us (see step 1). We will feel genuine relief when our birthday finally does arrive, because for the next six months we won’t have to pretend we are older than we are. We will be grateful to our higher power that we’re still crafty enough to have thought up such a gimmick.
7. We make a list of all the people to whom we’ve fudged our age or outright lied about it.
Then we will not invite them to our birthday party. It’s going to be enough of a challenge to enjoy the truffle cake without worrying that during the toast, when our trusted friend (see step 4) says, "To Alison, who doesn’t look a day over 44," one of the aforementioned people will call out, "Wait, I thought you were turning 40."
8. Through prayer and meditation, we also work toward keeping an open mind regarding Botox and/or collagen injections.
However joyful we may now be about our birthday, there’s no reason to look like a crone, is there?
9. Having experienced a genuine awakening as the result of these steps, we admit we are powerless in the face of the march of days.
We understand that however good our glycolic moisturizer may be, we are not Superman — we can’t fly counterclockwise around the Earth and turn back time. We will embrace the French proverb that 40 is the old age of youth and 50 is the youth of old age. We will remember the lousiest year in our 20s, and we will be grateful.
Karen Karbo lives and celebrates her birthday — or tries to — in Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book is How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great.
Originally published in MORE magazine, February 2008.