At twenty-seven I am beginning to feel old. I know how silly that must sound, how everyone older than me, particularly those who are several years older, perhaps twice or three times my age, must consider a statement like that rather foolish. Nonetheless, that is how I feel. For the first time in my life I have gained a little weight (about 8 pounds, in case you were wondering) and though it doesn't show, it certainly feels. It feels right now in my waist, around the skin on my stomach, in my sides when I lean over, in my chest when I climb stairs, in my slacks as I type these words at my computer. Until recently I had never noticed the waist line of my slacks, except perhaps at Thanksgiving, but now I notice it every morning when I button the pants that once hung loosely on my hips and now fit "just so." In fact, I notice my slacks quite a bit more than I ever have and they have become quite a troublesome reminder of what it means to be getting "older."
I can remember thinking as an eighteen-year-old that I had until at least 26 to worry about what I ate. I gave myself almost a decade before exercise and diet would have any noticeable effect on me and my prediction turned out almost exactly right. A year ago, at 26 I began to notice for the first time that the jeans I had been wearing were a little tight, and by last summer, I had completely given up on three pairs of pants, purchasing new slacks, and new pair of jeans, all a size larger than I normally wear--the size I've worn since i was fourteen-years-old. Fourteen! For 13 years I've been metabolizing everything like an incinerator--candy, chips, chocolate, doughnuts, cake, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, waffles, crepes, chocolate--and now, at 27, my body has finally decided to turn down the heat. I have a pair of basketball shorts in my drawer right now that I purchased during my eighth grade year and though I can still wear them, this year--for the first time--they are beginning to fit a little funny.
And its not just the nagging way that once perfectly fitting clothing has begun to tug, cinch, press, and twist around my body that is making me feel old, there is something particular about the number twenty-seven. When I was twenty-one, going back three years put me at eighteen, which felt and sounded young. Same with going back three years form twenty-four--21 just sounds young. But at 27 going back three years puts me at 24, which, while not old, certainly doesn't sound young anymore, at least to me.
I have seven brothers and sisters, and all but two of us are officially out of our twenties, a fact that causes awful fits of "old" if I think about it too long. I have a sister just a few years from fifty, and I'm more than half way there myself. But don't get me wrong, getting older certainly doesn't mean I feel bad about it. Because, well, the fact is I'm not "OLD," I'm just "older" than I used to be, which is still quite young. And I feel like this whole trauma about my "waste" line is more than neurotic paranoia, less than some existential crisis. To say "I'm beginning to feel mortal" would imply that up until now I had felt more than mortal, which is not true. Rather, I've felt "present-tense," with everything before me, the future creating itself in every verb, and lately, for the first time, I've begun to see, be it ever so blurry, the "past-tense" I have created, and I feel a little tarnished, a little used, a little, okay, mortal. No, this is no existential crisis, more like an existential sigh.