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Karina Bland Commentary On Getting Older

Karina Bland
Karina Bland
handout | contributor
Karina Bland.

I recently celebrated a birthday, and everything went as I demanded - I mean, planned. Someone brought me a venti hot coffee with half-and-half and one Splenda that morning.

By 1 p.m., I was eating bruschetta at Postino with girlfriends, holding my wine glass in just the right way so that people would notice my nails, done professionally for the first time in more than a decade.

I turned 49, after all. This is the last year I can say I'm "in my 40s." And then it's the big 5-0. Here's the rub: I don't feel 49. Most of the time, I think I'm, like, 28. OK, maybe 30. Max. And 30 was a good year for me. True, turning the classically traumatic 3-0 meant I had missed self-imposed deadlines for getting married and becoming a millionaire, but I was happy, working at a job I loved, living in an upstairs apartment in an old house on Mill Avenue and learning to play the guitar. (My teacher would eventually suggest I take karate instead.) Forty found me swimming with wild dolphins off Mount Maunganui in New Zealand, my 5-year-old son clinging to my wet suit.

And in what seemed like no time, I was marking 46 with Mexican food and margaritas. And 47 with Mexican food and margaritas. And 48 with Mexican food and margaritas. Now I'm 49, closing in on 50, and it just doesn't seem that old. I've always heard people say age is just a number, but I figured they were saying that because they were old. If I say I'm 49, everyone knows that at various times in my life I pretended to be one of Charlie's Angels, wore an Izod polo with penny loafers, listened to Bon Jovi and cut my hair like Jennifer Aniston. Forty-nine tells you that I shop at Target, have the hots for George Clooney and likely am premenopausal and shouldn't be crossed.

I do think all of my son's teachers look like they're teenagers. My knees make these weird cracking noises when I crouch. And I carry a pack of tissues in my purse even when I'm not sick. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and think, "Wait, who is that?" It's me, of course, but not the fresh-faced, wrinkle-free, perky-breasted version of me that I hold in my head. Really, I should have worn more sunscreen — and a better bra. Maybe it is having a child that keeps me feeling young. I like having someone to play with. Recently, when I was making my ninth-grade son's lunch, I scrawled a note on his napkin:

"I see my assassin's attempt has failed. Have a nice day. X-o-x-o Mom." Sawyer thought it was funny. But he didn't think it was so funny when I picked him up after school, and every time he started to toss his backpack in the back of the car, I rolled forward a foot. Of course, I was howling. Sawyer got into the car, shaking his head. "Mom, when are you going to grow up?"

I don't know. I did think I would feel a bit more grown-up this close to 50. More grounded, maybe. I imagined that with age would come a mature decorum, an automatic air of wisdom.
Instead I got skin tags. And not all of the answers. I've stopped trying to be perfect. I've come to appreciate good support, both in undergarments and friends. And I've learned the only constant thing is change.
I find I care less about what others think about me and more about the kind of person I am. And I've learned if you want something for your birthday, you should ask for it — thus, the coffee, manicure, wine, bruschetta. Hmmmm. Maybe I am a little wiser. And George Clooney is 52, you know.

Karina Bland writes the column “my so-called midlife” for the Arizona Republic.”