28 is the new 60.

20 04 2007

In Brazil, when someone has a birthday, well-wishers say this: “Parabens!” It means “congratulations!” A co-worker wished me “parabens” today and it sounded so strange, knowing what it means. “Congratulations! You’re 28!” It’s like I’ve accomplished something by just being alive, like the act of just being around deserves praise. I smiled, of course, and then thanked my co-worker for her kindness. She also gave me some chocolate.

And eating chocolate, of course, is a very good coping mechanism when you realize that things are turning out a bit differently than you’d imagined years ago, that the plans you’d set out for yourself, or had imagined while watching any number of Meg Ryan’s romantic comedies on a Saturday afternoon, aren’t coming into fruition now or any time soon. For Easter, my students supplied me with a month’s worth of chocolate. It’s as if they knew I’d be spending some quality time with my inner thoughts this week, that I’d really need to cope because I’m getting a year older and clearly, clearly things will begin to fall apart since 28 means I’m nearly 30, and nearly 30 means I’m approaching the time of life when prunes are valuable instead of gross and scrapbooking becomes a means of passing time until I forget I have time to pass.

My students told me, just this morning while we were looking at each other’s essays, that I should write an essay about why I’m not married already. One of my girls later said, as we walked to lunch that if I didn’t get married by the time I was 29, I’d never get married and I would probably die alone. No need to verbalize my inner monologue, I wanted to tell her. But instead, I smiled and told her that I can’t commit myself to taking care of plant; how could I care for a marriage? She and her friend then criticized my inability to care for plants (“It’s so easy, Ms. C! All you do is water them!”) and I knew we’d successfully moved off the M word and onto lesser problems.

So, Sunday I’ll be a year older. Big whoop. I don’t feel any older, although I’ve noticed that I’ve been paying attention to things that sure make me seem like I’m older. For instance, ironing: wrinkly clothes send the wrong message. When I was in college, and in fact up until I moved here, anything that smelled like clean laundry was wearable. But not now. Wrinkles are simply not professional. And because I’m older, I must be professional, and therefore if A=B and B=C, I cannot wear wrinkly clothes.
Another example: bedtime. The more sleep you get, the better you feel in the morning. Gone are the days of staying out late at bars and crawling home to skip my first period of school. It’s all about responsibility these days, all about fulfilling duties that go along with being professional. And marriage? Yeah, that’s a big one. Don’t think I’m not keeping track of all my friends, and I do mean all of them, who are promised to someone else for a lifetime, or who are planning on it. Don’t think I’m not seeing how I compare to the long list of people who are producing little humans left and right. Their children are probably going to be filling out their college applications before I get around to allowing my uterus to produce anything other than the occasional cramp. And finally, the most recent evidence that I’m growing older: fiber. It really works. Who knew that those weird health cereals–the kinds without marshmallows or colored puffy crunchy things in the shapes of monsters, the kind, instead, made up of wirey brown bran that falls apart even as liquid approaches the bowl–would be so cleansing for my body? I’ll tell you who knew: All the people who value prunes. Those people know everything. And I am on my way to being just like them.

I’d like to slow myself down a little bit, hang onto these last couple years of my twenties. They’ve been good years so far, and for the most part, I think, I’ve been foolishly blind through them. But the fact remains, which is why I am thankful for all this chocolate, you can’t go back. Time moves on and sooner or later you come to realize, whether you admit to it or not, fiber is your friend.


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10 responses

20 04 2007
Alvy

Aw, Ms. Coggio, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter how old you are, what matters is how old you LOOK, and you so don’t look old. And I loved that prune thing, although it IS an exageration…

20 04 2007
ginacoggio

What matters is how old I LOOK?! Alvy, if there were a Plastic Surgery Advocacy campaign, you would most certainly be its manager!! 🙂 I know what you mean, though, and thank you. I think what matters is how old we feel. And now that I know all of you, I feel younger than I ever have, which has got to count for something!

20 04 2007
sofy

Ms. C you’re 28 you aren’t old…but you are crazy about liking that fiber cereal. That’s just disgusting. And about the having kids thing, don’t worry about that. Don’t have kids. They’re just a waste of money and space and plus I’ve heard that labor is really painful. It’s not worth it all for a little brat. (Well, except for me. I was worth it. I was brought into this world because I’m gonna discover the cure for cancer)

And I bought your present today and you’re gonna like it if you don’t already have it, so feel happy.

21 04 2007
ginacoggio

Sofy, I believe you were worth the labor, regardless of what you were brought into the world to do or not. I know full well I am crazy, about fiber cereal and other things. And lastly, you are amazingly kind to think of me on my birthday, though you know you didn’t have to!

22 04 2007
Alvy

Sofa, I totally agree with you when you say that kids are a waste of money and space, not only that, but also a waste of beauty, after women give birth they get all fat and all, and only a few get thinner. And don’t worry, Ms. Coggio, as long as Talita doesn’t pass you in height, you will never feel old, since it will always be how it is (Pocket-sized Talita)

22 04 2007
Gerhardt

Prunes? Really? You give us prune wisdom?

Most people are born, grow up, and work their whole lives in the same place, have childen, become grandparents, and finally pass away, having never seen anything new or different their whole lives. And while that is good and well for some, I myself want to look back at my life when I am old and say “I had this one opportunity on earth, and I used it. I explored. I did things. I have been of this earth.”. Which is one of the main reasons I am living in Brazil now, and considering moving to Japan next, in spite of having had a very comfortable life back in SA.

And when I speak to old friends back home, living their one-dimensional lives, and who are up to their elbows in diapers, I realize just how much I have grown as a person. As you know, it is scary and often lonely, but it is a grand thing to climb outside the box of normality and to explore the unknown. In my opinion, you are the one really living (in spite of the prunes).

Anyhow, have a splendid birthday, you’re allowed to – Not at the big 30 yet. That’s the worst one.

22 04 2007
ginacoggio

(Ha! FIBER wisdom, Gerhardt, Fiber wisdom.) But you’re right….you couldn’t pay me to be, as you say, up to my elbows in diapers. It’s just not for me, not now, and probably not for a long time. I’m not ready (SORRY MOM) to have my life change so drastically. Kids are great, yes. But only if they’re not mine and I don’t have to make life decisions based on them. Someday maybe but now, I much prefer living the life of a nomad picking up and moving to big and small places whenever I want for whatever reason I want.

22 04 2007
Norah

Hi Gina…and Happy Birthday!
It’s been a while, but I wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you and that your lack of physical presence here in New Haven is felt… Regarding age and all the associations and expectations that accompany it: natural and understandable, but also anti-bohemian and rooted in a suburban idealism. I think it’s bad, these thoughts and /or pressures regarding settling down, getting married, securing a legally-bound soulmate. If that is something you wanted, you would have already done it. Anyway, have a wonderful day and maybe I’ll see you some time soon.
xo
Norah

22 04 2007
Cary

Hey ms.C!!
how are you?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
don’t worry about age, just have fun a live your life! as you said what really matters is how old we feel! (You probably feel 15..)

Well I bought you a little something… hope you like it…
Buhbay… Kixx
Cary**

23 04 2007
ginacoggio

Ah, Norah…I am always thankful for your wisdom. I miss you and home so much, too. I’m coming home to New Haven June 21 and will hang around that area until July 28. We will definitely get together!!

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