I went to the doctor’s office the other day. As a new patient, I was filling out all those forms (in addition to the ones they had already sent me, but I digress), thinking about all the data points that apply to one S. Murdoch. Aside from first and last name, they asked my weight (bless them for not having me step on that dreaded scale) and my age. I knew the answers to both, but out of all the information I set down, age felt the most abstract. I am indisputably 54; I have the birth record to prove it and a long memory dating back to when I was just a year old (teaching myself to use a spoon to include spitting out food so I could scrape it from my little chin). I remember watching John Glenn’s launch on TV when I was five, and the day President Kennedy was shot when I was seven (I was sitting in a long hallway at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii waiting to be admitted for orthopedic surgery). But, I have to say, I feel gypped. At 54, I should be fully grown. After all, I remember being a young woman in my 20s regarding anyone over 35 as remarkably wise and mature. Someday that would be me. I remember turning 18 and 21 and getting the question “How do you feel? Do you feel older?” The answer was always no, I just felt like me. That hasn’t changed; I’m older, but I’m still just me. Don’t get me wrong, my body betrays my age in many ways (my new doctor mentioned my needing a “complete overhaul” with some relish), but I’ve never woken up feeling like a true grown up, that I had arrived in the land of the wise and ancient ones.
So, how old am I? I guess over the years I saw aging as shedding and acquiring, something like an iguana that completely sheds his skin every year. Now I think of it as more like a snowball rolling downhill (all right, so “downhill” may be an unfortunate allusion for the aging, but snowballs don’t roll uphill!). As you get older, you acquire more and more layers, but you still are the person you were at two, at six, at ten, at twenty, and on. I guess I never will completely leave my precocious four year old self behind and I’m not sure I want to. I’ll probably never be the female equivalent of the distinguished gentleman with the gently graying temples, sporting a silk smoking jacket and a pipe. I’ll just be me. Somehow, that’s a comfort.