30 is the New 50

People

30 is the New 50

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

I

grow old.. I grow old..

I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.

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Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

– The Love Song Of Alfred J Prufrock, T S Eliot

My thirtieth birthday was a landmark one by all accounts. I had just found love two months ago, and I was glowing with it. I was ready to end a decade that had been painful and trying and too full of waiting and not full of things done. I was ready to be done with being twenty-something, and the struggling, searching, self-consciousness that came with it.

It was at a Mad Men theme party on a friend’s terrace. Another friend brought his DJ skills, everyone was exhorted to dress the part. The friends, who lent me their space, strung up lanterns and put up little angheetis full of coal to drive away the December chill. I had a special dress made at the tailor’s, a yellow silk A-line number, and my hair was bouffant-y. We looked like glorious, historic ghosts gathered on a Nizamuddin terrace. Clutching a bottle of wine to my bosom, I was taking swigs of it all night.

That was the last time I’d be that drunk without being hung-over for two straight days after. It was one of the last times I’d have the energy to be out all day and also party all night. It was, if I had known it, the last time I’d be so damn the consequences about anything. My twenties were over and my thirties had begun.

The thirties don’t look like they used to. At my age, my parents were parents. At my age, my grandmother already had practically grown-up children. Very few of us have made the choices our parents have, so as a result our thirties are spent in dream-building: new jobs that bring more money, travel that comes with those jobs, starting up things of our own. A few of us have succumbed to biological clocks, but non-parents outnumber the parents. Just about.

On this side of thirty, I’m still smoking a little, still not exercising enough, still eating junk food from time to time, but my body is beginning to soften and ripen.

Here’s what it’s like to be thirty-five, from my point of view. No kids, but a flat that we run with admirable orderliness, which surprises guests who have not seen me for a decade. I have dust cloths and kitchen-counter wipers, a fully stocked fridge, and a pretty decent bar. Places that I used to love are dismissed as “too loud,” and though “too expensive” is still an issue for me (blame the freelance-author life), it no longer seems to be for many in my peer group. I’ve learned to take mid-morning flights, and not drink coffee after 7 pm. I drink a lot more water now than I used to, and in my bank account, the buffer by which I start to worry is higher than it ever has been before. Instead of parties, we talk about healthy eating, instead of doing tequila shots, we do juice detoxes.

On this side of thirty, I’m still smoking a little, still not exercising enough, still eating junk food from time to time, but my body is beginning to soften and ripen. At a recent gynaecological exam, I discovered that I had three cricket ball-sized fibroids in the muscle of my uterus, and the doctor took one look at my womb and asked me when I was going to have children. “I’m still making up my mind,” I said, and she looked grim. “You don’t have much time.”

It makes you realise you’re closer to fifty than fifteen even though you feel a bit like a fraud in the grown-up room, wondering if anyone can tell that you haven’t figured your shit out yet. But you have figured some stuff at least. You’re a lot more patient with your parents, for one. You have much more self-confidence than before, because you’ve winnowed out the stuff that doesn’t matter. You have fewer friends, and you see them less, but you enjoy your time together more. You are an aunt or an uncle to several little ones, and you’re surprised by how easy it is to love children of the people you love, even though you claimed you were a child hater in your time. You’re still a little scared that you won’t do the things you set out to do, but now your fear is marked by a ticking clock.

You mellow.

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