Recently I celebrated a significant birthday. Not one that ends in zero, where at least you get to have a big party or treat yourself to something fabulous, like, say, a lengthy trip to Greece. This year my birthday ended in a six.
Seems innocuous enough of a number. But for some reason, it bothered me. Why was 36 any different than 35, really? Either way, there’s still loads of clothing that isn’t age appropriate for me (luckily I’ve worn it all before in the 80s, the first time it was in style). It wasn’t that I was now closer to 40 than 30, because I hit that mark last year. And to my kids, I’m still just old, no matter what the number is, which is comforting in an odd way.
Then my sister-in-law jokingly said to me two days before my birthday, ‘Thirty-six means you’re finally too old for a Contiki tour!’ For those of you who don’t know, a Contiki is the Australian contribution to the package tour. But instead of the participants being 60-plus and clad in beige Velcro walking shoes, the Contiki is designed for 20-somethings who want to drink excessively and shag each other in exotic locations outside Australia.
Imagine the depth of my disappointment at the idea that I was now considered too old for beer goggles (and all related activities) on Mykonos! I was deeply offended. It was then that it occurred to me what about turning 36 that bothered me: I’m now in a new demographic. As far as the market researchers and magazine editors are concerned, I’m part of a different audience. I’m in the 36-50 bracket and not the 18-35 one. I don’t read articles about the return of the kitten heel or how to achieve orgasm in the workplace loos; now I read articles about the comeback of tech stock or anti-aging family-friendly superfoods. In my twenties, I used to wonder things like, ‘Could the genocide in Rwanda have been prevented? Could those atrocities occur again?’ In more recent days, I wonder things like, ‘Is Wendy on Bob the Builder supposed to be a lesbian role model? Or is she Bob’s Miss Moneypenny, spending years waiting patiently for him to finally notice her?’ So the old adage that you think differently about things once you have kids is true.
And as anyone with kids knows, there is no immunity necklace on your birthday. You are still compelled to complete all the usual tasks with make the day tick along, sometimes even cooking your own dinner. My birthday started like this, when the kids came running into our bedroom:
Dad: It’s mum’s birthday today!
Eva: (Annoyed) I KNOW! Does that mean I get to wear a dress?
Dad: Eva, it’s mum’s birthday…
Eva: Yes, but can I WEAR A DRESS?!
Dad: Eva! It’s mum’s birthday – what do you say?
Eva: Look, do I get to wear a dress today OR NOT?! (Flustered, crossing arms). Okay, FINE. Happy birthday...
Once everyone was clad (about midday) we decided to go out for lunch to celebrate. (Remember when ‘going out to celebrate’ involved champagne and heels? Now it’s diluted apple juice and dance moves from Yo Gabba Gabba.) Apparently, I was suffering from some form of birthday-induced amnesia, as I had clearly blocked out how difficult it can be dining in public with children. I did not attempt this feat alone; I did have my husband and mother-in-law for support. We managed to secure a booth, which was handy for keeping everyone contained, but the behaviour still more closely resembled feeding time at the zoo than family fun day out. Our antics resulted in a nearby table of retirees – who clearly desired nothing more than to wash down their lunch with a few icy Manhattans while reminiscing about the days when children were seen and not heard – relocating to another part of the restaurant to eat their bread pudding undisturbed.
Since it was my birthday afterall, I was tempted to ask if I could join them. That way, at least I could’ve finished reading about my stock portfolio in peace.
*Unless you're a magazine editor or market researcher