I’m 29! Really! On Age-Pride and Age-Aversion

Yesterday I celebrated my 29th birthday. My golden birthday, no less, on the 29th! Being somewhat of a numbers nerd, I have been very excited about this lucky birthday for awhile now.

So it happened that, when people asked, “so how old are you this year?” and I replied excitedly, “29!” They responded with a knowing, “oh, yes, ’29.’ Well, if it makes you feel any better, [insert well-intentioned consolation comment about my appearance and occasionally my personality here].”

Wait, what!? I am ACTUALLY turning 29! Why does no one believe me?

What better way to turn 29 than to eat at least 29 pieces of meat at all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ? (photo: Beyond Wen)
What better way to turn 29 than to eat at least 29 pieces of meat at all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ? (photo: Beyond Wen)

Because, it appears, 29 is the age given by every woman ever* who doesn’t want to reveal her true (undoubtedly older than 29) age. Until, that is, it becomes a bit too much of a stretch, and she graduates to 39. And, presumably 49, and so on and so forth (or does it stop at 49 forever?)

This aversion to being content with one’s age is something that has bothered me for a long time. Since I was the apparently-enviable age of about 9, I remember adults commenting on how great it was to be a kid, how they wished they could be young again, and so on and so forth. Simultaneously, my friends were talking about how great it would be to be 10. Double digits! Then, how great it would be to finally be a teenager. Hooray, puberty and awkwardness! Then, how great it would be to be 16, and drive a car. Hooray, car insurance and gas money and the responsibility not to kill everyone in your immediate vicinity! Then, 18, a real adult. Porn and cigarettes? And 19, a REAL real (legally) drinking adult (Oh, Canada!).

Then, at some point after 20, it came into vogue to start talking about the good ol’ days. Wait, already? We’re already old enough to be ashamed of our age? When did this happen? One would almost think “mid-life crisis” should occur at 20-25 instead of 40-45, because that’s what we as a society apparently treat as the climax between the excitement to be older and the longing to be younger (in fact, some of my friends invoked a “quarter-life crisis” as an excuse for making certain crazy decisions). Why can’t we just be happy with who we are in all the different stages of life?

Maybe you’re sitting here reading this, at the ripe old age of *ahem* ’29,’ and thinking “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Maybe you won’t believe me when I say it, and will write it off as the naivety of youth, but I intend to be happy with 30 when I get there, and with 40 and 60 and 80 too, if I’m blessed to live that long. I will not lie about my age, because I don’t want to contribute to cheating future 29-year-olds out of the joy of attaining that age. Age is a number, after all, and numbers are essentially meaningless unless we imbue them with meaning, so why not make it a source of pride rather than a source of shame?

My husband Jordan turned 30 this year, and shared his 30th birthday with Tokyo Disneyland, which defines 30 as “The Happiness Year.”

*By “every woman ever” I should qualify that I am referring primarily to women within the Western culture in which I was raised. In Japan, for example, age is less a source of conversational taboo, but it is well known that Western women are uncomfortable with the topic. When students ask my age in class, they are often scolded by their Japanese teachers, because Western women get “angry” if you ask their age (or overestimate it). Sometimes I make them guess, especially the boys, just for kicks, to see the fear in their eyes, but I always reveal my real age to them in the end.

How old *are* you, or, how old do you say you are? Do you lie about your age? Is there an age you were, or are, most excited about? If you could redefine your current or soon-to-be age (like “The Happiness Year”), how would you describe it?

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31 thoughts on “I’m 29! Really! On Age-Pride and Age-Aversion

  1. Great attitude.

    I am going to be 31 and even the most critical thought I was younger than I actually am. Passive aggressive insult failed (not that it’s bad to look your age, so that confused me as an insult). Regardless, it felt great when the so-called insult blows up in their face. I have a baby face from my dad so I will always look at least 5 years younger, regardless. 😀

  2. I never look my age but I confess, I celebrated my 29th birthday for about 10 years. It was until I hit 45 that I finally admitted my real age. Something changed for me when I hit that milestone.

  3. I grew up really fast – people always overestimated my age until I got to about 25, when the process reversed. I guess it’s a good thing.
    No really, I’m proud of my age – I’m glad I lasted this long! 😉

  4. No I’ve never lied about my age. But it’s never been hard for me to say my age. Until last July, when I turned 50. It still looks AWFUL when I see it written there. Oh well. I know I’ll eventually get used to it. It’s funny (in the ironic sense) seeing your husband and the 30 Disney. I grew up in Central Florida 30 min from Disney World. I just read a post from a high school friend that WDW turned 42 yesterday. Okay. That kind of freaked me out. It’s easier to think I’m 50 than Disney World being 42. I remember going there as a girl before it officially opened. And on a last note to this rambling comment, I was pretty miserable at 29. I’m pretty happy now. You have a lot to look forward to.

    1. Thanks! And they should, haha, but I bet the 49 year olds would still shop at Forever 39, and the 39 year olds would still shop at Forever 29, and so on… (So yeah I was at Forever 21 just a couple weeks ago…) 😉

  5. I have had no issue with my age whatsoever ever since I spent my 38th birthday in intensive care. There’s something about almost dying that makes you appreciate the years! I’m happily 52 now, but oddly in the last 6 weeks I have had someone assume my 78-year old mom and I were sisters, and someone else assume my 19-year old daughter and I were sisters! I don’t think most people really have a good sense of how old other people are just by looking at them.

    1. For sure, that would not be a fun birthday party but life is a great gift! When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my grandma, and people always thought she was my mom, which always made her really happy, hahaha. I can definitely resonate with not being able to tell how old people are, living in Japan I find it impossible to guess people’s age… I’m getting better at it, but there’s a joke among Japanese people that they look the same until they reach a certain age (like 90 or something) where they all of a sudden show all their age at once. Anyways, thanks for your comment! 🙂

  6. 32… and happy to admit it.
    I’ve always been happy with each new age I’ve reached. Each one is an adventure. Each one has it challenges and uplifting moments. The only time I wanted to be a different age was when i was close enough to 21 to want to partake but not yet legally there. 😉

  7. I’m 50! I’m 50 years old! (with special thanks to Molly Shannon) I just turned 50 in July and had a huge party. Why not? I’ve never been happier or felt better and I think have just grown into my looks. Keep being happy with your age. What is the alternative?

    1. Yay, congrats on 50! The alternative, I suppose, is to be a grumpy old man who’s grumpy about being an old man… but age is all attitude! A Japanese guy just recently climbed Everest, for the third time, at 80!

  8. Nice post! I never lie about my age. I’m with you, I’d rather be proud of my age. In fact, if it comes up in conversation, I readily announce my age. And I secretly enjoy the fact that I’m probably making people uncomfortable by doing so.

  9. Good for you for taking a personal stand against lying about age. I wish the world wasn’t so youth-conscious. It makes aging more difficult than it should be! I just turned turned 40 over the summer and I’m okay with it. I’m not sitting in a rocking chair boring my kids with stories of my not-so-wild youth, though. When I was twenty, forty seemed so old…now, eighty doesn’t seem old enough 🙂

  10. I’ll never forget the day I told someone (a younger university student) I was 28 and she replied, encouragingly, “you don’t look 28!” I went away wondering, (a), what does 28 look like? And (b), why wouldn’t I want to?
    I also remember turning 30 and feeling that I was finally ready to stop thinking I couldn’t possibly be a grown-up. I was a grown up, and I liked the woman I was becoming. Now I’m quite looking forward to 40 (I’m currently 35).
    That’s not to say I like the extra chin hairs, pigment blobs and hip circumference. But it’s not a big deal and the being-grown-up-ness is worth it.

  11. I was pretty excited about 27, since it was my “golden” year– and it’s my favorite number– but it ended up being a fairly crummy year. 28 was much better, and 29 is looking even better. I don’t like the idea that time is flying, but I don’t mind my age– if that makes sense. I don’t have a problem with being 65… I have a problem with the stuff I loved in my youth being “50 years ago” in the social conscious. It’s harder and harder to drag that stuff along. 🙂

    I do lie about my age, though. I told almost everyone in real life that I’m 34 because it seems more correct… and has since I was 22. No one ever questions it. 🙂

      1. I’m not sure. 🙂 In my life, I feel like I hypersped from 7 years old to 15 years old to 22 years old to 34 years old… so I have a feeling by the time I hit 34, I’ll feel like 50. 😀

        And yep, same age and just over a month apart apparently– I was August 27th! 🙂

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